A Vocal Witness

I can't recommend enough a great essay by Erik Camayd-Freixas, a federally certified court interpreter working at the Postville ICE raid in Iowa. The essay has sparked a number of New York Times articles and video and a lot of discussion. It is a principled, ethical response to an incredibly heart breaking job. In one part of the essay, one of the Guatemalan immigrants says to his interpreter, "God knows you are just doing your job to support your families, and that job is to keep me from supporting mine." Therein lies the injustice and the ethical dilemma of the interpreter who works with ICE, especially in this era of "fast-tracking" and trumped up criminal charges. I think this essay is a model for the good a person can do when faced with that dilemma--be a vocal witness to historical injustice. Here are some quotes:

On Monday, May 12, 2008, at 10:00 a.m., in an operation involving some 900 agents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed a raid of Agriprocessors Inc, the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse and meat packing plant located in the town of Postville, Iowa. The raid ...officials boasted... was "the largest single-site operation of its kind in American history." At that same hour, 26 federally certified interpreters from all over the country were en route to the small neighboring city of Waterloo, Iowa, having no idea what their mission was about.
I arrived late that Monday night and missed the 8pm interpreters briefing. I was instructed by phone to meet at 7am in the hotel lobby and carpool to the National Cattle Congress (NCC) where we would begin our work. We arrived at the heavily guarded compound, went through security, and gathered inside the retro "Electric Park Ballroom" where a makeshift court had been set up. The Clerk of Court, who coordinated the interpreters, said: "Have you seen the news? There was an immigration raid yesterday at 10am. They have some 400 detainees here. We'll be working late conducting initial appearances for the next few days." He then gave us a cursory tour of the compound. The NCC is a 60-acre cattle fairground that had been transformed into a sort of concentration camp or detention center.
Then began the saddest procession I have ever witnessed, which the public would never see, because cameras were not allowed past the perimeter of the compound (only a few journalists came to court the following days, notepad in hand). Driven single-file in groups of 10, shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles, chains dragging as they shuffled through, the slaughterhouse workers were brought in for arraignment, sat and listened through headsets to the interpreted initial appearance, before marching out again to be bused to different county jails, only to make room for the next row of 10. They appeared to be uniformly no more than 5 ft. tall, mostly illiterate Guatemalan peasants with Mayan last names, some being relatives (various Tajtaj, Xicay, Sajché, Sologüí...), some in tears; others with faces of worry, fear, and embarrassment. They all spoke Spanish, a few rather laboriously. It dawned on me that, aside from their nationality, which was imposed on their people in the 19th century, they too were Native Americans, in shackles. They stood out in stark racial contrast with the rest of us as they started their slow penguin march across the makeshift court.

To read the entire piece, go to this page at The Sanctuary website.

2 comentarios:

Anónimo dijo...

I cannot read about such sadness. My own is so close to the surface that something as crushing as what you are writing about pushes me over the edge. Can't watch news shows, radio reports of horror. Have to protect my fragile nervous system which is always on smolder these days, just waiting to burst into flame. I feel my soul connected to others' pain, as I always have, yet I must keep it at arm's length and on the edge of my consciousness.

Who is that doggie on your profile?

jp dijo...

It's Chimoltrufia Chimichanga.

Where's your blog? Nothing there.

Who are you? How'd you find the blog?