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Letters from an Immigrant Detainee

These letters were received by the World Can't Wait office from a citizen of a Central American country who had been in the U.S. for many years, and recently put into ICE detention.

We are sharing them to show that Arizona is not unusual in its treatment of people from other countries.  This is business as usual across the country - even in liberal northeastern states.

March 28, 2010
 
Dear _____,
 
As you can see, I am in a federal prison. It’s a huge maximum-security prison. Not even the state of New Jersey has these high tech torture chambers. You walk through a long hallway. At the end, like a cave, is a block where you go into a cell, get isolated, away from every official who runs this prison. You never know who is who and what is what. I can’t imagine what being in Guantánamo is like, poor souls. 
I have been at this federal prison for 30 days now. ICE collects those criminals whose crime is not to be a citizen of this country. There are people with me who never committed a felony or misdemeanor. They are here because some were working, others waiting for a bus or an airplane or were playing with their kids at the park. I should be writing all that I see in here but my hate could eat me inside so I have to be careful.
 
I don’t know why there is all the scandal about Arizona, if immigrants are being treated like this all over the US – working people, good people, here with me, a criminal who just finished 10 years in prison, afraid of real criminals who are doing 90-120-300 months. Everyone is mixed together. It’s unbelievable how these immigrants are being punished. Why keep them in here?
 
I am so mad because after finishing with the state, I am doing time here. However, I have my paperwork mailed to my consulate and now I am waiting for my passport to be mailed back to me.
 
 
April 7, 2010
 
Dear _____,
 
Hopefully this will be my last letter from prison. I have been informed that about 20 of us will be leaving in five days. I am in a cell, not made of bars so I can see the outside. No, it’s walls and a metal door.
 
Please don’t feel sorry for what has happened to me. Be happy because I am going back to my home. I am happy because soon I will be recovering my dignity. I will be able to be a human again. 
 
I don’t think I could handle another 30 days in this box (even though I did 7 years in maximum-security and 3 in medium). It’s amazing how they keep innocent people here, with criminals like me. You really do hard time here – no packages (food, clothing, etc. from outside), visits of only one hour a week, the food is a child’s portion, you go hungry at night. It’s time for me to go and I’m really happy about it.
 
From here we’ll be going to Pennsylvania or Illinois for 4-5 days, then to Texas for 3-5 days from where we will take the plane. 
 
 
 
April 22, 2010
 
Dear _____,
 
I hope to find you doing well and in good health. I am now in _____, in what must be my 54th day in immigration, in a county jail that rents to ICE, creating jobs for the community here. This jail houses close to 3000 prisoners, all ICE. The county gets a good deal from the federal government while ICE doesn’t have to spend as much as it used to. The guards are our baby sitters. The real federal officers are never seen. 
 
I am starting to feel desperate. My blood pressure is not that good and I’m losing weight. I have not gotten medication for five days. We have been told that there would be two trips next week. Who is leaving? We don’t know. What I mean is that every week, 100-180 are taken to a small Homeland Security airport. From there Mexicans and Central Americans are flown to Texas and South Americans to Louisiana. We probably will spend another two-three weeks there. 
 
Business in here is good, especially with the Mexicans. Every week (twice each week) hundreds are taken, emptying out dorms to be filled again the same day. It’s sad to see a lot of 19, 20, 21 year olds, without criminal records – their crime is not having a permit to be here. Many, many were illegally arrested by the regular police. A lot are from these states. For example, this state, without making much noise, has adopted the Arizona law. Police officers do the job of ICE, arresting people coming out of Wal-Mart, from work, etc. Some come almost crying, afraid, never having had handcuffs and shackles on them.
 
Food here is worse than in the last place.
 
I wrote a few poems. I am sending this one to you.
 
A New Opportunity
 
Many of us call it
A new opportunity,
While living with our hatred,
Sadness, self-deceit and tears.
 
A new opportunity
So we many stop living
The life where there is not equality,
And we may find internal peace.
 
A new opportunity
So we may stop from being the animal
That does not possess human dignity, the animal that walks in chains,
From here to there.
 
A new opportunity
Where there won’t exist
Any racial discrimination
Where we embrace each other in love.
 
 
 
May 5, 2010
 
Dear _____,
 
Greetings to you from Texas. I am here waiting to take the plane that will take me home.
 
I left ____ on April 25th and was flown here. I am hoping to leave in a week.
 
In this prison, we are separated from the rest of the illegal immigrants. Only people from two countries are here. We are close to 3000, women included. What’s going on? Is your government trying to deport as many as they can before signing a reform? Not even in the Bush administration did this happen. States are following Arizona’s model. NY, NJ, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Texas are doing it. Most of the guys here with me in this dormitory have been detained by police officers and handed over to immigration officers. This is a normal procedure now.
 
 
 
May 9, 2010
 
Recordada _____,
 
Every day is a new experience in this place. I was disappointed to find out that I am not leaving this week. How can I stop from hating? I have been put in a dungeon with a bunch of people who can barely read and write, who two weeks ago were doing crack. I have no access to a law library. I have a bad cold with a bad fever. We never get to see an ICE officer, not one government official, not a nurse. 
 
I am sorry, ____. I shouldn’t focus on the negative side of my experience. I should look at the positive (if there is such a side). 
 
 
 
27 de mayo 2010
Hi _____,
 
Surprise! It’s me again. I am happy to be able to greet you from my country. Hope you are well.
 
I finally got here after 80-85 days in migration. I still can’t believe I am free, to tell you the truth. The trauma of prison still is in the back of my head but I think time will heal me.

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.