Yogi (not his real name) is a 27-year-old college graduate who ran a small construction clean-up company in Arizona until he was stopped by police for a traffic infraction in late summer of 2010. He was arrested and transferred to a detention center because of his lack of proper paperwork. Yogi has lived in the United States since 1990. Deportation Nation is publishing his letters from the Florence Correctional Center, a private detention center owned by the Corrections Corporation of America.
I’m 27 years old, this is my first blog.
It’s odd to think I am writing it from a jail cell.
Although, I should mention that officially I am not a prisoner, I am a detainee. Much like the people held in Guantanamo, I suppose, but my charge isn’t terrorism. My main charge is not being a US Citizen.
My story is much the same as many kids who grow up in the US, Honor Roll K-12, captain of Football and Wrestling teams. Then off to college I went to learn and prepare how to master the “Real World”. Except my story is different, like the fact that I have been adopted twice or that I was born in Mexico.
The latter point drastically changes my current situation. It makes me, shall we say, susceptible to deportation from the country I grew up in.
A traffic violation leads me to my present position, the corner lower bunk furthest from the iron door, and toilet. A 16 men cell with one stainless steel toilet with no door to block your duties, one stainless steel sink. No contact with the outside letter except letters and now this blog.
Maybe you didn’t know a detention center like this existed. I know I didn’t. And yet, here I sit within a maximum-security facility, where hundreds of ICE detainees are housed. And my hope is that my writing this blog will bring awareness to something that is very real.
My intention is to relate and relay what I can attest to, what I have been through, what I do and most importantly the endless stories of other people from around the world that join me amidst these walls. I am in a most advantageous position in the respect. And given that time seems abundant in here, I think I will be able to do just that. Relate and relay.
Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing my stories.
Dec. 27, 2010
3:30am Line Servers! Juice Porters!
The familiar cadence awakens me. In truth it doesn’t much wake me from a deep slumber as much as it jolts me to sit upright from another night of drowsy existence. It sounds bleak, I know, but lying inside the prison cell and not knowing the length of time you’ll actually be in here is exhausting.
That’s because “ICE Detainees” are not waiting to do “time” like regular prisoners. If that were the case, I have to imagine it would be somewhat bearable, to know you are doing a set time like a year and then knowing when you are getting out. As it stands, we ICE Detainees don’t have a parameter to gauge how much time we will be imprisoned or “detained”. In fact most have no idea whether they can fight their [immigration] case from the outside. Much less know if they will have an opportunity to stay in this country. Detainees maybe eligible for bonds but only if deemed so by an immigration judge and in accordance with immigration law.
ICE detainees may be detained for years, the longest I am aware of is eight years, and he’s become a legend around here. Most people in here say that if they reach the one-year mark they would rather sign for deportation. But when reality hits once people reach the one-year mark there’s no turning back, there are no guarantees, in fact despite all that time served, the odds remain against you.
The ambiguity of one’s sentiments within these walls is reveling, imagine that you are the person who is locked up, and that you have an opportunity of maybe either getting out in an undetermined date if you fight your case or you can sign to get out with the looming uncertainty of your entire life thereafter in an unfamiliar place. For a person like myself who knows one country and one life, that decision is the farthest thing from simple. It makes you feel as though you are being eschewed from everything you love, the only things you know.
That uncertainty may be part of the reason I couldn’t sleep. The other part may have been the new grown man across from my bunk who cried himself to sleep… either way I am up now and have to brush my teethe before breakfast, soy meat with gravy, a tough biscuit, hardened oatmeal and an old school milk carton.
Now 4:00 am “CHOW!!” the guard yells as I put my pen down…..
January 2, 2010
I thought I have done most everything right, and to the best of my abilities. I grew up on the south side of Tucson an area of low social economic status along with thousands of at risk youth. I remember junior high classmates being pregnant, loosing friends to drive byes and to incarceration. Having gone against the odds and finishing high school, attending college, graduating college with two degrees, I ended up here, the place I was working so hard not to end up in.
This is an unadulterated look at what I am feeling at this moment, when I write for this blog sitting on my metal bunk, within this 16-man cell, inside the prison and using the light from a 4-inch window that lets light emanate from a pole next to the third fence beyond the first electric fence, I do not edit nor have I need to reread.
As I contemplate the reality of my situation that I may not win my case, which may end in me being deported to a country I only know from history books, TV, and what I have heard from family members that now seems like folklore. I cannot help but invoke those who have been oppressed, repressed and subjugated. I cannot help but feel cheated and undermined by a system I always felt was my own. I was brought here at six by adoptive parents who they themselves put me up for adoption to US citizens, at age 12. It is not my fault that they did not fill out the proper paper work, so why isn’t the option to correct it available to me now?
Jan. 10, 2011
After Breakfast we usually get to watch a little TV and its usually a Spanish channel with music and girls, letting us show a semblance of male bravado. At the tail end of that, 5 am or so, the guys assigned to cleaning crews go to a standing 10’ by 10’ steel cage by a hall door to take out cleaning materials. They come by, some with long brushes and some with spray bottles and towels, to clean what mess there might be and to half-earn the $1.00 a day we who work get paid.
Our pod consists of 6 cells on a bottom tier and 7 on the top, for a total of 183 beds. There is a dayroom with 28 metal tables, which have four attached metal seats each. That’s not enough seats for the people that go eat, and those that aren’t fortunate enough to find a seat ( or have friends holding one for them) end up eating on the shower walls; a 4 feet division separating each shower stall. There are 14 shower stalls in all, ten of which work, the showers are located on the bottom tier across from the dayroom adjacent to the cage. Shower times are anytime we are let out to dayroom and before 7”30 pm, lockdown.
Today though we may not be privileged enough to take a shower. We, as inmates/detainees, are not privy as to why but we have been locked down since after breakfast, and are being told it might be a week straight of lockdown. Conveying to us, without so much as saying it, that showers will not be available for at least 3 days/ 72 hours. I’m not sure what that sounds like from the outside, but being in a confined space with 15 other men for 3 days and without shower makes me chuckle as to what adventure the ensuing days will bring. There’s really not much more I can do then that. No point in yelling, and no point in cursing. You either grit your teeth and bear it or laugh out loud (lol, ha-ha) as to the idiocy of the situation you find yourself in. Otherwise, it feels as if you may pop a bolt and lose a screw.
More then likely, what happened is fairly major given it will be a week of lockdown. Conjectures of a fight with a shank or a prisoner attacking a correctional officer/ guard are wildly flying across our cell. You see, men in my pod are classified as low-level detainees. Meaning for most part they are in this type of situation for the first time, or it’s their first encounter with ICE. Therefore, we can only imagine what higher level prisoners in this facility have done or what they are willing to do, they also have the privilege of knowing what to expect in regards of the time they will serve, and from that can make a decision or determination on what they are willing to do while in here. The uncertainty of my stint in this place continues to consume my thoughts…