Dilley Day 1: Domenica’s Doing Great
—Katherine Mitchell, Ph.D, LCSW, CASAC
Domenica’s doing great. Because she doesn’t speak Spanish she spent a lot of yesterday with me helping with the psych evaluations doing some really vital administrative work for the law staff. Most of the ladies here (all 1500 of them) are here with small children who end up often being brought with their moms to the interviews. It’s very loud with crying upset children and a main room full of ladies in various stages of being assisted by the law staff and our students. So, during my interviews Domenica has been a huge help with calming the children down so that the mother can focus on our discussion. Overall, we easily saw 200 women yesterday for initial intakes, pre-interview preps and mental health screenings. We will have another 12-hour day today with more of the same.
The facility is run by a privately-owned prison company. If you google South Texas Family Residential Center (great euphemism!) you’ll see a lot about the facility and the company that operates it and 65 other prison and detention centers around the country. I found an article last night that says with Trumps new immigration policies, detentions centers will soon have over 20,000 ‘beds’ nationally housing mostly young women with small children and horrendous stories of gang violence, domestic abuse and the overtaking of whole communities by gangs that function as de facto governments particularly in Guatemala and El Salvador.
It’s really unbelievable. We had an after-action processing meeting last night giving everyone a chance to talk about what struck them on day one. The site manager is a wonderful man named Nate who just got his MSW from University of Chicago. He did an excellent job leading the meeting and it was very important for all of us to process what we saw yesterday because it was really overwhelming. There were some tears shed, myself included, because you can’t help but be both horrified and moved by the volume of humanity in this place and this mix of fear and hope that you see in the ladies’ faces.