THere is in the midst of the pain and desparation that migrants face a place where migrants can receive solace for their spirits. Casa Mariposa is an intentional religious community made up of a variety of faith perspectives. The American Friends or Quakers purchased the home so the residents do not have to worry about rent. Once a week there is a Quaker Meeting where people can gather and receive solace for their spirits.
This is a place for those migrants being released. So many of them need to have an address of where they will be after their release and Casa Mariposa provides this address. There are two small houses on this piece of property, one for men and one for women. Although there was recently a single mother with several daughters, one son and grandchildren. The guests stay here for as long as they need to before either returning to their home country or going on to reconnect with their families.
One of their current guests shared his story. It was a horrendous story of indignities and abuse. Pedro (name changed) lived in Guatemala. His country has become increasingly violent. He decided to flee his home country after his family were masacred. He has traveled out of Guatemala to escape hundreds of times and has been able to enter the United States 9 times. He has been deported 8 times and flown back to Guatemala. But he cannot remain there. THe last time he was returned he walked out of the cuntry the very next day. His experience with ICE and with Border Patrol has not been much better. His last time in detention the detainees were placed in a cold freezer. They were given plastic for blankets, cold juice to drink, and the agents threw bread at them but not enough to feed them all. The agents wanted to watch them fight over the bread. One day he told the guards that they would get get further if they spoke in Spanish with them. The guards said, this is our country, you will speak english. If they spoke English the guards would turn their backs on them. If they spoke Spanish, they would call me a rat. They would treat him and others with a lot of humiliation. They would check to see where they might have family and then make sure that the dentention center they were sent to was far away from family. “Several people would cry out, don’t deport me, I don’t have any family there. They are all here.”
This time, he has received an identification card. It is good for a year. On the back it says he cannot work, if he does he will be deported. He has asked for asylum because themajority of this family has been massacred. But the courts here say, that does not matter because that was a long time ago. He does not mind dying buthe knows if he is returned Guatemala he will be first kidnapped, tortured before being killed. If he cannot remain in the US then he must find another country in which to have refugee status.
Listening to his harrowing story, I was struck by the lack of anger and bitterness in his voice. So I said that he told his story with such fullness heart and without malice towards these agents or these experiences. I asked how did he manage to keep from having his heart become bitter. He pondered a bit then said, if God’s son could endure the ravages and sufferings of the world and still love others, these experiences do not even compare to that so he gathers strength knowing that Jesus had endured worse and still loved. I was awed that his faith was strong in the face of such experiences and such desperation.
He added that knowing that this house and the people who staff it are there for him has made it easier for him to forgive others. This house has provided him a loving presence and for that he is most grateful.