“Reflections on my time at La Coalición de Derechos Humanos: Barriers to finding people in immigrant detention” // “Reflexiónes sobre mi tiempo en La Coalición de Derechos Humanos: Barreras a localizando a personas en centros de detención inmigratorias

Durante mi pasantía aquí en La Coalición de Derechos Humanos, he tenido la oportunidad de participar en el Programa de Personas Extraviad@s haciendo entrevistas, el Equipo de Llamadas a Centros de Detención localizando a migrantes extraviad@s, proyectos de escribir y traducir reportes, y en juntas de la comunidad. Todos los proyectos y juntas en Derechos se han basado en trabajar dentro de redes de comunidad que proporcionan apoyo mutuo, que ha sido beneficial para los proyectos y mi proceso de aprendizaje. Como parte del Programa de Estudios Fronterizos, Derechos Humanos ha enriquecido mi conocimiento sobre la sistema industrial de prisiones que afecta a personas indocumentadas, los derechos de inmigrantes, y la militarización de la frontera que son todos fenómenos con consecuencias graves para personas reales cada dia. Ha sido un honor y una inspiración poder trabajar con personas quienes están resistiendo estos sistemas opresivos en nuestra comunidad de Tucson y de más allá. Mi proceso de conocimiento me ha presentado con preguntas y la curiosidad de explorar respuestas, y aunque lo que conozco mejor es mi proceso de complicar esas preguntas más que encontrar sus respuestas, quiero compartir un poco de lo que he aprendido.

Porque están cruzando personas por el desierto?

En los últimos veinticinco años, la frontera entre EEUU. y México se ha transformando bajo una serie de operaciones fronterizos trabajando en parar la fluidez que ha caracterizado la región por siglos. Antes de los 1990, las ciudades en la región fronteriza funcionaron como centros de migración documentada y no documentada saliendo y llegando a los EEUU. En los primeros años de 1990, el fiscal general de los EEUU. (United States Attorney General) y el centro de servicios de inmigracion y naturalizacion estadounidense (Immigration and Naturalization Services; una agencia gobiernatal luego reorganizado bajo el departamento de seguridad de la patria estadounidense conocido como U.S. Department of Defense) anunció la Estrategia de la Frontera Suroeste (Southwest Border Strategy) para parar la migración indocumentada empleando una estrategia conocida como prevención por disuasión (“prevention through deterrence”). La estrategia incluye militarizar la frontera entre EEUU. y México por medio de expandir el número de agentes en la patrulla fronteriza por 117% entre 1993 y 1998, construyendo paredes dentro y alrededor de ciudades fronterizas, y implementando nuevas tecnologías como torres de vigilancia, vehículos militares, helicópteros, y zumbidos para patrullar la región fronterizo de EEUU.-Mexico por completo. Una serie de operaciones estatales se comenzaron en Tejas (“Operation Hold the Line” & “Operation Rio Grande”), California (“Operation Gatekeeper”), y Arizona (“Operation Safeguard”) entre 1993 y 2003 para parar la llegada de migrantes indocumentados a los EEUU. en puntos de entrada históricamente populares. El propósito de estas operaciones federales y estatales es filtrar migrantes a regiones desolados y peligrosos que puedan funcionar como una barrera “natural” para las personas entrando a los EEUU. La combinación de estos esfuerzos ha sido referido como el “efecto embudo,” (“The Funnel Effect”) y es una estrategia directamente conectado a la muerte de migrantes.

Qué le pasa a un migrante después de ser aprehendido?

Después de ser aprehendido, una persona es sujeto a una continuidad de custodias. Las agencias y instalaciones de las cuales esta continuidad de custodia puede incluir son los siguientes: la policía local y estatal, patrullas de autopista, del Departamento de Seguridad Interior (DHS) hay El Servicio de Aduanas y Protección de Fronteras (CBP) y el Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE), del Departamento de Justicia hay El Cuerpo de Alguaciles (USMS) y El Servicio Federal de Prisiones (BOP), y las prisiones estatales, cárceles del condado, y prisiones privados que forman parte del Departamento de Correcciones. Al inicio de estar en la custodia de CBP, una persona puede ser detenido por hasta 72 horas en celdas de corto plazo antes de ser transferido a otra agencia. En otros casos, personas tienen la opción de ser deportados voluntariamente o repatriados expeditamente. Ser deportado voluntariamente no se considera un deportación formal, y no significa que la persona nunca puede regresar a los EE.UU., mientras que un repatriado expedita no requiere una audiencia judicial pero si se considera una deportación formal. En el evento de que una persona elige la opción de ser deportados voluntariamente o repatriados expeditamente, bajo El Sistema de Consecuencias (CDS), una persona puede ser repatriado lateralmente. Bajo El Programa de Salidas de Extranjeros (ATEP) de CBP, se ha visto la práctica de repatriación lateral con el sentido de interrumpir a redes de contrabando. Repatriación lateral deporta a migrantes a diferentes sectores de la frontera de las cuales entraron, dejándolos en áreas desconocidos.

