It was the mud that I first noticed as we were escorted into the holding cell at the Santa Teresita Customs and Border Patrol station. Dried mud, on the cement floor, in chunks, broken up, trails of dust; even on the hard benches, next to a small pile of woolen blankets and a muddy pair of sweatpants. Next to used apple juice containers, stacked one inside the other, which had given some small relief.
The mud in that detention center was our reminder that someone before us had endured the harsh desert conditions, seeking a better life, only to be stopped, detained and probably sent back across the border. We were released 3 hours after being detained; the charges of “entry without inspection” had been dropped. The challenges facing the previous detainees were higher. Would they try to cross again, risking imprisonment or even death in the desert? Or would they go back home, condemned to a life of poverty and violence?