On Monday, December 23, UU Action NH Leadership Team member Livia Gershon, bonded "Jorge", who was detained in the Dover jail.
Like many of you, over the past several months I’ve supported the UU Action NH Bail and Bond fund’s work to free immigrants held by ICE. On Monday, I got a first-hand look at the work we’re supporting when I bonded out an immigrant who’d been held at the Strafford County jail in Dover.
I didn’t know much about “Jorge.” I knew he’s from a Central American country that’s suffering a great deal of violence. I knew, thanks to our wonderful allies at the American Friends Service Committee and the United Church of Christ who visit and support immigrants at Dover, that his family was very worried for him and very eager to see him at Christmas.
The Burlington, Massachusetts ICE facility where I went to pay the bond is a big blocky building. To get into the lobby, you have to take your shoes off and go through a metal detector. When I arrived a little after 9 a.m., the lobby was full, with at least 70 people filling the chairs and standing awkwardly in the cramped space. Most seemed to be “checking in,” a process that could end either with conditional freedom or detention and deportation. Toddlers slept on their parents’ shoulders or goofed around with older siblings while their families waited for ICE officers to tell them whether would remain free. A few people, clearly distraught, came in to very politely ask the staff at the service windows if they could help them figure out what had happened to loved ones who had been detained.
After an hour or so, most people were done checking in with ICE, and the only people left in the lobby were waiting to pay bonds. Most seemed to be families or friends of people who were detained. One was a fellow UU from Massachusetts who was paying several bonds all at once. She told me about the full-scale operation that BIJAN/Beyond Bond has going in the state, with different people assigned to pay bonds, give rides, buy bus tickets, and coordinate with families.
Finally, I was able to pay Jorge’s bond. I was grateful for the clear instructions that experienced people from AFSC and UCC had given me for the process. The bond was $7,000. Jorge’s family had managed to scrape together $2,000. The other $5,000 came from the UU Action NH Bail and Bond Fund that so many congregations and individuals have contributed to.
Jorge turned out to be a slight, quiet young man (or maybe he was just quiet with me because, with my abysmal Spanish, communication was tricky). I gave him a ride to South Station, and he got a bus to New York City where his cousin was planning to meet him. It made me nervous seeing him head off by himself, unable to communicate with most of the people around him. I could only imagine what circumstances made him and his family decide that this difficult journey was worth trying.
As I was driving home, I listened to a podcast where people were taking about the climate crisis. As life becomes harder, with natural disasters, heat waves, and famines, they said, we’ll have to decide whether to band together or isolate ourselves, keeping what we can for our own families and building walls against those who have less. To UUs, that’s a spiritual question too—whether to move toward connection even if it makes our material lives a little more difficult. I feel grateful that I’m able to be part of a web of people willing to build connections—the incredible hard workers at our allied organizations, all the UUs who have supported our bond fund, and Jorge’s family and others like them all over the world.