En otras instancias, personas pueden ser puestos en la custodia de otras agencias, como ICE, que normalmente deporta a personas quienes han estado en centros de detención por períodos extendidos. Detención de largo plazo puede suceder porque una persona esta buscando asilo, solicitando una audiencia judicial formal, o porque han sido procesados al nivel federal. Un ejemplo del fenómeno de procesamiento federal es Operación Streamline en Tucson, AZ. Operación Streamline es un juicio en masa para inmigrantes indocumentados que resulta en cargos federales por entrada o reingreso a los EE.UU, con consecuencias que pueden resultar en penas obligatorias de entre 180 días a 20 años dentro de prisiones federales. En estos casos, personas están puestos bajo la custodia de USMS o BOP, y al final de la sentencia son transferidos a ICE y deportados por el programa de Operaciones de Ejecución y Repatriación (ERO).

Cuales son barreras que afectan la búsqueda de personas detenidas?

Hay muchas barreras afectando la búsqueda de personas detenidas. Es común que personas cruzando sin documentos usen identidades e identificaciones falsificadas con la intención de proteger a ellos mismos y a sus familias, que puede tener el hecho de complicar el proceso de localizar a personas extraviadas. Alternativamente, si personas si presentan identidades correctas a agencias y centros de detención, sus archivos pueden ser descuidados y no actualizados por el sistema burocrático de transferir a personas. En estas instancias, también en casos en que la información de agencias no es brindado durante la búsqueda, puede dificultar la precisión y eficacia de sistemas de base de datos por el teléfono y internet. Ya que una persona entra a un centro de detención, en el dia lunes que sigue su llegada, la persona está asignado un número de comisario, que funciona como una cuenta de bancaria dentro de prisiones por la cual una persona puede pagar por llamadas telefónicas y otras materiales que puedan necesitar. Dinero depositado en la cuenta no es procesado hasta el dia lunes que sigue el depósito. Esto quiere decir que este proceso atrasado puede privar a personas de la oportunidad de comunicar su local con personas quienes lo están buscando. En detención de corto y largo plazo, se ha visto una serie de casos en que la propiedad de personas deportados o transferidos no han sido regresados a la persona (ej. teléfonos celulares, dinero, ropa etc.), limitando la habilidad de ponerse uno en contacto con familia y amigos. Aunque estas barreras en la búsqueda de personas extraviadas no incluyen la posibilidad de situaciones en que la persona se pierde en el desierto, en hospitales, en morgues, en otros países después de ser deportados, o son implicados en crimen organizado, esto es un breve resumen sobre la falta de humanidad que se ve en centros de detención y sistemas relacionados que pierden y confunden a personas.

–Isabel Ball

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During my time as an intern at La Coalición de Derechos Humanos, I have had the opportunity to participate in the Missing Migrant Project, conducting intake interviews, being a part of the Detention Center Call Team locating missing migrants, report writing and translating projects, and partaking in community meetings. All the projects and meetings at Derechos have been centered around working in community networks of mutual support, which has been beneficial to the effectiveness of the work itself and my own personal learning growth. As part of the Border Studies Program, Derechos Humanos has enriched my knowledge of the prison industrial system as it pertains to undocumented peoples, immigrant rights, and border militarization as they seriously impact real people every day. It has been a true honor and source of inspiration to work with people seeking to address and resist these oppressive systems in our Tucson community and beyond. My conscientization process has led me to ask questions and explore their answers, and although what I know my personal process in complicating the questions more than their answers, I would like to share a bit about what I’ve learned.

Why are people crossing through the desert?

