“I Spent 21 Days in Detention”: One Immigrant’s Story

CHICAGO, IL (September 3, 2013) — Editor’s note: This week Covenant News Service is highlighting stories of immigration and the proposed Resolution on Immigration to be voted on at the 2014 Annual Meeting. As part of this coverage we are posting letters from people who have immigrated to the United States without documentation and from pastors who regularly minister to undocumented people. Although the writer of this letter is now in the country legally, she asked that her full name not be used.

By EVD

I came for the first time to the United States with two of my children in 1993 to reunite with my husband who was working in Phoenix. In December 2010 I received an emergency call from Mexico, notifying me that my father had cancer. So I decided to leave the U.S. after 17 years of living here so I could spend some time with my father. I left on December 6, 2010, for Mexico and spent four days with my father before he passed away.

After having spent a few months in Mexico and mourning his loss, it was time for me to go back home where my husband and three children were longing for my return (my youngest son was born in the U.S.). On April 3, 2011, I crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with the help of a person I didn’t know and after having walked just three meters into the U.S. I was detained by the Border Patrol.

I was taken to a detention center where the agents who were doing their job asked me the same questions about five times. They detained me from about 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. There the agents asked me if I wanted to contact the Mexican consulate, or call an attorney; however, I told them that I preferred going to court. I spent 21 days in a detention center in Texas because in Texas it is a misdemeanor to be undocumented. It may be contradictory, but while I was detained I worked cutting hair and I was paid $1 for my work. Being a Christian also helped me a lot—I was not looked after nor searched like other people.

What helped me to be released on bail were letters of recommendations from my pastor, and my good record of having attended school (cosmetology and medical assistant). The English-speaking congregation gave me the funds to not only pay the bail, but also to pay the attorney and to cover a night at a hotel after I was released. They have never asked for the money but I have the moral responsibility to pay it back.

For me the church community has been very important, I have been a Christian since living in Mexico; however, I did not attend a church. Our pastor in the United States, who was then our GED professor, invited us to church. So we started attending, and we have been members of the same Covenant congregation for many years.

My loyalty to the same church was what made it easier to be released on bail, because it showed my commitment and stability. After leaving the detention center I say that I became property of the U.S. government. I have a work-permit, a Social Security number, I can now obtain an ID and drivers’ license, and travel to any state in the country. However, I cannot travel outside the U.S. For those who do not know about the immigration system, I tell them to make their own judgment when it comes to this issue.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing your story! It helps us to more fully understand the situation for so many families.

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