FJA Shortlist 2020
Category: Outstanding Contribution to Peace
The Long, Winding, and Painful Story of Asylum
April 20, 2020
The Nation Magazine
The original publication is available via the following link: https://www.thenation.com/article/society/asylum-history-united-states/
An ancient concept, asylum has become just another political tool in the hands of our government.
Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico—Fourteen men were slumped on mattresses and chairs, smoking inside the warehouse, watching over the migrants. One of the men had a pistol tucked into his waistband; another had a pistol resting on his lap. The men were fussing with their phones, ribbing each other, killing the morning. A slight waft of marijuana smoke lingered in the air. Someone hocked noisily, spat.
Arnovis, a thin, strong, hard-gazing 24-year-old Salvadoran man, nonchalantly grabbed his black knockoff Puma backpack—the one his mother had bought for him back in Jiquilisco—wove through the maze of sitting and slumped bodies, and walked out onto the patio.
Hey, vato, where you going? one of the men called. Just to shower, Arnovis said. That OK?
And your backpack?
The shower was a five-gallon paint bucket filled with water, a plastic bowl floating on the surface. It was set next to a tall concrete wall. A few wires crisscrossed the sky above the patio. A couple of the 14 coyotes—Arnovis had counted them—could see him through a large window. He grabbed the bucket and hauled it over to the door, where he plugged a coiled heating rod into an outlet, ran it back outside, and dropped it into the bucket. He stepped out again and, as the water began to warm, scanned the yard. The walls were high—definitely higher than he could jump. The branch of a mango tree growing on the other side of the wall dipped down far enough that he might be able to reach it. But he wasn’t sure if it would hold his weight.
That branch, he thought, my only hope.