Moving Experiences

May 12, 2017

A recent conversation with a journalist friend and a couple of “moving” articles got me thinking. I have some mixed feelings about gentrification and the ‘forcing’ of people out of their homes and their comfort zones to make way for new development—whether it be private or government backed. I am not unsympathetic towards these persons’ situations. I am also not above being influenced by my own personal experiences of voluntary and involuntary home moves, both as a child and as an adult. Sometimes, these were good experiences, sometimes, not so much.

Having grown up an Army brat, I think I moved about 17 times before I even went to college. These moves were easy in a way as we always had housing options provided, moving companies to pack and ship all our belongings, and the places we went were good. Even if we were in the same town, we sometimes had to move from off-base to base housing. New schools, new friends, new environments. All these made me, and most likely all service brats, very resilient. Some I know even developed a wanderlust of sorts.

When I was in my twenties and living in Austin, I lived for almost 8 years in one of my favorite houses. That was my first experience of living more than about two years in the same place. I was so attached to that house I dream about it sometimes still. Though it has become distorted over the years.

When I was somewhat forced to come back to my parents’ home–from yet another city–due to an abusive situation,  I disliked San Antonio. It took some years to really feel like this is my home for good. I’ve been here almost half my life now, though I’ve moved domiciles about a dozen time.

Our House is a very fine house.

When my husband and I bought the house we are in now, he said, “It had better have a nice ceiling because that the last thing I want to see before I die.” Meaning he was sick and tired of packing, moving and the expenses it entailed. There still may be some moves in our future.  Probably not the ones either of us would like.

And, then I think of the millions of families in the Middle East and so many other places who are forced to leave their homes with practically nothing. They face starvation, disease, displacement camps, death. The girls and women are often beaten and raped. My heart goes out to them. And, I’m sorry the US is trying so hard to close its doors to refugees. But that’s a whole other conversation.

Perhaps, there is a better way to transition people who are being displaced in our city. I understand not everyone has the experience, knowledge or again, resilience, to handle being told, out of the blue, they have to move. Being more thoughtful about the process before and during, instead of just afterwards, might be a way to proceed.

Peace and Love Y’all


Disabled Hondurans — voices for the voiceless

May 15, 2015

On February 26, 2015 eighteen members of the Honduran Association of Migrants Returned with Disabilities (AMIREDIS) began a journey across Central America to the United States. Their purpose to “raise awareness about the perils of riding on top of train cars on the Mexican railroad commonly referred to as “The Beast” (La Bestia in Spanish). AMIREDIS activists also “promote justice and rights for disabled persons” as their distinctive commonality is traumatic injuries incurred while riding La Bestia.

AMIREDIS represents more than 70 of the 700 persons in Honduras who have been maimed by a similar train accident.  For those seeking to escape a country rife with corruption, violence, unemployment and poverty, it is a courageous decision to take the long dangerous journey, across Central America and Mexico hoping to immigrate and/or reunite with family. “We have dreams of a better life,” said Jose Luis AMIREDIS president.

At the end of a grueling journey to the United States border, thirteen of the men turned themselves in and were incarcerated in the Eagle Pass detention center. They were transferred to the South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall where they stayed for over a month until RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) facilitated the release for 11 of the men who vow to continue the journey. “Thank God for RAICES,” said Jose Luis. “The detention centers have no way to care for people with disabilities, so we are thrown in a cell and forgotten.”

Read May 15th NY Times Editorial re immigrant detention.

Last week at the Episcopal Church of Reconciliation, four members of AMIREDIS, accompanied by RAICES attorney/advocate Mohammed Abdollahi, came to tell their stories to a group of interested San Antonio citizens. Abdollahi said, “These men have a credible cause for asylum.” Elaborated in a court document submitted by Attorney Jonathan D. Ryan, RAICES Counsel for the Respondents, the group’s “advocacy has garnered international media attention, effectively exposing the Honduran government for its incapacity to assist its disabled nationals; while the Honduran nation survives on the remittances of migrants who risk their lives travelling, it does little to support or assist those who return disabled. Consequently, these men now confront both the challenge of coping with their disability in Honduras, as well as retribution from the Honduran government for their advocacy.”

Hondurans seeking asylum
“In Honduras there are a lot of gangs,” Alonzo told us. “Because I didn’t want to join, they were harassing me to the point I felt I needed to take my chances to immigrate, or be killed.” “I had ridden the trains for days, been assaulted and was very hungry, thirsty and tired,” explained Alonso, who left a daughter with his mother back in Honduras. “I ran to get on another train, grabbed onto the railing to pull myself up and was dragged behind for several minutes. Finally I pulled myself up onto the train, but had mangled my leg in the process.” After a quick amputation and medical care in Mexico, he was deported back to Honduras.

“There are no jobs for disabled people in Honduras,” Ifrain told us. “There is such competition for work anyone with a disability is left completely out. And, there are no benefits for unemployment or disability. We come to try to find work and help our families back in Honduras.” He was deported back to Honduras after being assaulted and thrown from a train traveling through Mexico resulting in the loss of one of legs.

group at churchThe group is continuing to visit with people to help spread their message and to raise funds for the journey to the Washington where they hope to speak with advocates and policy makers. They have put their faith in God to help them be a voice for the voiceless, advocating reform in a broken immigration process.  “Nothing is impossible,” says Jose Luis. “We want to talk to President Obama.”

Immigration is a complicated issue. And, I don’t claim to know even a tenth of the legal or legislative aspects. But, I do know a compelling human story when I hear one. I also know that except for the Native Americans, we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants.