In the Fall of 2010 I was invited to celebrate the Eucharist in the detention center in El Paso. The detention center houses 800 persons who have been picked up by the border patrol for immigration violations. Most were from Mexico, but others were from Pakistan, Romania, and Africa. I passed through the security gates and saw uniformed officers, rows of border patrol SUV’s, barbed wire, cameras, grey bricked buildings. A patrol van was parked with the rear door opened.
I can still feel the terror that struck me when I saw the large box of steel shackles glistening in the sun. “Chains for human beings”, I thought. A different kind of slavery is still lurking in our midst. I realized I had just walked into the world where 800 people had exchanged their former identities to become “detainees” waiting “to be processed” and deported.