I am going to preface this piece of prose with some information that will allow more understanding for those not already privy to the story and inspiration behind it. I am plugged into the Freedom for Immigrants Network and regularly receive communications around the tireless effort and work that so many agents of kindness are contributing toward making America more welcoming and accommodating, and improving situations primarily for detained immigrants and their families.
Last month, a truly saddening and discouraging story came across from Christine Ho, founding director of Friends of Broward Detainees. This story involved a young man, only 34, seeking asylum from his oppressive home country of Eritrea. He was detained in Florida and Ohio collectively for over a year, before suddenly being deported back to his home country. This move would be very dangerous for his future, and with much fear for his life, he sadly determined suicide would be a better option. Zeresnay killed himself in the Cairo airport in Egypt amidst his deportation back to Eritrea.
This story attached itself to my heart, and I was unable to shake it. I felt compelled to write on behalf of Zeresnay so he could have a voice–some final words. My first hope was to pay tribute and honor to his all too short life. I wrote this over several weeks and shared it first with the Freedom for Immigrants Network, in solidarity with their efforts, and to encourage them, which was my second hope. I believe humanity can do better. I recognize in the end it was ultimately Zeresnay’s own choice to end his life, but I believe this young man’s death could have been avoided. I believe kindness and compassion from a country historically known to help the outside world, could have led to life more abundant instead of death. My final hope with these words is that they will reach the eyes and heart of anyone who needs to see them.
To read more of Zeresnay, or for more information spanning immigration, I encourage you to visit IMM Print and read at least a few articles to broaden your understanding of the realities of current immigration in America.
Do you know what Eritrea is?
If you do, do you know where?
If you’d respond, “No, I don’t think I do.”
Could you bring yourself to care?
My name is Zeresenay Esmias Testfatsion
It is hard to say or spell, I know
But I am completely human, no more or less than you
And a place of peace and freedom, is a place I wanted to go
I’d like for you to understand how I came to hang this rope
See, my home country’s government is an organization of oppression
Safety is scarce, and liberty is in short supply
I was scared and fearful, this is my humble confession
Maybe you think it is weak, to flee for your own life
But have you ever experienced torture or grave threat?
It is common and real, not a fake news story
Fortunately for me, this plight I had not yet met
Because there was a dream of hope that for the persecuted existed
A country that for so long had been a beacon of possibility
It was a nation that was begun by immigrants, similar to me
But something has happened, that now denies the legacy of opportunity
You have never met me, yet you presume I possess some intended evil
Is it such an evil to make every effort to avoid death and seek life?
Please tell me with honesty, would you not do the same in my position?
It must be glorious to be born into a place with autonomy so rife!
I do not ask for you to remove self-protecting defenses
But please relight the beacon, what a legacy you can leave
Do make America great again! Be that once old friend
Of this mutually beneficial joy, let’s not ourselves bereave
I am an immigrant; does that word sound dirty to you?
‘FOREIGN’ … ‘IMMIGRANT’ … does it truly taste so bad?
Not one of us got to choose where we were conceived or born
If our places had been switched, would that make you sad?
By fortune, I entered into your lovely country
To request asylum, to search for some relief
I was detained in jail, or as you call, a ‘center’
For a time, that I prayed daily, would be brief
For over a year, and by way of two different states
I remained with hope in the confines of my cage
Without comfort, and cold, but I was so thankful to be safe
I was finally going to get to write a new page
But then without warning or alert to anyone
There was an unexpected command for me to be deported
To the very geographical epitome of all my earthly fears
Back to Eritrea?! America, will you reject me, old friend?
I am as good as dead, as everything presently appears
Is there no longer compassion–enough to go around?
I feel sick, I feel anxious, I barely have strength to stand
Tell me how I wronged you, I swear to undo it all!
I beg of you, don’t let me slip out of your protective hand
It was never my intent to construct an ultimatum
But if I must be exiled, then I am already dead
If last words are still allowed, I have some I’d like to say
A humble, tear-soaked plea, before I make my final bed
It is fact, that we all bleed this same red blood
No one has chosen their life or place to be born to
In the name of love, please do not dismiss my story
May it compel you to consider a change in your point of view
You have vast expanses of land, and thorough resources
You have it within you to be generous, I truly believe
The oppressed not wanting to take, but to share in your freedom
You can from their suffering finally grant them reprieve
The risk for liberation took my everything, my all
I hate this predicament, I feel trapped, hopelessly ensnared
I feel I must elect to relinquish all hope of a future like yours
A noose for my freedom… If only compassion had been dared
Denver, Colorado ¦¦ July 7, 2018
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