Time passed slowly inside the detention center. It was the afternoon of June 3, 2015, and the oppressive heat of South Texas reminded Lilian Oliva Bardales, a 19-year-old mother from Honduras, of home. For 239 days, she and her 4-year-old son, Cristhian, had been held inside the Karnes County Residential Center, a family immigration detention facility an hour southeast of San Antonio. Inside that day were 604 women, some of them pregnant,and their children, some of them still nursing, virtually all of whom were asylum seekers from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, the violence-plagued region of Central America known as the Northern Triangle. Two hours west, a detention center in the small oil town of Dilley held another 1,459 mothers and children. Lilian had been informed the previous day that she and her son would soon be deported.
“I write you this card so you know how it feels to be in this damned place for eight months,” Lilian wrote in a small notebook, dotting her “i”s with open circles. She had been deported once before, in May 2014, when she came north without her son. “You humiliate all of us who have come to this country for the second time. If I do this it is because only God knows what I have suffered in my country. I come here so this country can help me, but here you’ve been killing me little by little with punishment and lies in prison when I haven’t committed any crime… I do this because I don’t feel any life going back to my country.” She signed her name and identification number, and left the notebook on her bunk bed...
* Reporting for this article was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Read more in The Nation