Emily's Blog


Pedro's Return To Georgia

November 27, 2011

As Pedro, Logan and I drove closer and closer to Georgia, we were excited but also nervous.  This would be the first time that we would return since Pedro’s release from Stewart Detention Center on May 17, 2011.  Now six months later, we were driving back voluntarily. With each mile passing of our 529 mile journey from North Carolina to Georgia, we were reflective about how quickly time had passed since we were reunited.  Having a “normal” family life seems to speed up time. When Pedro was detained, time flowed like molasses in a Minnesota winter. Every second was painful and agonizingly slow for all of us. 

As we crossed the Georgia border, my body, holding our unborn little girl, Lilyana, safely inside, began to ache.  My excitement dulled the aches and pains as we arrived in La Grange to pick up Christin and Bryan Babcock from Anton Flores’ home.  Christin, Bryan and Anton had given us enormous support in our year and a half of hell.  They came to court dates, emotionally supported us, visited Pedro and showed us love, housed us and hosted us at El Refugio. They were also 3 of the 8 that were arrested in protest of Pedro’s detention.  My mother, Logan and I were the first guests at El Refugio the weekend of the Stewart Vigil and Rally the year before.

The hour and a half drive from La Grange to Lumpkin, GA passed by quickly.  We talked with Christin and Bryan about what had been happening in our lives and Logan quickly fell asleep.  At around 10pm we pulled up to El Refugio .   When Alterna opened this hospitality house last year, I was amazed. As a safe place for families of detainees it was a powerful statement of love. When visiting Pedro or attending court dates, we were on an emotional roller coaster.  We were overjoyed to see him but so pained to have that damn glass between us and then to leave him behind once again.  El Refugio provided emotional support, shelter and food for that short, intense stay.  It was a life saver for us.  We all fell asleep quickly after a long day of traveling.

In the morning, Logan’s favorite Georgian friends, Javi and Teo, arrived along with the first people that hosted us at El Refugio the previous year, our good friends, Marilyn and Leslie. We quickly prepared ourselves for the fifth annual Stewart Detention Center Rally and Vigil. The boys played while we all rushed around getting ready.

                             ***** Photo by Donna Schmaeder

As we arrived at the normally sleepy Lumpkin Square, it was alive with 270 people (more than double the attendees from last year).  We were greeted by so many warm faces and welcoming hugs! Five of the 8 that were arrested at the rally last year in protest of Pedro’s detention were there to greet us including: Anton Flores, Ellen McGill, Jules Orkin, Christin and Bryan Babcock.  For many attending this rally, it would be the first time that they had met Pedro in the long fight for his freedom.   The rally began with words of strength and songs of solidarity.  Tears fell while I realized what an amazing accomplishment it was to win Pedro’s freedom.  They continued to fall thinking of all of the families that are still separated by our inhumane immigration laws.  We were interviewed by the media as we marched from the Lumpkin town square to Stewart Detention Center.

                              ******Photo by Mario Guevara with MundoHispanico

As we walked up the hill, I listened to the other stories of families broken by immigration.  They spoke of their pain, one husband’s deportation, one father’s detention, and the detrimental impact on their lives.  I put my hand  one woman’s back, her eyes filled with tears. The words broke my heart but also filled me with gratitude that our family was now whole.  We are an exception to the rule.

                              ******Photo by Mario Guevara with MundoHispanico

We turned the corner and the Corrections Corporation of America silo came into view. The gate was filled with state troopers, police officers and CCA guards. I looked at Pedro and I could see the emotions rising.  He was on the outside and he was standing up to the monster in his nightmares.  We all marched towards the police cars as the rally musicians welcomed us to our makeshift stage on the public side of the Stewart Detention Center property.  Many others spoke over the loud speaker, their words of anguish echoing through the air.   

                           ******Photo by Mario Guevara with MundoHispanico

Then Pedro and I took the stage.  As the Stewart Detention Center guards listened, we spoke from our hearts. 

                            ****** Photo by Periodico La Vision

"My husband, Pedro, was detained for 597 days at Stewart Detention Center.  CCA , the business that runs this detention center, profited almost sixty thousand dollars off my husband. That money came from the federal government and our tax dollars.   Pedro, our son, Logan, and I suffered greatly during our separation. On May 17, when I told Logan his father was being released, he asked, ‘Are all the other mommies and daddies getting out too?’ The heartbreaking truth is that there are so many immigrants still unjustly detained. Pedro is free but so many are not.  So many other immigrants are still unjustly detained.  Most cannot fight because the system is not set up for justice, it is set up to get as many immigrants out of the country as possible.  For the first six months Pedro was detained, I was scared to speak out. My anger and frustration took over, and I cast my fear aside. The system is broken and based on fear. Coming together in courage and love -- speaking out together -- we can accomplish human rights for immigrants. Our family is reunited, but we will keep speaking out until every family is free."

Pedro told the crowd the treatment in Stewart was inhumane, the food was bad, and detainees receive little legal help.  The CCA guards showed no respect for anyone, there was always a threat of loss of your privileges for food, phone cards, or recreation, or of lock down.
"After twenty months away from home, you lose faith, you feel worthless, this place breaks you, it is made to break your soul."