Over the past twenty-five years, the U.S.-Mexican border has transformed under a series of border enforcement operations working to stop the fluid migration that has characterized the region for centuries. Before the 1990s, cities along the Southwestern border served as major centres of both documented and undocumented migration to and from the U.S. In the early 1990s, the United States Attorney General and Immigration and Naturalization Services (a government agency later absorbed and reorganized under Department of Homeland Security) announced a Southwest Border Strategy to stop undocumented immigration in an approach known as “prevention through deterrence.” The strategy included increasing militarization along the U.S.-Mexican border by expanding the number of border patrol agents by 117% between 1993 and 1998, putting walls up within and around major border cities, and implementing new technologies such as surveillance towers, military grade vehicles, helicopters, and drones to patrol the entire border region. A series of state operations were begun in Texas (“Operation Hold the Line” & “Operation Rio Grande”), California (“Operation Gatekeeper”), and Arizona (“Operation  Safeguard”) between 1993 and 2003 to halt entries into the U.S. along historically popular crossing points. The purpose of these state and federal operations was to filter migrants into more desolate and treacherous regions of the border, focusing on Arizona, that would then function as “natural” barriers to entering the U.S. The combination of these efforts is referred to as “the funnel effect,” and is a strategy directly related to the death of migrants because migrants are now pushed out of urban centers and into rural areas if they want to cross–often unaware of the distances they will have to travel and the extreme hot and cold tempuratures of the Sonoran Desert.

What happens to a migrant once they are apprehended?

There are several chains of custody that a person can be subject to upon detention. The agencies and facilities that these chains of custody might include are the following: local and state police or highway patrol, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and/or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) U.S. Marshals (USMS) and/or the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and the Department of Corrections’ state prisons, county jails, and/or private prisons. When a person is initially put into CBP custody, they are held for up to 72 hours in short-term holding cells before being transferred to another agency, or in other cases, before being given expedited removal or voluntary departure. Voluntary departure is not a formal deportation, and does not ban a person from returning to the U.S. while an expedited removal does not require a hearing before a judge but is considered an official form of deportation. In the event that a person chooses voluntary departure or expedited removal, under CBP’s Consequence Delivery System (CDS), a person may be laterally repatriated. Under the Alien Transfer and Exit Program (ATEP), CBP has been known to practice a lateral repatriation strategy in an attempt to break up smuggling networks. Lateral repatriation deports migrants to different sectors or cities along the border from which they entered, leaving them in unfamiliar areas.

In other instances, people can be placed under in other agency’s facilities, such as ICE, which usually carries out deportations that occur after longer periods of detention. Longer periods of detention might occur because a person is seeking asylum, requesting a formal court hearing, or because they have been federally prosecuted. One example of such federal prosecutions is Operation Streamline in Tucson, Arizona. Operation Streamline is a mass trial for undocumented immigrants resulting in federal charges for either entry or reentry into the U.S., with consequences that can range between 30 days to 20 years in federal prison. In such instances, people are placed into the custody of USMS or BOP, and at the end of their sentence are transferred to ICE and deported through their Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

What are barriers to finding people in detention?

    There are several barriers to locating people in detention. It is common for people crossing without documents to use false identities and identifications in order to protect themselves and their families, which can often make searching for missing people a slower process. Alternatively, if the correct identities are provided to agencies and facilities, their records can be sloppy and not up to date because of the bureaucratic transferring of human bodies. Such instances, as well as information withholding, can hinder the accuracy and effectiveness of phone and online database searches. Once a person is placed into detention, on the Monday following their arrival they are assigned a commissary number, which is essentially used as a bank account within prisons with which a person may pay for phone calls and other material goods they might need. Money placed into the account is not processed until the Monday following the deposit, meaning that this slow process can deprive people of the chance to communicate their location to those looking for them. After both long and short term detention, there have been several noted cases of people being deported or transferred to new facilities without having their property returned to them (e.g. cell phones, money, clothing etc.), which seriously limits a person’s ability to contact their friends and family. Although these barriers to finding people do not include the possibility of people who become lost in the desert, hospitals, morgues, other countries after deportation, or are affected by organized crime, it is a brief look at the inhumanness and inadequacy of detention centers and systems that lose and confuse human beings.

–Isabel Ball

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Field Site Notes: Detainee Visits with Mariposas Sin Fronteras

This semester, I’ve been interning with Mariposas Sin Fronteras, an immigrant-run collective that advocates for LGBTQ immigrants, both in and outside of detention. The Mariposas themselves are primarily LGBTQ immigrants, many of whom have been detained previously, and all of whom are tackling injustice in Arizona from a whole myriad of angles. One approach has been working with people currently in detention, and I’ve been tagging along this semester, visiting one-on-one with detainees in Eloy and Florence, Arizona.

