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Journal 4 - La Cruz Blanca

January 17, 2006

The reality that the immigrants face here is really difficult to comprehend and it's hard to know how to respond to situations with which I can't really identify. I don't know what I'm supposed to do when the Cruz Blanca gives me a room to myself with four beds with a nice tile bathroom across the hall, while there are dozens of immigrants without papers sleeping in an abandoned building that sits right behind our building. I can see them come in and out and wash their faces from my second floor bathroom window. I'm not sure what to do or feel when the police come to every meal to make sure only the immigrants with papers are served, while the others look on from right outside the door to the comedor. I don't know how to respond when a guy from Liberia tells me that his parents were killed when he was young, has worked hard as a farmer as long as he could take it, and could only wish he had the privilege of time and finances to be a student. I've talked to people from India, Algeria, Morocco, Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda, and a few that I can't remember at the moment. Each comes with a story of struggle with poverty or violence of some sort. I've talked to two guys who have come in to Ceuta by swimming along with a guide that I hear they will pay around 1000 Euros. I don't know how they get that money, except perhaps through connections to friends in Europe. Others come in trucks or find their way across the fence/wall border.

We just got back from a super long walk with a friendly Algerian guy named Nadir who took us the whole way to the border with Morocco where we saw the wall and all. We first came to the gate along the southern side of the island. I touched the Mediterranean water for the first time. I wondered if Paul's ships ever touched that same water on the other side, or at least Linford and Janet. From there we went much farther to go up a hill/mountain to a lookout point where we could see all of the Ceuta peninsula. It was absolutely beautiful. I'll put pictures online.
This morning we had more work to do around here. I helped to stack some clothes downstairs, Jenna mopped and cleaned some, and I don't remember what Laura did. I helped get some help for an Indian guy who spoke a little English for his friend who had a fever and also translated a legal note for the Liberian guy who is my age. Also, they announced today a list of maybe 20 names of people who will be transferred to CETI: Centro de Estacion Temporal de Inmigrantes. That's a government place where they are processed and hopefully end up being given papers to continue legally on their journey, so they excited to go. It's interesting to see the movement.
This morning it was cold and raining and the police decided to have compassion and let the paper-less guys come in and have breakfast. One guy who spoke Spanish said that the people in that group were from mostly from Algeria and came by crossing/jumping the fence. After seeing it today, I'm not quite sure how that is possible. It is difficult to know who to believe and when: which immigrants, the police, the Cruz Blanca... who's to say? The police guy tells me they all are from Morocco and don't care to try to get papers. The one Spanish-speaking guy tells me he's from Algeria, as most of the others and that they have tried a number of times to get papers and have been unlucky so far during his months here. He also says they've been eating out of the garbage for their food. Cruz Blanca staff worker Ali, a friendly guy I've talked a good deal with, says that a lot of the stories they tell are stretches of reality so that they can get through, getting papers and all. Laura says that based on the news and histories of their countries, granted that they come from where they say, are really likely experiences.
I was happy to see the Spanish-speaking Algerian guy without papers at breakfast this morning come back at lunch with papers in hand. It was good to see him eat spoonful after spoonful of his long-awaited lunch. La Cruz Blanca gave away extra bread and coffee and breakfast and lunch today to the paperless immigrants. That made me feel a little better too.