Jorge* crossed the border from Mexico. He arrived in Arizona with a large group that planned to split up and head to different parts of the U.S. A Coyote took them to a house that was soon surrounded by ICE officers. ICE took them all directly to a detention center somewhere in Arizona; Jorge was held there for fifteen days. He didn’t have any idea where he was; he only knew that he was confined inside a big building with no windows, just fans that did little to dispel the hot air. His first week there, he didn’t have any blankets. Meals consisted of a little bread and water rations. There was one bathroom for sixty people. He felt he was being taught a lesson: don’t try to enter the U.S. ICE wants people to beg to be sent back to their home countries.
Then Jorge was moved to another facility — a detention center — in Phoenix. He was held there for four months. After a week, he was allowed to call his family. Then he was told that this facility was going to be used to house women, so he was moved again. He was transferred to a third facility, in Louisiana — a prison, like San Quentin. He stayed there for four months, too.
The inmates were allowed outside once a day, but they still felt as though they were being treated like animals. After a few weeks there, people would beg to be deported.
One man from Guatemala hung himself.
It took Jorge a month to be able to make a phone call. He called his brother to tell him where he was and to give him a phone number where he could be reached. But calls from the inside are extremely expensive. Food is sold in the facility, but his family had to send him money so he could get enough to eat.
Jorge’s family would call and be told by immigration authorities that he was going to be sent back to Peru very soon. Most of those in the jail were from Guatemala or Mexico. Jorge’s family learned that because it’s costly to deport just one person, ICE waits until they have a larger number so they can deport them all together.
Jorge’s detention dragged on for eight months. Finally, his family offered to pay for his ticket back to Peru. Before being deported, he had to sign a document saying he wouldn’t return for five years. The document is in English, and many who sign it don’t know what it says. But they’re forced to sign it anyway.
Three days later the Immigration authorities used the ticket his family paid for to send Jorge back.
* Not his real name.
Submitted by Lisa Bennett of Sausalito, CA (firstname.lastname@example.org). Lisa has known Jorge’s brother for 20 years, and personally gathered this story from him. Due to today’s culture of persecution, both men declined to have their names published.
“People were begging to be deported after being there for a month.” was originally published in IMM Print on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.