                                               ****** Photo by Periodico La Vision

Anton Flores and Chris Spicer then spoke of the insanity of immigration laws  and the injustice of the immigration system in the US.  "I cross the line because I want to close the SOA, I want to close Gitmo [US prisons in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba], and I want to close Stewart Detention Center," Spicer said.  Chris also announced that he would be fasting, "to purify this unjust system. The SOA and inhumane immigration policies are part of the same racist system of violence and domination."  Chris then chose to cross the private property line of Stewart Detention Center.  It was a physical act of protest for all of those that are not free.  The event was powerful and therapeutic for us, we gave our pain words and we were able to speak in front of the “machine” that caused our pain.  After many hugs, tears, and interviews the crowd dispersed.  Pedro, Logan and I stayed behind to talk to Univision.  

 

                                      ********Photo by Donna Schmaeder

Suddenly, I saw Anton Flores talking to the Stewart County Sheriff and a few other officers.  I kept looking up from the interviews and thinking they were having an unusually long conversation.  Suddenly, Anton yelled to me, “They are arresting me for trespassing.  Please find the legal team.”  The arrest happened long after Chris’ act of civil disobedience.  Anton had not crossed the line but because he is a powerful voice in the fight to shut down Stewart Detention Center and the primary organizer of the event, he was being harassed and arrested conveniently after the legal team had left the area.  Logan was in a panic. “Are they going to take Anton in there?” he asked pointing to Stewart.  “No”, I responded.  “Anton has the special papers that we have talked about, like the ones daddy has now so he can be free.  Don’t worry. We will find Anton.”  

After a few hours, with video evidence shown to the local judge proving Anton did not cross the line.  Anton was released.  When I heard the news, I asked, “Where is he?” “Giving press statements,” someone answered.  I smiled thinking, “They messed with the wrong guy.”

We spent the afternoon reflecting on the enormity of the event, the healing in our hearts and the warm support that we are so blessed to have in our lives.

                                ********Photo by Donna Schmaeder

That evening, we were sponsored by Witness for Peace, to present a workshop on immigration detention at the SOAWatch conference in Columbus, GA. (link) At 6:25pm, five minutes before the workshop started there was one person in the room.  Ten minutes later, they were turning people away because the room was so packed.  As we spoke of our experiences, I felt amazing.  The whole time I was thinking, “I am standing next to my husband, sharing our pain with people who care.  They are listening and they too are outraged. We spoke of our unnecessary suffering at the hands of Homeland Security and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).   We shared the insanity that it took 596 days for them to give Pedro a day in court and finally give him permanent residency.  Every one of those days was a profit for CCA.  In the first quarter of 2011, CCA’s net income was $40.3 million and with each quarter their income increases.  Each time there is a new anti-immigrant law like SB-1070 in Arizona or HB-87 in Georgia, their “beds” fill up with immigrants and their profits increase.  Immigrants are seen as dollar signs.  CCA was at the original planning discussion to initiate SB-1070 because they profit from harsh immigration laws.  The crowd at the workshop gave us a warm reception and had many questions.  Their eyes were opened and we experienced more healing…we were together, fighting side by side. 

That night, lying in bed at El Refugio, I had fear and anxiety in my heart.  The next day, we would be entering Stewart Detention Center to visit Pedro’s friends that were left behind.  I knew the fear wasn’t rational but both Pedro and I never imagined walking through that barbed wire fence again.  I remembered all those nights I lay in that same bed thinking, “He is 1.5 miles from me, in the same town but I can’t go get him or touch him or hug him or hold him.”  But that night I could.  I reached over and put my hand on his chest.  He was still there.  He was still free. It wasn’t a dream.

Saturday morning, Pedro, Logan, Leslie and I woke up early to go visit Gregorz and Cesar, two men that were still detained at Stewart.  We drove around the corner and I could feel the anxiety in the air.  We walked in and filled out the applications to visit.  Having Pedro with me in the waiting room was so surreal.  Pedro and I kept glancing up at each other in disbelief.  I explained all the visiting procedures to Pedro.  It felt odd to explain rules to someone that had been there so long.  Pedro was making all kinds of jokes, as he does when he is nervous.  Leslie was humoring him and Logan was on his best behavior.  We were called up and we put all of our stuff in the x-ray machine and passed through the metal detectors.  We retrieved our things and put them all in the tiny lockers assigned to us.  The giant, metal door was opened and our hands were stamped with the date before we walked through the door.  Bars were opened  to get to another locked door to the visitation room. 

Inside were five cubicles where the visitors were separated from each other by cement blocks and from the visitee by thick glass windows.  We spoke to our friends through old-school, crackly phones. The glaring, harsh fluorescent lights made everyone look sickly.  Gregorz and Cesar entered the room and I sat back to allow Pedro some time with his friends.  I watched him conversing with them.  He was animated and loving.  “My husband is so brave” I thought, “Who would voluntarily come back after being given their freedom?”  My husband would. 

The honest truth is that we have both been wracked with survivor’s guilt.  When he was released, he left so many behind, only to be deported or continuously detained in these horrible conditions.  My guilt comes from all of the families I have met along the way who have lost their husband’s, their fathers, their children to deportation after their detention.  I have my husband back but they are still separated from their loved ones, contemplating the horrible decision of whether to uproot their family and go to a place they left long ago or have never been or to live here without them.  I thought I was going to have to make that decision.  To leave my entire family, to leave my country, to leave my community or to stay here without him.  That is a horrible decision to have to make.  There are so many questions you ask yourself.    Will we find work?  Will we be safe?  Will we survive?  How will we live?  Many brave souls have made the anguished decision to stay and be separated or to go and suffer.  We were saved from that decision. 

