On Saturday, November 22, Amber and I started the long journey home to Portland, ME. Feeling completely exhausted and emotionally drained, it took all that we had just to go from car, to plane, to bus without missing any connections or losing half of our belongings. Fortunately, we did have a few moments to reflect on what we had witnessed over the past week. One of our favorite topics of conversation was how we were going to tell people about all of this when we returned to Maine.
When people ask you how a trip was, a normal response is, “it was good!” or “it was great!” Neither of those responses were going to be appropriate in this case. “I learned a lot?” Too self serving. “Exhausting, draining, one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done?” Too negative. In the end, we decided on something along the lines of “it was the most rewarding and challenging experience I have ever had.” On Monday morning, I ended up telling people “read our blog.”
Because it’s not just the challenge of finding the right words to sum up the experience without giving a false impression that was causing my hesitation; it’s the intense emotions that start to surface whenever I talk about, or think about, Artesia. It’s hard to control the rising anger and frustration that I feel for the people that are causing all of this suffering, along with the deep sadness that I feel whenever I think about a certain child’s face, or his mother’s tears.
On Wednesday, November 26, Amber and I were interviewed by a reporter with the Bangor Daily News who wanted to do a follow up story on our experience. She asked us what our broad takeaways were from going to Artesia. We both agreed that the immediate goal was to end family detention. But beyond that, one of our takeaways is the need to raise awareness not just about what is happening to these women and their children in Artesia, but to raise awareness regarding who these women are. They are not criminals, nor are they “economic migrants”; they are women with tragic stories, who are doing everything they can to protect the lives of their children. We hope we have been able to provide at least a small snapshot into some of lives of the women that are being held at the Artesia Center through this blog.
With time, it gets easier to tell people about Artesia, and I can tell that my emotions are already beginning to fade. However, that doesn’t mean that I am done with Artesia; even if Artesia closes, Amber and I are both hoping to volunteer at the new center in Texas in the spring (although wouldn’t it be great if there was no family detention by that point?!).