Let us view a teenager: 

1)  Living in a war-like Central American country, who is impoverished and frightened that he may be forced into the army as his father was.

2) Let us name him Juan, who now feels he must protect his mother, little sister and baby brother. He and his mother decide they must try to escape and face dangerous travel to reach the USA.

3) The U.S. will offer refuge and safety. Food and water will be plentiful. Maybe they will live in a house with a yard to play in, like those they have seen on television. It is certainly worth any hardships in reaching the U.S., to possibly fulfill the dream.

4) Juan and his family finally reached the border, exhausted, tired, hungry, thirsty, but they made the 1,000-mile trek on foot!

5) To their dismay, they were denied entrance at the border. They were told they would have to be detained until they were given a court hearing to allow them to stay in the USA, a reasonable request.

6) Although they were disappointed, Juan and his mother were resigned to the fact that this is the rule to enter and perhaps it’s a short wait to have the necessary court appearance to prove the family is truly seeking asylum in the USA.

7) They were then told the family must be separated. Although Juan’s mother objected, she finally agreed because she did not want the family deported.

8) Juan saw his mother being led away and his sister and baby brother taken by another border agent. He was placed in another facility which seemed like a prison to him. It was a large room with prison bars and sleeping cots, no chairs. Juan wondered why he was placed here; he knew he and his family had committed no crimes.

9) Each day, it seemed more boys and young men were brought to Juan’s room. They had to remove the sleeping cots to make room for the added numbers.

10) Days rolled into weeks and the overcrowded, unsanitary and difficult conditions in Juan’s facility worsened. Fights broke out over the small floor spaces in which each of them could sit or curl for sleep — if they could sleep at all with 24-hour lights on. There were now 370 men and boys in a 100-capacity room, with only three toilets and one shower available.

11) Juan had no contact with his family. He wondered if he would ever see any of them again. He desperately tried to question the supervisor as to how he might be able to call them. He also asked when or if there would actually be a court hearing for his family. The answer was simply “stop bothering me.” Then he wondered if the supervisor for all these Spanish-speaking “inmates” even understood Spanish. How could he hold out any hope?

12) Days, weeks and now months have passed since Juan was incarcerated (detained, as it was called). Any hope he had deteriorated to a state of depression. He felt he would surely die before he ever had the opportunity of living in the USA.

13) As time passed, Juan’s depression changed to hate, and his thoughts involved someone to blame and revenge for his suffering. He felt the beautiful dreams he had of life in the USA were false ideas. This living hell he was placed into was proof that the USA was another fascist country, like his homeland. Freedom was simply another dream unfulfilled. “Someone is responsible for what has happened to my family and me,” Juan thought.

14) One day Juan and his housing partners were told they were going to have visitors to their unit. Juan felt a pang of hope. If political leaders and media reporters viewed their horrible conditions, maybe changes will be made.

15) The visitors arrived. They seemed duly shocked! Will this bring about change? Imagine, Vice President Pence was one of the visitors, but there was an apparent different attitude on his part. Juan saw no empathy in his expression except for a revulsion of the stench and ugly unsanitary surroundings. The VP glanced at their brown faces with condescending disgust, as though these conditions were of their own making. All Juan could feel was disappointment, anger and an even stronger hate of the USA and its administration.

16) Juan’s hate can only increase with each passing day with no relief in sight. Juan has now developed into a potential terrorist.

It is obvious to observe how these 16 steps can produce a terrorist. How can we prevent this from happening and how do we stop our enemies from using these young potential terrorists against our nation?

I would recommend a new immigration policy under a new non-racist administration.

In this fictional writing, there are basic facts such as the number of boys and men in the facility that VP visited. The conditions were, in fact, true.

Harriet Hausman is a longtime River Forest resident and a longtime member of the ACLU. 

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