I sat it that cold, glaring, horrible room and felt blessed and sad at the same time.  Sad for Gregorz, who has been in Stewart for two years and will now be deported, possibly to his death and for Cesar, who is waiting day after day to hear news of his appeal (so far six months).  Sitting there, contemplating all of the families I have met that have been ripped apart by our horrible immigration system.  We were saved but we are in the minority.  Logan ran around the room, talked to Gregorz briefly and played hide and seek like he used to when Pedro was on the other side of the glass.  After an hour, Logan was emotionally exhausted and begging to leave.  Gregorz had requested an extra hour to visit with Pedro and I had to make a snap judgment.  Do I make Logan suffer and wait with us for an hour? Or do I leave Pedro behind to visit with Gregorz?  I was petrified to leave him there. I knew it was irrational.  I knew they couldn’t keep him there but I am still scarred and filled with mistrust.  I chose to leave and let them have a peaceful second hour of their visit.  Logan, Leslie, and I returned to El Refugio and ate lunch.  A bit later, I received a frantic call from Pedro.  “Are you here? Come get me?  I can’t be here by myself.”  He also had scars.  I rushed to get him and when I pulled into the driveway, he was walking as far away from Stewart as he could get on foot. Pedro sighed with relief as he jumped into the car to safety.

Our next event was speaking on stage in front of thousands of people at the SOWatch Rally in Columbus, GA.  We packed up our things and headed north.  The crowd was enormous and full of people that were calling for peace.  We walked up to the stage and looked out at the sea of people.  We spoke of our pain and we spoke of our continued fight.  We were well received and appreciated by this vast crowd of open minded people.  (pic of SOAWatch event).  As we stepped off the stage we were greeted by Jon Fromer.  He sang at the rally last year.  His song, “Welcome” brings me to tears every time I hear it (link to the song).  As Pedro and I embraced Jon, we all cried.  He told us how our story impacted him and that he was so happy for us.  We told him what his song meant to us.  It was a joyous reunion.  As we walked away from the stage area, we were greeted and embraced by numerous people thanking us for sharing our story.  We did feel welcome.          

                      ****To hear John Fromer's Welcome and see photos from the 2010 vigil click on Welcome****

In the afternoon, we set out to prepare Gregorz’s deportation bag.  He has no family here and has not returned to his country for fear for his life.  We spent the afternoon collecting items for his suitcase and contemplating what was allowed in the bag and what he would need. When detainees are deported they are sent away with a single bag of clothes and no other items.  Some do not have family or friends close by to bring these items and are deported with only the clothes on their back.  We were happy to help Gregorz as he and Pedro supported each other so much while detained together.

 

We then went back to the conference center to support Anton at his workshop about El Refugio at the SOAWatch conference.  Katie and Amilcar, El Refugio volunteers and friends of ours who had also hosted us, were co-presenting with Anton.  As we arrived, Anton asked if we could also speak.  We immediately agreed.  We spoke of how much El Refugio and Alterna have meant to us and how supported we have felt by them.  Pedro and I agreed that it was because of their support, that we were able to continue fighting and to win our case.  

That night, we stayed with Anton’s friends and neighbors, Joanne and Dean.  We talked into the night and reflected on how amazing the weekend had been. 

In the morning, after a beautiful breakfast and delicious coffee made by Dean, we stopped by Anton’s and sat with his family.  We expressed how much they mean to us and they told us that our story provides hope for so many who feel there is none.  We told Anton that we will not stop here.  We will keep coming back every year until Stewart Detention Center is shut down! We will speak out in North Carolina and everywhere else that will have us until we accomplish human rights for immigrants! Si se puede!!

 

 

*****Photo by Mario Guevara with Mundo Hispnico

 

The Journey

May 22, 2011

After 596 days of immigration detention, Pedro finally had his day in court on Monday, May 16, 2011.  My mom, Milo (Mom's fiancee), my best friend Sarah, Logan and I drove to El Refugio (hosted by our friend, Marilyn McGinnis) in Lumpkin, GA on Saturday, May 14.  We were followed by the LA Times and Cuentame, documenting our journey as we traveled across North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.  We were all racked with anxiety and honestly we had very little hope that Pedro would win his case.  I was simply relieved that we had survived the 596 days it took for the Department of Homeland Security to give our family our day in court.   On that day, we would be able to present our evidence for Pedro's eligibility for NACARA. We would attempt to prove Pedro's good moral character and the extreme hardship Logan, Pedro and I would endure if he was deported to Guatemala.  Saturday and Sunday went by surprisingly fast.  Saturday, we were driving the numerous hours from NC to GA.  On Sunday, we had our visit with Pedro. The rest of the day was filled with interviews and questions. They helped me to process our history and plan for what was about to happen.


 

The day of court had arrived.  I was petrified. My husband's freedom was hanging in the balance.  We had breakfast, a prayer circle with our good friend, Anton Flores, and got dressed for court.  We met with our attorney and headed to the immigration court located inside Stewart Detention Center. We quickly entered the court room.  The government attorney requested that before the witnesses testified, they would not hear the other testimonies.  Logan, my mom and I left the court room and Pedro testified first.  Logan shut down from the stress and fell asleep while we were in the waiting room.  My mother and I began to review all of the points of extreme hardship and Pedro's good moral character. When the guard came to take my mother to testify, I had no distractions. As I held little, snoring Logan, panic set in.  I didn't know what else to do, so I prayed.  I prayed the entire time I was waiting.  "God, please give me the words to convey our potential hardship and the good moral character of my husband.  Please help me to set my husband free." I began to cry.  "You are the most powerful and most high God.  You are the only one that can free my husband. Please bring Logan's father back to us.  Please guide the words of my mother."  I began to feel peace slowly blanketing me. "God, I thank you for all of the blessings that you have given to me.  Thank you for our painful growing experiences.  Thank you for giving us the strength to continue to fight injustice. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen."

The guard came through the door and called my name.  "Emily Guzman, they are ready for you."  This was it.  This was my chance to be heard.  I passed Logan to my mom, sat in the witness chair, and turned to face the judge.  As I opened my mouth, the words and tears began to pour out. "Your honor, I have struggled with depression since I was 16 years old. As a teenager, I was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and then a suicide attempt. At that time, I began taking medication and attending therapy.  When I met my husband in the year 2000, I stopped taking medication.  My husband brought joy to my life. During our relationship, my depression faded into a distant memory. When ICE took my husband and detained him on September 28, 2009, I was lost.  Collapsed on the floor, thoughts of suicide began to fill my head.  I need my husband back."  I was sobbing.  "My son and I have been in therapy since October of 2009.  Logan has made some improvements but therapy will not bring his father back." I sobbed harder. "My husband is a wonderful husband and an amazing father.  Logan asks for his father everyday.  If you deport him, an entire community will miss him.  Over the 11 years we have spent together, my husband and I have changed each other's lives for the better. He is my soulmate. Please let our family be together."  After 20 minutes of pouring out my heart, the whole court room was in tears.

The judge then stated that he would take a recess to review all the documents and make his decision.  During this hour, I thought it would be eternal but it was a chance for Logan, Pedro, and I to visit together without glass although touch was still prohibited.  We talked about random, normal things.  My mother said it was amazing to see us interact.  She said our family seemed so close despite the trauma we had experienced. When the judge entered, it startled me.  I had been engrossed in conversation with my husband and our son. The judge stated his verdict right away. "Mr. Guzman, I am going to grant your application for NACARA."  My mom and I sobbed.  "Thank you!" we both said through tears of joy. Then the government attorney stated that she would reserve her right for appeal. "NO!" My mom and I cried out.  We knew this meant that it would be some time before Pedro would be released. Attorney Fogle stated afterwards that if the government attorney continued to reserve her right to appeal, we would file for bond in the morning. Then we would have a bond hearing.


 

Afterwards, I was stunned. I could not believe that Pedro had been granted relief.  About an hour later Pedro called to process what had just happened. "I am not leaving Georgia without you!" I was determined to stay until I could take him away from that horrible detention center. Pedro was so rational.  He said calmly, "Go home. I will be getting out soon.  It's okay.  We won!" Tears were rolling down my face.  I realized he was right.  I shouldn't waste vacation time waiting for him to get out.  That time would be like gold when he would be released.  Our plan was to stay with Anton that night in La Grange and stop by Marilyn's in Atlanta the next day and if we had not heard from Attorney Fogle by noon, we would begrudgingly head for North Carolina without Pedro

Monday evening, we rejoiced with the Mission Year crew of Alterna.  It was true!  We had finally received justice! But, there was a very scarred part of me that felt like something would go wrong.  Negative things had happened over and over.  I would continue to hold my breath until he stepped foot out from behind those prison bars.  In the morning, we packed up the car and headed for Atlanta.  My mom, Milo and I were chatting and driving and I got a phone call at 11:30am.  I looked at the number and didn't recognize it.  Should I answer it? I thought.  I should.  "Hello?" It was Pedro! "Emily.  CCA says they are releasing me."  I shrieked with shock. "Milo!  Pull over now!  They are releasing Pedro!!!" Milo responded rationally.  "I will safely drive to the next exit."  I told Pedro I would call Anton and see if anyone was closer. We were 90 minutes away and I did not want Pedro to be detained for one second longer.  Anton arranged for Pastor Lewis from Americus to pick Pedro up and meet us at El Refugio.

My mom and I were calling everyone and bawling.  We were bursting with joy!  I turned to Logan and explained, "Daddy is getting out right now!  We are going back to get him!" Logan asked, "Does that mean all the other mommies and daddies getting out too?" "Not today sweetie.  But we will keep fighting for them to be released." Tears were rolling down my face.  Logan is amazing.

We drove back as quickly but safely as possible. I thought we would never get there.  I was stunned. It was really happening. As we pulled up to El Refugio, Milo had to hold me back from jumping out of the car before it stopped. When I saw Pedro, I immediately started crying and leaped into his arms. Logan was right behind me.  Our family was hugging for the first time in 19 months. Words cannot express how we felt at that moment. Logan kept repeating, "I feel like I'm in a dream."

We decided to get out of town as quickly as possible. As we were about to leave, Logan said, "Let's pray. Daddy, you pray.  You haven't prayed with us in a long time!"  My tears would not stop streaming. We got down on our knees, held hands and Pedro prayed. "Thank you God for my release.  I am sorry that I doubted you during this time. Thank you so much for giving me my family back and for all those that supported us. Thank you for my freedom. Amen." 

We stopped in LaGrange to thank Anton and the Mission Year Crew for all of their support.  As we pulled up to the Alterna community house, they were waiting by the curb, waving and crying with joy and excitement.  We leaped out of the car and into their arms. They showed Pedro the garden that he had only seen in pictures. As he enjoyed the smells and colors of the garden, I marveled in the fact that at any second, I could walk over and touch my husband.  I watched him with Logan, hugging him, playing, crying.  It was a miracle we all shared. We shared refreshments, took lots of photographs and bid our farewells and headed towards Atlanta. 

The next stop was Marilyn's where we had ice cream while Logan played with Javi and Teo, her twins. My mother cried as she heard Logan say to Javi and Teo for the first time, "This is my Daddy."  We hugged the McGinnis family goodbye and drove until we couldn't drive anymore.  As we were driving, Pedro said, "This is the first time I have seen night in a long time.  It is beautiful." That night we stopped at a hotel.  While we were sleeping, all three of us awoke several times in the night with anxiety. "We're still separated. No, we're not.  There he is, next to me." It was like seeing him again for the first time. The next morning we woke up, ate breakfast together and headed towards North Carolina.......home.  As we drove, Pedro marveled in the gorgeous emerald green landscape and I marveled at having his face so close to mine.



We finally arrived home.  It did all feel like a dream.  I was scared I would wake up from this dream and he would not be there. I felt nervous when he was out of my sight but then I would hear Logan and Pedro in the next room, laughing and playing and shrieking and it was pure music. My husband is home.  On Saturday, we did normal things, things I could only dream of for the last 19 months.  We went to yard sales, fixed up the car, played at the playground.  I watched my husband and my son play together, running, jumping, climbing.  Pure joy. Pure, pure joy. 

 

We are together at last.  I can breathe again. In our joy, there is an undercurrent of sadness.  There are so many people still suffering at the hands of this broken immigration system.  This was a victory for us but we will not stop fighting!  There are other families unjustly separated.  The struggle is not over until all the children can look up into their father's eyes and say, "We won!"

**************

Thank you to all of those who helped last week go smoother than I ever  could have dreamed!

Anton and Charlotte Flores

The Mission Year Crew

Bryan and Christin Babcock

Pete and Cherilyn Larsen

Marilyn McGinnis

Sarah Sexton

Pastor Lewis

Pamela Alberda and Milo Fryling

**************

The Final Court Date

May 11, 2011

Lying in our bed, in a haze of Nyquil, I cannot breathe. With a tiny dog behind my head, a monster dog behind my legs and the other at my feet, 4 year old Logan is chattering away about superheroes and the noises they make, giving me examples.  I just want to sleep. Having a cold is an inconvenience for the average person.  For me, it is life altering.  It is hard enough live my life day to day. 

The bond hearing in March was a disaster.  We had high hopes because it was a brand new judge.  We thought Pedro would finally get out, but it ended with only one positive thing, a final court date, May 16. That is three days before Pedro’s 31stbirthday and our 7thyear wedding anniversary. 

Two and a half months have passed now.  We survived them and during this last week before the final court date, I am a ball of nerves. I want to be happy, hopeful, and optimistic but this year and a half has scarred me.  I really, truly do not know what will happen that day. There is so much riding on every word of every witness and every sentence of the lawyer.  The words will influence the freedom of my husband.  He will be freed or sent to a country he does not know. 

On Mother’s Day, we were walking through Duke Gardens and Logan said, “I wish Daddy was here. It’s not fair.”  Logan is a wise little soul.  The trauma of his father being taken from him has made him more mature and more knowledgeable than his few years should show.  The pain in his face when he sees other fathers playing with their sons or when we celebrate holidays and Pedro is not there, it rips my heart out.  I never want to see Logan hurt but in the time of Pedro’s detention, I have seen the pain, sadness and anger in his face.  It makes me feel so helpless.  I want to protect him.  I want him to be happy and joyful like other 4 year olds.  So I do everything I can, take every action that I can to return his father to him but 19 months has passed and Pedro is still behind bars. 

All I want is for Pedro, Logan, and I to have a normal life.  Living, working, playing, loving. When we are together again, I will appreciate every touch, every embrace, and every word. Before all this happened, I didn’t. In this time, I have learned that nothing is permanent.  Life is so fragile. Everything can change in seconds.  While you have your loved ones, appreciate every single second. With that, we continue to wait.  Some day, I will breathe again.

Consejos Si Alguien Esta Detenido Por Imigración

February 20, 2011

 

Consejos para familias y seres queridos de los detenidos.

Traducido por Benjamin Reed
( Aviso: Estos consejos se basan en mi experencia con el Centro de Detención Stewart en Lumpkin, Georgia. Tal vez puedan aplicarse a los demás centros de detención. Favor de consultar abogado antes de tomar cualquier decisión legal. La siguiente información tambien se encuentra disponible en http://www.logansdad.org )


1. ¡Insistir en no firmar ningún documento! - Informe a su ser querido que lo más aconsejable es no firmar ningún documento de deportación. Es más difícil apelar el caso si la firma está presente.  Ellos serán presionados y amenazados, pero según la ley, no es necesario hacer ninguna declaración firmada ni oral referente a su estatus migratorio. Asesórele a que le digan a los oficiales que no desea hacer ninguna declaración al respecto sin consultar con su abogado. Es importante no dar información alguna sobre su nacionalidad o calidad migratoria. La única información que está obligado a proporcionar es su nombre. El detenido tampoco debe dar un nombre falso, ya que esto frustrará los trámites  y podría ocasionar más problemas .

