by Quetzalli Haro

We got up bright and early on Thursday, court watching was going to be exciting. Many of us wanted to see the difference between the Immigration Court in California versus Arizona.  When we got there, we saw a huge building with tons of windows and it said Federal Court, however, the immigration court building was on the next street. That building was a concrete building with minimal windows and when the doors closed you could not see the other side. Security was also very adamant on not allowing anyone that did not have a valid government issued ID inside. One of us was almost not let in because the security guard read the expiration date wrong on the passport, he thought it was expired.

Most of them were not represented by an attorney, so they did not know the repercussions of agreeing to be deported instead of asking for a voluntary departure would have on their future immigration cases.

When we finally all got inside, we were let into the courtroom of a judge who has a 96.9% denial rate for asylum cases. The Judge was going through a master calendar for people in detention centers whose cases were being heard through video teleconference, which means they were not actually in court. They had a huge TV facing the Judge and had their hearings were almost like a Skype meeting. To add to the communication buffers the Judge had to communicate with them through an interpreter.

What shocked me the most was hearing detained people say “Just deport me. I rather go back than to be locked in this place.” I was not able to see the detention centers but if they were so desperate to get out of them, I can only imagine how horrible the conditions are inside. Most of them were not represented by an attorney, so they did not know the repercussions of agreeing to be deported instead of asking for a voluntary departure would have on their future immigration cases. It was also sad to see how nice the people were to the Judge and how cold he often was towards them. He yelled at a man because when asked if he was afraid to return home he responded with “Of course I am” instead of “Yes.” One person also said “Thank you and may God bless you,” and the Judge did not acknowledge what he’d said or say thank you or anything. I found the Judge’s demeanor towards the people whose cases he was deciding very upsetting. When we got out, we talked about things we would like to see different in court sessions and how they made us feel.

Afterward, both groups met for lunch and toured the Children’s Team’s Office. We talked about the differences and similarities between the Court in Tucson and in San Francisco. After lunch we split up to do our own thing, most of us needed a little time to breathe. Some of us explored downtown and found interesting gift shops and many of the murals that Tucson had to offer. Others went to the outlets and did some last-minute shopping. Afterwards, we all went to try Whataburger for dinner. We had heard it was better than In-N-Out and decided we had to check it out. We concurred that it was not, but y’all should try it to find out!

We ended the night watching “Captain Marvel” which we felt was relevant to our lives. It was clearly a movie to empower women and it clearly spoke to the immigration issues during this political climate. At the end of the night, we felt recharged and ready to keep being a danger to a system that marginalizes communities because of something as trivial as a document. We were ready to end our week in Tucson, AZ!