Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time in El Paso volunteering with El Paso Immigration Collaborative, a group of lawyers and a part of our own Santa Fe Dreamers Project — groups providing legal assistance to those immigrants seeking asylum who are instead held by the U.S. government in regular prisons. These are actual prisons, complete with guards, locks, uniforms, cells, etc., as I found out as I was sent to interview several each day, one by one.

This is what meets these asylum-seekers, after tremendous risks in leaving their countries of origin, traversing sometimes thousands of miles, facing dangers and life-threatening risks — exactly the threats and torture that they felt compelled to escape in the first place.

These immigrant hopefuls often are referred to as “undocumented.” In many cases, that is a misnomer. There are indeed some without documents; some have passports (and sometimes visas) in their possession. But be aware that many of these so-called “undocumented immigrants” arrived at our borders with passports (documents) only to have them taken away by the Border Patrol or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. So, many are not “undocumented” until forced to be so by the U.S. government.

Real people, our fellow human beings, are living these atrocities every day. And in our name. If you don’t listen, if you don’t get involved, if you don’t object and/or try to help, then all of this will continue. Try to remember that you or your ancestors were also immigrants (except Native Americans). If you don’t try to influence and/or change these U.S. and ICE policies, then perhaps you are getting the government that you deserve.

Marguerite Gallagher Dimas lives in Santa Fe.

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