2. Representación - Busque un buen abogado de inmigración, uno que sea especialista  en remoción, detención y deportación. Muchos abogados le darán una consulta gratuita.
Procure buscar recomendaciones a fin de contratar un abogado justo. Lamentablemente, existen muchas historias de abogados que se encargan de casos y cobran sus honrarios sin hacer nada. ¡Tenga mucho cuidido con quien contrate!.Si por causa de  razones financieras es imposible conratar con tales servicios,  el detenido tiene el derecho de representarse a sí mismo o intentar encontrar un abogado comunitario “pro bono.” Nuestro abogado es Abogado Fogle: www.foglelaw.com


3. Ubicación - Si el detenido se encuentra en una cárcel municipal o del condado, lo más probable es que lo trasladan muchas veces y finalmente terminará en un reclusorio destinado para la detención de inmigrantes. Averigüe el número que se le consignado,
el número de la comisaría, la dirección del centro de detención de inmigración (incluyendo su número de cama) y del nombre del funcionario de ICE oficial. Si no ha podido cerciorarse de la ubicación de su ser querido,  fíjese en la siguiente página de web, que  le facilitará la busqueda de tal ubicación: https://locator.ice.gov/odls/homePage.do   

Ojo: Este localizador detenido no siempre funciona.

4. Comunicación – Para mantener un estado de ánimo saludable entre usted y el detenido, es menester que se escriban mutuamente. La recepción de correo en el centro de detención es una gran cosa y significa mucho. En el caso de Stewart, se pueden recibir fotos, cartas, dibujos (nada con pegamento o adhesivos), libros de tapa blanda (pero solo a través de editoriales (tal como Amazon.com) y no de parte de personas particulares.) A continuación, les escribo la dirección del Stewart Detention Center, y la forma en que debe aparecer la dirección del destinatario:

            Nombre del detenido
            Número “A” del detenido
            Número de cama
            PO Box 248
            Lumpkin, GA 31815

5. Teléfono- Si su ser querido está apelando su caso, la forma más barata para poder comunicarse es a través del teléfono cellular. Cambie su número de celular para que corresponda con el la localidad del lada del centro de detención. En el caso de Stewart, es de 229. El detenido tiene derecho de comprar tarjetas teléfonicas prepagadas en el centro de detención. Otra opción sería abrir una cuenta especial con la empresa telefónica asignada al centro de detención, para realizar llamadas a cobrar. Para Stewart, la compañía telefónica se llama Securus (antes Evercom). Su sitio web es securustech.net. Las tarifas serán más económicas si el número cae dentro del lada (código de área local) en donde se encentra el centro de detención.

Si no desea cambiar su código de área, podría conseguir un número de Skype (que tenga el mismo lada que el centro de detención) en skype.com y luego transferir ese número al número de su celular o de su casa. Este paso tal vez resulte un poco complicado para los que tengan poco conocimiento cybernético. Con esta opción, el detenido deberá utilizar tarjetas telefónicas prepagadas que se surten dentro del mismo centro de detención.

6. Envío de dinero - En Stewart, usted puede enviar dinero por giro postal, pero debe de ser enviado a la siguiente dirección especial :
               CCA Inmate Trust
               (Apellidos del preso, Nombre del preso / Número de Comisario)
               Facility: STWRT
               PO Box 933488
               Atlanta, GA 31193-3488
La forma más fácil de enviar dinero es a través de Western Union. Tales remesas pueden ser emitidas en línea o en persona en cualquier sucursal de Western Union. Aquí encontrarás las instrucciones para completar el formulario de Western Union: http://www.correctionscorp.com/static/facility/money_transfer/STWRT_Correctional_Money_Instructions.pdf
 


7. Visitas - En Stewart, el detenido puede recibir una sola visita por semana con duración de una hora. Esto no incluye las visitas de abogado.
La semana termina el sábado y se inicia el domingo, por lo que se puede visitar los sábados y domingos, ya que son dos semanas aparte. El visitante debe llegar antes de las 15:00 y tendrá que aportar una identificación vigente emitida por el gobierno. Se le recomienda llegar llegar 15 minutos antes del horario de visitas (a las 8:45 am) para disminuir el tiempo de espera. El detenido puede solicitor una visita de mayor tiempo si usted tuvo que conducer una larga distancia o tuvo que encargar un vuelo, pero por lo general si el lobby está ocupado, tal pedido será negado. Los días durante semana no suelen ser tan ocupados para las visitas. El sitio de CCA es http://www.cca.com/facility/stewart-detention-center/


8. Qué llevar- Los únicos artículos aprobados para poder obsequiarle al detenido son dinero (sólo de lunes a viernes) y una maleta (tipo equipaje de mano). Para poder recibir el maletín, el detenido tiene que cumplir los trámites apropiados y obtener la aprobación previa del funcionario del ICE.  Para recibir tal aprobación, el detenido debe presentar documentación apropiada. Se le permite llevar 3 pares de pantalones, tres pares de calcetines, un par de zapatos, un abrigo, tres camisas, tres camisetas, tres cambios de ropa interior y un suéter. La bolsa y su contenido deben pesar menos de 45 libras con medidas máximas de 22x14x9 pulgadas. 

9. Alojamiento - Si va a visitar el Centro de Detención Stewart, Alterna es una organización en Georgia, que provee servicios tanto para los inmigrantes como para sus familias. Proporcionan un albergue gratuito en Lumpkin, Georgia, cada sábado por la noche. También ofrecen comida los sábados y domingos. Voluntarios de parte de Alterna visitarán a los detenidos cuando cuando se les dificulta a sus seres queridos efectuar una visita propia.  Todo los voluntarios son bilingües y hablan Inglés y Español. Para comunicarse con El Refugio, su número de contacto es: 229-234-9022. Su dirección en web es:  elrefugiostewart.org. De lo contrario, el motel más cercano es Supervalue Inn, en Richland. Se llama Supervalue Inn.

