Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mercy at the Margins

While written by Sister Amanda Kern, D.C., this story is a combination of a number of true stories the Sisters have heard from women and children crossing the border. La Casa is a real place, as is the Dilley detention center. Six Daughters of Charity live in San Antonio and the house is actively involved in serving women and children seeking asylum there through direct service and advocacy.

I wake up with a gasp. A nightmare again.

I look around. I am surrounded by unfamiliar walls in an unfamiliar bed. My son José Luis is with me but where am I? Panic sets in. Are we kidnapped? Did they finally catch up to us? Is my son alive? I glance over to José Luis. I watch in fear until his chest moves up, then down.

Sister Irma Vargas, D.C., and
Sister Pat Connolly, D.C.,
outside the Dilley detention center
Now I remember. I’m out of El Salvador, far away from “them.” I’m in the United States. I’m out of that Dilley detention center. I’m in San Antonio, at what they call La Casa, a house for women and children out of detention waiting for flights/buses to their sponsors. Tomorrow I head for Baltimore, to my uncle’s house.

I hate waking up in the middle of the night. With nothing else to do, my mind replays memories.

I remember my wedding day, walking down the aisle, when it all started. I want to run after that bride and yell, “Turn around! Turn around!” Miguel was a high school sweetheart. But something changed in him after we got married. He became abusive. But he wouldn’t touch our son, José Luis—the only reason I remain grateful for our marriage. My precious José Luis. One day, I had enough, grabbed José Luis, and left. I thought I would never have to worry about Miguel again. Oh, God, have mercy on me.

I remember José Luis’s birthday party. I was in the kitchen making pupusas with my mother when my vecina (neighbor) moved uncomfortably close, squeezed my shoulder and whispered, “Querida, they’re after your family. Run, run fast.” 

I heard rumors Miguel had gotten involved in the Mara Salvatrucha gang but surely he or the rival gang Calle 18 wouldn’t go after a family of a small child. Oh, God, have mercy on me.

I remember the day they found my mother—shot in the head in her car. Oh, Mami, why didn’t I believe my vecina? Oh, God, have mercy on me.

That’s when I grabbed José Luis and ran. Again.

There’s a Sister here who volunteers at La Casa—an Hija de la Caridad, a Daughter of Charity. There are more of the Sisters, too. I’ve seen a number of them pull up to La Casa to take us to the airport or the bus station. They were the community that ran an orphanage in my town in El Salvador. My mother would like seeing them here.

I do too, I thought with tears rolling down my face. They remind me there is mercy at the margins.

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