One recent morning, I heard an alarmed shout from my husband. He discovered that my car had been vandalized.
I ran over and was stunned to see that someone had tried to smash the car window with a large rock and, failing that, had slammed it against the door leaving a big dent. The rock was left under the car.
Startled, I looked around and then saw that our Black Lives Matter sign kicked down. I picked up the rock and the weight of its intent left me stunned. I wondered why anyone would have attacked us this way, and then it dawned on me that this may have been done to silence me and scare my family. A day earlier, my name had been included in a local newspaper article regarding an action that I took on behalf of an immigrant.
I had received a call from the DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network and UndocuBlack reporting that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was readying to deport Seyni Diagne, a Mauritanian immigrant from Ohio with hepatitis and late-stage cancer. I rushed to Dulles Airport in an last-minute attempt to help stop the deportation.
Once there, I frantically ran around the airport desperate to find the right words that would convince someone to save Seyni, yet everyone said that only ICE that could let this man free. Having read about many deportation situations, I knew this was untrue. Many times, airlines, pilots and flight attendants have refused to take off when they knew someone was flying to their death.
The day after the action, my full name was included in a news story about our efforts to stop Seine’s deportation at the airport, and I wondered if this exposure had led to the damage to my car.
When the police arrived to investigate, my daughter asked me to stop the work that we are doing on behalf of immigrants so that she can feel safe at home. I understand her fears and want to keep her safe and yet I know our insecurity is nothing compared to what other detainees are facing now. I can’t begin to imagine their night terrors as their ICE check-in dates approach.
I lie in bed and fear what Seyni is suffering now. I wonder what I could I have done or said differently that would have saved him. I also know that in the near future, the reason we went to Dulles will become even more urgent, as I have heard from several sources that ICE will be rounding up and deporting three more Mauritanians through Dulles in coming days, and up to 40 others in future weeks; back to a country that practices modern slaveholding.
Even though I don’t relish facing fresh evidence of my limitations or worse more rocks in the night that threaten my family, I could not sleep if I did not continue working with our network and partners to find better ways to resist these terrible deportations that end in slavery.
A friend recently texted me words of comfort that calmed my despair and bolstered me for the fight ahead: “As the sages say, it is not incumbent upon you to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
By Denise, DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network leader
Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons