On the way into immigration court today, I stood next to a couple from Guatemala who had apparently never even used an elevator before. Their 7 year old son came to the United States by himself. He had to miss school today to attend his first master calendar hearing. When it came time for the parents to sit in front of the judge, they had to waive their rights to an interpreter; apparently no one could speak their native, indigenous language.
Later on in the waiting room, I was speaking with an attorney on the phone while waiting for a client to arrive, and that same 7-year-old boy came into the room because he recognized me, and he asked for my help because his parents still did not understand how to use the elevator. I showed his father how to push the button, and then another woman came along and offered to escort them to “piso G.”
I don’t know why I keep thinking about it. Maybe it is because I can’t believe that the names of these kind, gentle, simple people belong in the same sentence as “removal proceedings.” Maybe it is because I know how difficult it is to function in a place where you don’t speak the language fluently, let alone in a court, where big words are tossed around by people who expect you to understand, even if the language the interpreter speaks is your second language. Maybe it is because there will always be systemic injustice when our neighbors are being deported, and no amount of compassion and elevator button-pushing can fix that. Or maybe it is because I cannot possibly imagine the circumstances that would cause you to want to leave the comfort and familiarity of home, let alone by yourself at age 7.
What I do know is what is good, and what the Lord requires of us: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” I don’t have all of the answers right now (will I ever?), but I do know that what I witnessed today was structural sin. And as a missionary who has committed to growing in social holiness, I am determined to join with my community to fight for a better solution.