I cannot show you any photos of the women whose stories we heard today because their lives are at risk. But it broke me.
We heard from five of the six women living in a safe house in Juarez, Mexico. They all fled their native Central American countries with their children because they were facing death threats from the police or government, walking through deserts and facing bandits and wild animals and vermin. Some were kidnapped. Others couldn’t bear to tell what happened to them.
This picture (above), drawn by one of the women, tells the story of the wall, the river where people died crossing and the train called the Beast, which is the fastest but most dangerous route, with threat of capture and violence.
But the part the broke me is the one in the upper-right quadrant. That is her depiction of “The freezer” or “The ice box,” the initial holding cell in the U.S. where people are placed after they come to the border and legally present themselves for asylum. This woman was held there for 30 days.
It’s called “the freezer” because the U.S. government deliberately keeps it cold to make it uncomfortable. At the facility, 30 women and in some cases their children, including babies, were held in a room that should only hold 12 and they were forced to sleep on the floor with only a Mylar blanket, and they all shared an open toilet with no privacy. No human dignity. They were given food two or three times a day— some water and a burrito, often still frozen when it was handed to them.
This is not what happened to them in a foreign country. This is what the U.S. did when they legally presented themselves for asylum. This is not fake news. The consistency of the stories bears out their truth. This is official U.S. policy. This is America. They were held for 30 days. God help us all.
I knew it was happening, but hearing it as the women wept as they shared their traumatic stories of abuse and threats of death broke me. Only a heartless monster could think this is an acceptable way to treat innocent people seeking asylum. And anyone who does deserves to receive the same refuge when they seek asylum in heaven.