Intern Mauricio and Sarah Jackson

Intern Mauricio and Sarah Jackson

Mauricio, a bright young man from Beloit College, completed his internship at Casa de Paz a couple of weeks ago. During one of his first days spending time with guests who were released from the immigrant detention center he wrote a reflection called "Conversation with Gerardo."

I've read it several times and each time it gets harder and harder because it seems like I can feel a little bit more of what Gerardo painfully endured to make it to the USA.

Thank you, Mauricio, for spending time with Gerardo, listening to his story and giving him your undivided attention. Thank you for reminding us that time is a precious gift that we can all give to one another. I know Gerardo will always remember the time y'all spent together.

With perseverance and hope,

Sarah J

Conversation with Gerardo
Dear Gerardo,

Thank you for telling me about your journey from Honduras to the U.S border, and eventually the privately owned GEO concentration camp in Denver where you spent the last four months at where, “anyone could lose their mind.” I appreciate the conversation we had in the hot but refreshing Colorado sun behind Casa de Paz. When I asked you how it felt to be out of “La Hielera” (the icebox) you said it felt free, but weird. Free, but weird.

The shade from the house and the refreshing wind helped a lot. Sorry all but two of the guards were jerks. After you told me about the beautiful snow you got to see from the windows a few months ago, I was shocked to find out the guards blocked off the windows, eliminating everyone’s only view to the outside. My blood ran warm when you told me most of the guards pretended not to understand Spanish when you or your detained peers needed favors, but definitely understood Spanish when the guards were insulting and ignoring people’s plights, and then locking people up in isolation to protect their own egos.

I wasn’t sure what to talk about after a few minutes or what might even be appropriate to ask, but then you just started sharing your journey, so thank you again. I’m sorry your brother lost his life on the way to the border. You told me it really hurt because you talked to him a lot and passed the time on the way here. You told me the train in Mexico killed him and that the church nearby helped you deal with the terrible ordeal. You told me you were fine and the priests helped you emotionally. You were “fine” even though you told me that you do not like to talk about the issue because it disturbs you still. I knew you were fine not because you came to terms with everything and felt happy, but because you felt like you were losing your mind and you must be fine to survive.

You continued and told me about how repetitive and mind numbing time in detention feels. People talk, write, draw, or exercise to “stay sane.” People wake up at around 5:00am, eat the same breakfast, most go back to sleep, then food again, then more waiting, then more dull and non-nutritious food, and then sleep in the awful beds, or the cold floor.

Although the last couple of months were hell, you were excited for what is yet to come. I can’t wait for your sisters to receive you in their homes. Your older and younger sisters both have families. It will definitely be overwhelming, but heartwarming when your family is finally reunited. Hopefully that weird feeling of freedom will go away sometime and you will just feel, free.