I’ve now visited the Eloy and Florence detention centers a total of five times. Each time, I am buzzed through the first door, then walk through a sort of chain-linked tunnel. Only after the first door closes can I be buzzed in through the second, and this always reminds me of the aviary section of the zoo. I pass through a door, a metal detector, and another set of double doors. By the time I arrive to the rubberized couches of the visitation room, at least an hour after arriving, I am always a bundle of nerves, apologizing for my Spanish. I feel worried the person I am visiting will not want a stranger probing at them, or worse, a student, especially one of my privilege, who cannot pretend to comprehend the magnitude of their experiences.

Xochitl was the first person I met in detention, early on in the semester. I was nervous about making small talk, about fumbling to find common ground, but Xochitl was patient and in good spirits. She’s only four months older than me, and has spent over seven months in Eloy. She wears her hair in a thin braid, the blonde highlights growing out, and we didn’t have much of a problem talking for an hour, leaning towards each other, sharing stories and plans. Xochitl is a Mexican woman seeking asylum for being lesbian, and she is hoping to get her younger sister out of CPS custody in Phoenix and care for her. We hugged goodbye tightly after that first visit, promising to keep in touch, saying good luck, and que todo vaya bien.

Each time I visit someone in detention, I promise to write, say goodbye with a firmer hug than that of our initial greeting, whisper suerte. I am buzzed out of four doors and two gates, passed the metal detector and sometimes a drug-sniffing dog, passed a room of families with restless toddlers waiting to see their parents. I pass the sign on the wall of Corrections Corporation of America, which tells me the share price of the company, in case I want to invest in the exploitative and white supremacist company that profits off the caging of immigrants. Each time, I leave aching. It is a painful thing to read about mass detention, to know theoretically about the prison industrial complex, but it is much harder to see things first hand, to speak with detainees, and to then turn on your heel and reenter your own life, a life of the outside.

I’ll be honest with you, writing this blog post has felt challenging. I want to capture the corporal sensation of entrapment one feels upon entering a detention center without sensationalizing the experience, or pretending my perspective is the valuable component of these interactions, when I am not the one facing xenophobic and racist laws, or a dim hope at a court case that will likely end in deportation. I don’t want to be voyeuristic, or exploit the generous storytelling of the people I’ve met inside. It is hard to capture the flood of relief I experience when exiting the facilities, and the inextricable collapsing I feel at leaving people behind. Suddenly, the world feels smaller and worse.

Xochitl and I mail cards back and forth. She sends me long letters with social and legal updates, and I send her postcards of Tucson and hand drawn maps of places I hope she’ll make it to. As I write this, I’m wearing the ring Xochitl gave me this morning. It’s braided out of foil from the packaging of a bottle, and bound together carefully with white thread. She told me it’s ok to post her story on the Internet, at least these parts of it. I told her when she gets out, I’ll buy her a beer for our birthdays. She turned 21 in detention, and I turned 21 last Tuesday.

—–

Update: Xochitl called me to tell me she’s gotten out. She’s relieved and grateful, and is with family in Phoenix.

Xochitl’s release was possible in no small part because of the work of Mariposas Sin Fronteras. To donate to the bond funds for other detainees, you can follow the Mariposas on Facebook, and keep up with their campaigns. Here’s the link: Mariposas Sin Fronteras

–Hannah Gold


Sam’s Homestay Experience

Tonight we gathered at the Quaker Meetinghouse: students, teachers, host families, friends, and field site bosses. We came together to celebrate and end a semester of living and learning and working together. As I biked down St. Claire St going east towards the Meetinghouse, the wind picked up. At first it was just the smell of creosote and then, sure enough, raindrops began to fall.

Three months ago, it rained the day our host families and us students gathered for our first dinner together. At that time, we didn’t know much about our families, only names and maybe a few personal details. I would live with a family of five—Silvia (my mom), Carmen (her mom), Jorge (15), Gabriel (10), and Esmeralda (9)—and by living with this family from Sonora, Mexico I would see a more personal and intimate side to the Border and its politics. What else might await me with this family of strangers? I could not begin to guess. The rain fell during dinner and our families were excited but I missed the desert sun. I didn’t come to the desert to be rained on!

But tonight, as a train stopped me on my bike and the rain fell and I got wetter by the minute, I couldn’t be happier. It only takes a few months in the desert to learn to love a desert rain. I counted the number of times it had rained on one wet hand, and it seemed quite fitting that one finger represented the beginning of this short semester and another, the ending.

