We’ll call her Kate, but that’s not even close to her name, her name doesn’t really matter and she’d prefer it if we didn’t publish her name so she’ll be Kate. Kate grew up in a North African country that again we won’t name. Apparently there are people who monitor these things, people who could connect dots and might be able to hurt Kate’s family, well, more so than they already have. Kate sought asylum in the United States, crossing into the U.S. at a Rio Grand Valley border entry point.
She’d been on the road for three or four months, you seem to lose track of time when you’re on the run, leaving her North African home at night after escaping from a prison hospital, riding in a car, sitting in a dark room for a few days, taking a flight, staying with a stranger in an apartment in a country she thinks was named _____________ but then again it might have been ________________ she doesn’t know, then another car ride, then another flight, more stranger’s homes, another car ride. There were rules of course. She was told never to give her name, not even her fake one, she was told that the men who were helping her wouldn’t give them their real names, she’d only know them as John or some other common first name. Don’t speak, that was another rule, follow; blend in while in crowds. There were other rules, a lot of rules, all meant to keep Kate alive. So what then was she running from?
You see there are parts of the world that aren’t safe if you hold certain religious beliefs. Back in Kate’s home country, she was part of a church, she believed in a guy named Jesus and, at some point in her life, believing in a guy named Jesus was outlawed. Her church went underground. She did too. Still, she watched friends from school, people from her church, family members taken by soldiers. She never saw them again. Then came the night the soldiers went underground. They came to her church, took everyone away. No judge, no jury, no charges, just took her to prison. They locked her in an overcrowded cell and left her there. Every morning they would come in and take some of her cellmates away. Some came back beat up; others never came back at all. Everyday the guards would come in with machine guns and tell Kate that if she didn’t change her mind about Jesus they would kill her. Kate didn’t care, Kate was willing to die, actually preferred it over turning her back on Jesus even for a little while. So, thanks to overcrowded cells, not enough food, terrible sewage conditions Kate got sick and they took her to a hospital. Friends of hers paid off some people and paid others to get Kate out of the country. That’s what led to the car rides and all the rules.
I met Kate at a refuge facility in South Texas. Yes we have those in Texas, no I didn’t know about them until I went to one. When we talk about immigration, we don’t think about these people. People of every color and from every corner who can’t go back to their home country because if they do they’ll be put in prison or worse, seeking asylum, trying to make a new home in our great Country with its’ freedoms. That’s kind of what makes our Country so great. We are one of the last lights of freedom that exists in an increasingly dark world. There’s another component to all this. I don’t think Kate’s Jesus ever wanted people to live afraid. So we have a chance to be part of making them feel safe.
Kate called home a few times, trying to be careful. She found out the government didn’t like her leaving so they’d done some things to her family. Things that we are pretty sure are still going on. Kate knows that she probably won’t ever see her family again. She is a mix of heart break and blessing about the sacrifices they made for her. A few years later the pain is still real close to the surface. I can’t begin to understand it and she can’t begin to express it, but it’s there.
So our firm got a call to help Kate and I made several trips down to South Texas to prep for trial. We had a lot of help from some great organizations that are way ahead of the curve on these things, and with that help, Kate won. I was there when the Judge told her she could stay; it was a pretty cool moment. We drove back to our office and Kate got real quiet, I figured she was thinking of her family. I’ve probably been around more powerful moments, but I’m not sure when or where. Kate lives in a Texas city. Doesn’t matter where, but we talk from time to time about traffic, Tex-Mex food, this weird NFL football thing, and about her church, above ground and all.