The post below is a reflection from Deliana Garcia who visited a Federal Court where people charged with illegal entry were processed. Ms. Garcia was one of our AFTA Conference 2018 Sunday Workshop presenters in Austin, TX. She is the Director of International Projects and Emerging Issues for Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN). MCN is a non-profit global organization, with more than 10,000 constituents, that fights for health justice for the mobile poor. MCN is partnering with AFTA, under Kaethe Weingarten's leadership to develop a Witness to Witness (W2W) pilot program to offer, as the name suggests, a witnessing process to the self-selected MCN staff who are witnessing dehumanizing socio-political practices faced by migrants.

To see images visit: https://www.aol.com/article/news/2018/06/05/shocking-photo-shows-37-accused-illegal-immigrants-being-processed-at-once/23451266/

Saliha Bava, AFTA Blog Editor

I am sitting here after returning from Laredo, TX and one of the saddest experiences in recent memory. I went with a group organized by Congregation Agudas Achem here in Austin. There were many lovely encounters but the trip also included attendance at Federal Court where 200 (TWO HUNDRED) individuals were 'processed' in 1.5 hours (three small groups of those that had additional 'offenses' (offering a false birth certificate, fake visa, forged document, etc or previous conviction for 'illegal' entry) and 2 large groups of 70 or more individuals. Each of them was brought in with one wrist handcuffed to a chain around their waist - others also wore shackles on their ankles. There were lined up in rows, positioned so that the judge could see each person's face. The judge asked each person in turn to state there 'true and correct name'. I have never in my life heard so many Latino names uttered at a single time - one right after the other like a human drum beat - first name, middle name, father's last name, mother's last name - first name, middle name, father's last name, mother's last name - first name, middle name, father's last name, mother's last name... It was the condemning of an entire people

Then they were told that they had been charged by the border patrol of illegal entry - but before they were asked for their plea they were asked the following questions and required to answer one at a time:

Have you taken any drugs, medication alcohol or other substance that would impair your understanding of the charges?
no. no. no. no. no. no no...

have you suffered an injury or blow to the head that would impede your understanding?
no. no. no. no. no. no. no no...

do you understand the charge against you?
yes. yes. yes yes. yes....

your attorney (federal public defender ) indicates that you are pleading guilty to this charge, is this correct?
yes. yes. yes yes. yes....

Do you wish to change your plea?
no. no. no. no. no. no. no no...

That being the case - each was required to plead guilty and state how they had entered

guilty for swimming across the river
guilty for walking across the river
guilty for using an inner tube to cross the river
guilty for taking a raft across the river....

they were never asked why - nor did they offer that statement at the time of their plea. After each person pled, the judge said "you are remanded"

You are remanded 70 times in a row.

As I sat there with the edges of the room pressing in, one of the few things I could be grateful for was that their mothers and fathers were not present to witness their criminalization for attempting to save their lives and improve their lot.

AUTHOR: Deliana Garcia is Director of International Projects and Emerging Issues for MCN where she has worked for 30 years to address the impact of migration on health.