10. Obtener apoyo - Durante este tiempo abrumador y lleno de estrés, este factor es esencial. Si aún no cuenta con una iglesia o centro spiritual,
la búsqueda de ella le ayudará de gran manera. También se le sugiere encontrar un buen consejero o terapeuta, ya que este paso ayudará a aliviar algo del estrés. Hay muchas agencias comunitarias que proporcian tales servicios de acuerdo con los ingresos que uno tenga. Si usted tiene hijos, puede que ellos tambien tengan trastornos a raíz de la separación. No importa su edad, los niños se verán afectados por la separación. Es importante prestar atención a los cambios de comportamiento y buscar ayuda. Para obtener apoyo más específico, únase al grupo de Facebook “Waiting for a Miracle-Separated by immigration detention and deportation.”


11. Hablar con sus hijos - Es importante hablar con sus hijos sobre lo que sucede. No es necesario compartir todos los detalles, pero es importante asegurarles que ellos mismos no sufrirán ninguna consecuencia bajo la ley, y que están hacienda todo lo posible para reunir a todos los miembros de la familia. Busque la ayuda de un terapeuta si usted siente que le ayudará hablar con sus hijos.

12. Averigüe el estado del caso con ICEMarque al 1-800-898-7180. Ésta linea ha sido creado con el propósito de dar a conocer el estatus de casos vigentes. Tenga a mano, el número del detenido (“alien number,” que comienzo con “A.”) Esta es la manera más rápida  de conseguir información básica y evitará ciertos gastos con el abogado, ya le proporcionarán las fechas de comparecencia en corte, con la excepción de las fechas de audiencia de fianza.

13 . Consejos para pelear una orden de deportación:  Para realizar cambios en el sistema, debemos luchar contra estos casos, pero es importante saber, que puede ser proceso frustrante y muy largo. Prepárese.

Las fechas de comparecencia suelen cambiarse y a veces son canceladas.

Al comparecer, los partidarios tal vez no estén preparados adecuadamente, o hasta podría haber documentos extraviados o fuera de lugar.  Como siempre, procure apoyar a su ser querido. Envíele correo electronic, dinero (si es posible) y más que nada, trate de mejor entender sus sentimientos.

Asimismo, anímele al detenido mirar el video de orientación dentro del centro de detención, ya que contiene información valiosa. Asegúrese de que su ser querido conozca a su oficial correspondiente de ICE, un supervisor de ICE, jefe de la CCA y el encargado del caso CCA. Ellos pueden brindarle apoyo al detenido. Es importante ser respetuoso y amable, incluso cuando es difícil a veces. Anime a su ser querido mantenerse activo físicamente y mentalmente estimulado por la lectura, utilizando el tiempo de recreo, y al interactuar con otros. Su estado de ánimo tendrá muchas variaciones. Los centros de detención de inmigrantes son por lo general tristes y degradantes además de ser lugares solitarios. Recuerde que debe ser compasivo y tratar de no depender sólo de ellos para su bienestar emocional. Parte del proceso es asegurarse de sus propias necesidades mentales sean acertadas por medio del uso de los recursos que están disponibles.

14. Fianza - Consulte a su abogado acerca de cómo y dónde pagar la fianza de inmigración.  Usted puede perder su dinero si paga una fianza a la cárcel local.  Asegúrese de que se trata de una fianza de inmigración . Estas fianzas son muy diferentes, y es importante concer las diferencias entre las varias clases de fianzas.

 


15. Actuar – Al tomar medidas, usted puede asegurar que todos se sentirán mejor. Póngase en contacto con sus representantes y congresistas para externar sus sentimientos acerca de una reforma migratoria comprehensiva. Firmar peticiones y escribir cartas positivas exigiendo cambio. Reform Immigration for America (http://reformimmigrationforamerica.org) and www.change.org actualizan su sección de información migratoria todos los días con pautas para envolverse en el proceso.


16. Más información:
 

Anexo un vínculo a un documento muy comprehensive sobre todo lo que hay que saber (en el sentido juridico) cuando su ser querido ha sido detenido, especialmente en Carolina del Norte, aunque la información podría ser útil para los demás estados.  Está escrito por NC Immigrant Justice Project:

http://www.ncjustice.org/docs/PickedUpEng.pdf

http://www.ncjustice.org/docs/PickedUpEng.pdf

Aquí hay mayor información sobre el que se enfrenta a oficiales policiales o del ICE:
http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/bustcard_eng_20100630.pdf


Conozca sus derechos:
http://www.aclu.org/images/resources/kyr_english.pdf

Your Loved One Is Detained? Read This Now!

January 30, 2011

 

Tips for when your loved one is detained.


(Disclaimer: My experience mostly pertains to Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA.  Some of this will apply to other detention centers, some will not.  Please consult a lawyer when making legal decisions. The following information can be found at: http://www.logansdad.org/your-loved-one-is-detained-read-this-now.php)

1. Tell them not to sign the papers!- Advise your loved one NOT to sign any deportation papers.  It is more difficult to fight the case if they sign them. They will be pressured and possibly threatened but they do not have to sign or talk about their immigration status.  Advise them to tell the officers they will not talk or sign papers until they speak to their lawyer.

2. Representation- Find a good immigration lawyer.  They should specialize in detention and deportation law.  Many lawyers will give you a free consultation.  If you can get a recommendation for a fair lawyer, do it.  There are many stories out there about immigration lawyers that have taken money and done nothing.  Be careful who you hire.  If you can not hire a lawyer because of financial reasons, the detainee can represent him or herself or attempt to find a pro bono lawyer. Fogle Law Firm represents Pedro in his case: www.foglelaw.com

3. Location- If they are currently in a city or county jail, they will most likely moved many times and eventually end up in an immigration detention center. Find out your loved one’s A number, commissary number, address at the immigration detention center (including their bed number) and their ICE officer’s name.  If you do not know the location of your loved one, you can sometimes find their location at: https://locator.ice.gov/odls/homePage.do  NOTE: This detainee locator does not always work.

