On November 15 Jack LeSage, Aletta Wilson and I (Donna) went to the Federal Court building as part of a Streamline Witness group in Las Cruces. This group attends court sessions involving immigrants who have crossed into the United States who are undocumented individuals. Jack and Aletta have taken the time to write up their impressions of our time witnessing that morning.
The Faith Action Committee has scheduled Thursday, January 10 to meet at 8:30 am at the Federal Building. If you are available, please feel free to join us. You will need a photo ID and know that cell phones are not allowed. You will go through a check-in process before you are able to fully enter the building. Building is located downtown at 100 N. Church Street. Parking is available across the street in public parking areas. Interested? Let me know.
Jack LeSage. There’s a new (to us) kid in town. He’s Timothy Reed of Las Cruces Streamline Witnesses. He and several others are pretty dedicated in this United States wide effort to be an advocate for refugees. However these refugees have crossed our border illegally, have been caught and are spending time in our jails and court systems. The idea is to be a presence in the courtroom for the refugees as they proceed through our legal system. Watch and witness, so they are treated fairly and with respect.
Yup, I joined the group. You can too. It’s easy and simple to do. Let me explain my experience in the one day that I appeared in the courts. One day you may ask? Well it’s the Holiday and time is tight. No matter, this happens every weekday, every month. Anyway, I went with Donna and Aletta on a recent Thursday.
The Federal Courthouse located in downtown Las Cruces, has several courts and starting at 8:30 am, the first court is in session followed every hour of the day in a different court. The first court we experienced was the arraignment of about 40-50 refugees in chains. Yes, I said chains. Refugees ages from 18 to 45, all pleading guilty to entering our country illegally or to other more serious crimes, as assault.
The second court at 9:30 was a different group of 40-50 refugees, all in chains. This group had been arraigned and were awaiting sentencing. One by one or in groups of 4-5, the Prosecuting Attorney sentenced them. $2,500 fine and 3 months in prison. $3,000 fine and 7 months in prison. Now how are they going to pay that fine??
The third court at 10:30 was a different group and their actual judgement. On this day the judge asked them had they consulted with their attorneys to waive their right to a trial. All present said “Si”. They just go to prison. We didn’t go to any other court sessions. You don’t have too. Just do what you can do to be a witness and be an advocate for these refugees.
My impression, these poor souls most do not speak English, trying to escape a hostile and dangerous environment in their own country, after a long, hostile and dangerous journey, only to be in another hostile and dangerous environment. We need to be witness to this process to understand fully what they go through, documented or not. We need to advocate for them, so they don’t feel alone in a foreign country.
Timothy says just be present. The defendants, the judge, the lawyers and the officers know we are there and why. It’s important we advocate for those less fortunate. Yup, I joined the group. You can too. It’s easy and simple to do. Donna, Aletta or I can go with you, your first day. You just sit in the courtroom and observe but it’s still going to tug at your heart strings.
Observations from Aletta Wilson
I have experienced witnessing the hearings for those caught entering the U.S.A illegally. We all know it is almost impossible to enter legally even if the person seeking amnesty is fleeing for his or her life.
I will continue to go to witness the way our law treats these people as criminals, with hands and feet shackled. I don’t know what we should do as a country but I have to try to understand how we could have come to this point.
We’ve cut off aid to the Central American countries maybe for good reason, but surely cutting off aid makes it harder to deal with the terror from drug gangs. I encourage you to join with other witnesses as we just sit and observe. Aletta