Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hell Between Four Walls: Part III, Caught Inside an ICE Detention Center

The Game of ICE - continued

Inside the Aurora detention center: Sam Jones’ diaries

Editor’s note: The following has been translated from the original Spanish.

This detention center houses about 50 people per area. There are the orange, blue and red areas. Generally the orange and blue are for those with immigration problems, some awaiting deportation, others waiting to get back to their countries voluntarily. The rest are waiting court hearings to take care of their immigration status.

You ask what the problem is? The problem is that there is no uniform treatment and a very distressing lack of information. It’s there that the hell begins. Some, for not knowing the laws, don’t know what to do. So many things are said [things people guess might happen to them that may or may not be true] that people get exhausted from stress, since the majority of those awaiting court hearings have no idea what the results will be.

Maybe they’ll pay the bond and get out and not be deported. Maybe they’ll get out and take care of their paperwork. Or maybe they’ll get deported regardless. Always after deportation, a desperate family is left behind. They act as if these people do not have families. A family that cannot pay the expenses, because the breadwinner is detained. … If this isn’t hell, what is?

April 12, 2007
Today the psychological pressure is more than in past days. After arriving in Aurora on the night of Friday the sixth, paperwork can’t be processed on Saturday and Sunday, and Monday was a public holiday. Here people are freed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Tuesday nobody from the group that came in with me on Friday got out. On Thursday only one of us was released, the one who signed a voluntary exit form. However, there are many others that signed SVs and others who have received deportation.

The predictions [about what will happen] vary and are distressing, being that some believe re-entry is a federal crime that requires 24 months of prison. Others believe they’re going to be able to pay bond and get out. Others have no clue.

Today I haven’t been able to talk with my friend; the phones for collect calls are all busy. Tomorrow I’ll buy a phone card to call him. Today I feel very anguished. It’s incredible but illegals are the new business for the US. Let me explain: An undocumented worker is arrested for any given reason, even for being suspected to be illegal, and is taken to jail. After several days the county sets a bond for release. The person pays, then when you ask to be released, they tell you that you have an immigration hold. The funny thing here is that the police claim that they do not cooperate with immigration. But at the county’s police station, there is an immigration office so when the suspect arrives, they investigate. About four or five days later, immigration takes him to be detained at Aurora, where some are given court dates and others sign voluntary exit forms and even others are deported; nonetheless, everyone is said to be “retained” not “detained.” The curious thing is that liberty is not an option. Those who are given the chance at a court hearing have to pay a very high bond of about $10,000 or they are deported. After paying, you’re released on the condition that you’ll come back for a second hearing, which means that your case is not closed. If during the new hearing, the judge’s verdict is negative, you are deported, therefore losing the bond money: you end up losing money from the county bond as well as the one imposed by immigration, and in the end you get deported anyway. What a great business!

Today we had picadillo for dinner and some sort of fruit cocktail as desert, with no flavor at all. Seems like today phone calls are prohibited. It’s around 8 p.m. and I’m a little sleepy, but I don’t want to fall asleep because it is too early. The TV has no sound; there is a lot of bulla from the fifty of us full of stress. Everyone with their own problems. We played dominoes all afternoon, one of the few things we do, play dominoes or cards.

April 13, 2007
Today is Friday. I woke up at 5 a.m. I went back to sleep until 7, waiting for breakfast. After eating, I couldn’t get a hold of my friend, and it’s urgent.

I finally got a hold of him to ask him whether he or my wife called Morelia so that they could immediately send my identification, since I don’t have any other way of identifying myself. Hopefully they understand the urgency. Tomorrow, the 14th, I’ll call again to check if they were able to do it.

Today we got lunch around 11 a.m., quite early but the dog’s vomit was enough that now it’s 9 p.m. and I’m still satisfied. But it feels like it’s noon, because everyone here is anxious. Today, since we’ve behaved very well, they gave us cokes and potato chips (how sweet they are!). …

It’s 11 p.m. but no one is sleepy. It’s very moving to hear people speaking about how tired they are of the system, and they yearn to go back to their countries, even though after a while over there, the disillusion will come after the face the reality of their low quality of life. Then they start thinking about coming back again, into the evil, repressive and uneducated system of the U.S.

April 14, 2007
Today we were woken up at 7:30 for breakfast, which was sparse. The phones aren’t working again today. I’m hoping my friend truly understood what papers I need. I’m hoping next week I’ll be able to talk to my wife.

We got lunch at 11 a.m. We’ll eat again around 6 or 7.

It’s noon, and they’ve taken all of us out to the patio. They finally listened to us and gave us razors, but they don’t cut for shit, so I only shaved half my beard so that I don’t end up all cut up. They’re showing a movie, “Christopher Columbus” [“Cristobal Colon”]. I’m not watching any Christopher Columbus movie. …

I took a nap until 6, when it was time for dinner. They are training the new security personnel, and it’s funny how the fucking gringos don’t understand the dynamics of Latin American society: loud, a lot of loud speaking, laughing, joking and games that they just simply don’t understand and don’t exist in their manuals.

April 15, 2007
Today is Sunday. As with any other day, breakfast was served at 7:30, then I went back to sleep until it was time for lunch. Then I went back to bed. … It’s now 2pm. You get so desperate from listening to everyone around you talking about their cases and the uncertain future ahead. Not evening knowing how long they’ll be retained. The psychological punishment of not communicating and not giving you details is worse than committing you to jail.

April 20, 2007
It’s midnight and they just passed on the list of names of those who are going to be sent back to Mexico. It’s indescribable the happiness and the relief from so much accumulated psychological pressure that we’re all under. Suddenly, the room is filled of people screaming, hugging each other, exchanging phone numbers and addresses, people praying and people wishing each other well. These truly are moments of more than happiness; de-stressing moments, like pinching a balloon full of butane gas, an outburst of emotions that touched even the security guards.

April 25, 2007
After several days of having explained to the fucking Mexican consulate my problem, which he was aware of, he told me, “I’ll see what I can do.” I believe nothing because it didn’t feel sincere, and until today nothing has been resolved. …

Today I found myself in between angry and fearful about going back to Mexico. But tonight at 11, after lying on the couch for a while, I went for a walk through the dormitories. I told myself, “If Mexico doesn’t want to give me entry, I don’t care if they send me to Italy.” My wife’s dream was to see her grandchildren, which she already has, and together save some money within three or four years to build a small house and live peacefully somewhere near the ocean.

Anyway, in the past when the lira (Italian currency) wasn’t worth as much it would have been foolish, but now that the euro is worth more than the dollar it wouldn’t be bad to work in Europe. I think I’d like to go there for a year while my wife goes to find a spot by the beach to build a house, and I’ll send her money to make our dream a reality. Unless she wishes otherwise. Besides, that lately I’ve been getting over this fear of the unknown, since I know I can safely get to Mexico with the whole family, wife and kids, why not to Italy by myself?
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