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Centro obrero: the ministry of accompaniment.

by Elena Herrada  |  Issue: May / June 2011

Detroit, MI–Yesterday and today have been filled with heart breaking phone calls to the Centro Obrero hotline-aka my cell phone. A cruel turn of events put my number in local newspapers in our community and in jails and detentions around the state.

The calls of the last few days have been from people who got tickets for driving without licenses, and calls from people already deported to Mexico and Guatemala asking for help to get birth certificates for children born in Detroit, various other kinds of errands only someone here can do.  But one call today broke me down.

I keep telling people that we are not lawyers. We cannot dispense legal advice; we have some names of good lawyers and names of those who should be avoided. We can tell you when it’s worth it to pay a lawyer and when it’s a waste, and that most lawyers will take your money even when they know they can’t do anything for you.

If you have less than 10 years in the country, if you have ever been arrested or deported before, etc. These are basic things that can save money and time, hope, we’re good for that.

But if you got a ticket for not having a driver’s license and insurance, you can pay it in the mail, but showing up at court is not advisable. You cannot possibly produce what is required of you. Then they will come looking for you where you live, and whomever answers the door can be taken.

It’s a lot like (Nazi) Germany, people keep saying. Everyone is a suspect. Children are terrified that their parents will be taken from them and parents are terrified their children will be taken from them. These are very difficult days in Detroit.

Today’s caller told me this: I am going to court. I am not going to have the law chasing me. I am not a criminal. If God wants me to be here, I will be here. If not, I am going. I did nothing wrong and I do not want to become a fugitive.

Court is 5demayo. Early in the morning. This is called: the ministry of accompaniment. Nothing else to do but bear witness and be present.

We will be there.

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