When we got off the plane and stepped outside the airport it was hot, dry, scorching heat. We got on the bus that would take us to the car rental place and while we were on the road, I kept noticing how different the plants were. We got a car and got on the road. As soon as we got outside of Phoenix it was just desert and not like some people might picture in their head. It wasn’t wide open; there were a lot of big bushes, cacti, and short trees, so if you were walking it would be easy to lose your sense of direction. After I stared out the window for a while I started thinking about my dad out there and I tried to imagine myself in his shoes or walking with him. I felt incredibly proud of him- it gave me a new respect for him, how he could cross that desert was just unbelievable. My dad is truly the strongest man I know.
After driving a little more than an hour and a half we got to the Eloy Detention Center and I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect but when we pulled up there were so many cars from different places. When we got out of the car I could hear a women saying a prayer over the microphone in Spanish and then another woman repeating it in English. We walked up to the crowd of people gathered in front of a stage. I saw that everyone had their hand on someone else’s shoulder and everyone was praying together. Charlie didn’t hesitate to walk up to the first person who was alone and put his hand on her shoulder, then he pulled me closer to him and put his other hand on my shoulder. After the prayer, some people did a skit about what it’s like to be arrested by border patrol in the desert. I’ve always heard the stories about how they treat people like crap but it was a sad thing to see, it’s hard to believe people are treated like that in this country.
I started walking around a little bit just to scope the scene and taking pictures of different signs and banners. Then they had people on the stage talk about how they know someone who was or is locked up and told the stories of people who were locked up. One woman was in there when she was pregnant and she was having a lot of pain. She kept begging the guards for help and asking if she could please see a doctor. They said “No” and only gave her water. She ended up losing the baby. She said she wants to send a message to everyone out there who does not get active politically or vote and just does nothing: They have the power to make a real change. I heard another story of a man who killed himself by shoving his socks down his throat. How bad does it have to be for suicide to be the best option? There is a group of people who go and visit people on the inside every eight days and they say they see broken bones and bruises, medical neglect, and just a lot of abuse in general.
I decided to walk around a little bit and see if I could find Charlie. I walked down the road a little bit and there it was- the detention center. It was so big. I was standing on a sidewalk and about a hundred yards in front of me was the fence of the prison. Between me and the fence was nothing, not a rock or a bush or anything, just dirt. I wasn’t paying much attention and I stepped into the dirt. Right away the security guard blocking the entrance to the prison yelled, “HEY step back on the sidewalk!” I did as they told me to but I gave them a glare while doing it. I went back to the rally.
When I got back they were reciting poetry and passing out candles. After a little while, a few people came around lighting candles. It was weird, the wax was dripping all over my hand but it didn’t burn. They sang some more songs and recited more poetry. One poem that I liked;
I am the illegal immigrant, undocumented and unrepentant.
And they ain’t seeing me cause my revolution is being me.
I am the anti-celebrity a hero whose power is invisibility
I am the underdog’s underdog,
Dog try working a 9 to 9 with no paid overtime and a bad spine
I’ll redefine your definition of on the grind.
There were a lot more but that part got me a little bit. They told us we were going to march down the road and stand on the sidewalk, say chants and sing songs so all the people on the inside would know we were there. We got to the sidewalk where I was earlier. You could see the cops and security guards getting nervous, but we were yelling and holding our candles up. You could see people in the windows waving and turning their lights on and off, signaling back that they could hear us. It was a crazy mixture of emotions: anger for them keeping my people locked up like that for trying to find a better life, sadness cause we couldn’t do anything for them. We were leaving and going to warm beds or good meals and they are stuck there in that hell hole.
Seeing Eloy Detention Center was an experience I am so thankful I was able to have. It all ended and I walked back towards the car. I found Charlie and we loaded up in the car and drove off into the desert. He arranged for us to stay at a friend’s of his. I was nervous because I didn’t want to make them nervous. I’m probably not the type of person someone might expect to be traveling with an old man. I was worried it would be awkward. I was wrong; they were really nice and welcoming. I was surprised, I guess I should not have assumed how they would be just like I don’t want people to assume about me.