So much has changed in these few months. Relationships started, knowledge gained, chicken tractors built. It’s amazing how those names—Silvia, Carmen, Jorge, Gabriel, y Esme—which at one point meant nothing more than letters on a page, now hold so many memories. Amazing to talk and joke and play at the Quaker House tonight and remember how different it felt three months ago.

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Jeff had told ahead of time that Silvia could speak English, so if I wanted to practice Spanish I should let her know. The kids, too, would probably talk to me in English, so I should be clear if I want Spanish immersion.

I wanted to improve my Spanish. In fact, I had checked off a box on my program preference form saying that I preferred to live with a family that speaks it in the home. I would make the effort, I decided. I would make it clear that I wanted to speak Spanish even if I wasn’t that great at it.

Priorities change fast.

We spoke English that first dinner together with the rest of Border Studies—Jorge and I talking about the Patriots, him knowing more about my hometown team than me—and Silvia chatting with anyone and everyone in whatever language they wanted. Later that night, Jorge stayed up with me and we must have talked about sports and his school and news from Sonora. Silvia and I talked about my family and Massachusetts (“Mass-ACHOO-setts” she would say and pretend that she was sneezing). With her, I started with bumbling Spanish but pretty soon we fell into English like you fall into a couch at the end of the day. It was easier that way for both of us, and once we could all kick-back, we could really start to share something about ourselves.

Because I did want to learn Spanish, and I still do. But more than that, I wanted to have those lounging conversations where reactions aren’t slowed by unfamiliar language and where energy can be put into ideas and compassion. In those conversations, you reveal yourself to someone. In those conversations, I have found family here in Tucson.

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You get used to living with a new family in starts and stops. As you find your place in a house, small, simple actions often take monumental effort.

Those first couple days, just walking out of the bedroom door and being ready to speak Spanish to my nana took courage. And then on particularly difficult mornings, a new tío or a friend was by visiting and you’d have to introduce yourself in Spanish and small talk over breakfast. What a challenge that was!

Week two I started helping myself to food in the fridge and I did a little cooking for myself. I had waited, nervous, because I didn’t want to impose myself upon the kitchen and its resources. Looking back now, I can laugh and at how much unnecessary stress I caused myself and my nana by my austerity.silv2

Week four I started singing in the shower.

Week six I invited friends over.

Esme and Gabriel will tell you that one of our best nights together was the pillow fight in the sala a few weeks ago. We all had a great time, but every once in a while I would look over my shoulder down the hallway where my nana and Silvia were sleeping. Can we do this? Am I being a bad guest? Or a bad son? What am I after all? The next day at Manzo Elementary School where I work, one of Esme’s classmates came up to me. “Sam,” she asked with a serious voice. “Is it true that you and Esme had a pillow fight last night?”

I couldn’t lie. “Yes,” I told her, nodding solemnly. In the following days, a new rumor started: I and one of the University of Arizona interns had gone on a “pillow fight date” together. And apparently I had a great time.

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“Mañana, voy al Border Patrol,” I told Silvia one night early in the semester while she prepared her lunch for the next day.

“You’re going to Border Patrol? To see my friends los Chiles Verdes?” she asked me and laughed. Later she would tell me that they came up with that joke—calling Border Patrol the “Green Chiles”—when she worked in the restaurant. Some agents would eat at the restaurant and the folks in the kitchen would say, estamos llenos de chile verde; we’re full of green chili! The agents made the undocumented workers in the restaurant nervous, but after a while the fear wore off. One ICE agent told her that they know, of course, that the folks in the restaurant probably don’t have papers, but they don’t mess around with families unless they see suspicious actíons.

“Well tell my friends los Chiles Verdes that I say hi,” Silvia said and we had a good laugh over that one.

I didn’t pass along the request to her “friends” down in Nogales. But the next day as we walked out of the Border Patrol office frustrated and grumpy, I couldn’t get Silvia’s smile out of my head. Los Chiles Verdes. I chuckled a bit—because what else can you do?—and imagined Silvia greeting one of our tour guides at the door of the restaurant. He’s in his green slacks, carrying his gun on the hip and his fear of terrorists in his heart. He walks through the door of the restaurant.

“The usual?” Silvia would ask.

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I don’t remember my first time up Tumamoc Mountain. Was I on a run? Or maybe we did our first sunset walk to the top? The steep trek up the short mountain became regular enough that the moments blend together. Each time you see something new: an unusual arrangement of clouds during a desert sunset, a funky looking cactus you hadn’t seen before, or yet another language added to the many you’ve heard while walking past kids, adults, and grandmas, neighborhood folks, tourists, and commuters. Each time is different, and yet in memory I have trouble distinguishing one walk from another; they mosaic into something much bigger and more beautiful than any one summit sunset.

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There was that Friday in March when some of us Jews baked challah for Shabbat and hamentashen for the holiday Purim at my house. Then Silvia, Jorge, Esme, and some of our friends from the University of Arizona joined us for the walk up Tumamoc. At the top we sat in a rough circle amongst the lava rocks, and as the sun went down and the first couple starts came out, we lit the cider-flavored tea lights from Anne’s house, said a prayer over the grape juice, and passed around the freshly baked challah. Reflecting on our week, each of us said our peach (a good, happy thing) and our pit (a bad thing that might grow into something better). As we walked down the mountain, Jorge sped on ahead, his long legs carrying him faster than any of us were willing to go. Esme trotted behind him, and Silvia hung back to talk and laugh with my friends.

Then there was that hike with Emily’s family when they talked about their high school the whole way down.

Or when old friends of mine from New Mexico met me at the bottom and we played back memories of the old days as the sun went down.

Or when Hannah and Jorge and I climbed up for the sunrise on her 21st birthday, Jorge getting his blood moving before his last day of state testing.

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I’ve worn that short walk from my house to the bottom of Tumamoc well this semester. I show off the mountain like a trophy. I welcome friends to its slopes like it’s the guest room of my house. Walking up that mountain, recognizing the same faces again and again, I wonder how many Tucsonans consider Tumamoc their home.

******

Last Saturday, I biked back from Gabriel’s Little League game on my friend Anne’s hunky beach cruiser. Inside the kitchen my tío Jesus and my nana Cármen were talking. I almost didn’t recognize Jesus without his cowboy hat on. “Sam!” he said.

“Hola, ¿cómo están?” I asked them. The Spanish comes easier these days, but I still like to be the one asking questions because you can always pretend you understand the answers. “No ganaron,” I told them. Gabriel’s team has been doing better, but they lost this time.

My nana had made spinach and had cooked up the tamales that my tía and I made on my birthday. I fixed a plate and, because I knew Jesus was watching, I crushed a few chiltepines on top. Used my fingers instead of the wooden crusher when I noticed him looking over. He smiled: “Ya es un mexicano,” he told Cármen, and they laughed. I was one bite in and already I needed some help. I got up for some orange juice to soften the spice.

I heard Jesus murmur enchiloso and saw my nana give him a knowing look. I’m not quite Mexican yet.

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Yesterday was a long one. The kind of day where you push back your laptop and you talk about when you’ll finally be able to nest somewhere. I start day dreaming about opening a restaurant with Silvia and Hannah’s thinking about drinking beer on San Francisco rooftops. In just about a week, we’ll walk through yet another ending and start one more beginning. Everything is wrapped up in that ending—homework, classmates, teachers, field sites where we work—so that our whole lives here seem to be pitching towards that one final jump.

Everything, that is, except my house. Biking down University Street out west towards the highway tonight, I couldn’t wait to walk through the doors and be in a place that will remain here long after I leave. In that house, the anxiety that fills our Border Studies classroom lifts away; the rash of stresses that we pass from one of us to the other fades. Sitting at the kitchen counter, I ask: why do those things matter so much anyway?

After all, WWE is on and Esme will have to make the popcorn because she lost a bet that one time over a basketball game we didn’t care about.

Jorge and Silvia have been hearing about this case of police brutality, and should the policeman be to blame after all?

Gabriel is hitting tennis balls to himself to practice and could use a partner.

My nana liked that bread I made and I really should make some more. She’s fed me well this semester.

The kind of learning that happens in a home stay doesn’t have a thesis. Isn’t deductive. Is hard to quantify. The learning happens in moments here and there, and then I am sitting in the kitchen at the end of a semester—Jorge and I both yawning but neither of us want to stop talking and go to bed—and even calling this thing learning seems to do it a disservice. It’s meeting, it’s struggling, it’s resting. It’s speaking Spanglish, laughing about the chile verdes, and suffering through the spice of chiltepines. It’s being human in a small house with beautiful people.

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-Sam Coates-Finke