4. Communication- For your sanity and the detainee’s sanity, write letters.  Getting mail in the detention center is a big deal and means a lot.  In Stewart, they can receive photos, letters, drawings (nothing with glue or stickers), and soft back books (Only sent from a publisher or internet company like amazon.com. They CANNOT receive books from a person directly.) To send mail (or send books THROUGH amazon.com or other internet publishers)  to Stewart Detention Center, here is the address:
            Detainee's name
            Detainee's A#
            Detainee's bed number
            PO Box 248
            Lumpkin, GA 31815

5. Phone- If your loved one is fighting their case, the cheapest way for them to communicate with you by phone is for you to change your cell phone number to the area code in which the detention center is located.  For Stewart, it is 229. The detainee can then buy phone cards in the detention center to call. Another option is that you can open a collect phone account from the company that works with the detention center.  It varies with each detention center.  For Stewart, the phone company is called Securus (formerly Evercom). Their website is securustech.net.  Collect accounts are cheaper if you have a local area code (local to the detention center). If you keep your number and live far from the detention center, it will be more expensive.

If you do not want to change your area code, you can get a Skype number (with an area code where the detention center is located) at skype.com and then forward the number to your cell phone number or home phone.  This can be complicated for those with limited computer skills but very possible. With this option, the detainee must use the phone cards bought inside the detention center.

6. Sending money- At Stewart, you can send money by money order but you MUST send it to this special address:
               CCA Inmate Trust
               (Inmate Last Name, Inmate First Name / Inmate CCA Commissary #)
                Facility: STWRT
               P.O. Box 933488
               Atlanta, GA 31193-3488
The easiest way to send money is by Western Union. You can send it online or in person at Western Union locations.  Here are the directions for filling out the Western Union form: http://www.correctionscorp.com/static/facility/money_transfer/STWRT_Correctional_Money_Instructions.pdf

7. Visiting-  At Stewart, the detainee can only receive one visit per week for one hour.  This does not include lawyer visits. The week ends on Saturday and starts on Sunday, so you can visit Saturday and Sunday because they are two separate weeks. To visit, you must arrive before 3pm and have a valid government issued ID. Arriving 15 minutes before visitation hours (8:45am) is advised to lessen waiting time.  The detainee can file a form to get a longer visit if you drive or fly a long distance but usually if the lobby is busy you will not receive a longer visit.  Weekdays are usually less busy for visitation.  Their website, where some of their policies are published is: http://www.cca.com/facility/stewart-detention-center/

8. What to bring- The only thing you can bring for the detainees are, money (only on weekdays) and a carry-on sized suitcase (on any visit day). To bring the small suitcase, the detainee must fill out the appropriate paperwork and obtain preapproval from the ICE officer. To receive approval, detainee must file appropriate paperwork. The items that are allowed inside the suitcase are 3 pairs of pants, 3 pairs of socks, 1 pair of shoes, 1 coat, 3 shirts, 3 undershirts, 3 pairs of underwear and 1 sweater. The bag and its contents must weigh less than 45 lbs and be equal to or smaller than 22x14x9 inches. 
 

   9. Where to stay- If you are going to visit Stewart Detention Center, El Refugio is a hospitality house in Lumpkin, GA that provides free meals, lodging and comfort on Saturday and Sunday. Volunteers will also visit detainees when their loved ones cannot visit. The volunteers are bilingual in English and Spanish. Contact El Refugio at 229-234-9022 and learn more on their website elrefugiostewart.org. Otherwise, the closest motel is Supervalue Inn, in Richland. It is called Supervalue Inn.
 

9. Where to stay- If you are going to visit Stewart Detention Center, El Refugio is a hospitality house in Lumpkin, GA that provides free meals, lodging and comfort on Saturday and Sunday. Volunteers will also visit detainees when their loved ones cannot visit. The volunteers are bilingual in English and Spanish. Contact El Refugio at 229-234-9022 and learn more on their website elrefugiostewart.org. Otherwise, the closest motel is Supervalue Inn, in Richland. It is called Supervalue Inn.
 
10. Get Support- During this stressful time support is essential.  If you don’t have one, finding a spiritual home will help tremendously. Also finding a good therapist that will understand your situation will help relieve some of the stress.  There are many agencies that have sliding fee scales in which you can pay less according to your income.  If you have children, they may also need therapy.  No matter what their age, children will be affected by the separation. It is important to pay attention to behavior changes and seek help. For more specific support, you can join the Facebook group Waiting for a Miracle-Separated by immigration detention and deportation.

11. Talking to your children-  It is important to talk to your children about what is happening. You do not need to share every detail but assure them that they are safe and that their family member is safe and that you are all working hard to bring the family member home.  Seek a therapist's assistance if you feel you need help talking to your children.

12. Find out the hearing dates- You can call 1-800-898-7180.  This is the INS court date phone line.  Have the detainee’s A# ready to enter. This is the fastest way and instead of calling your lawyer to get information, you can call this number and find out most court dates with the exception of bond hearing dates.

13. Fighting the case- To make changes in the system, we must fight these cases but it is important to know, it can be a very long frustrating process. Be prepared. Court dates can get cancelled and rescheduled. When court dates happen, parties involved may not be prepared or documents may be misplaced.  Find support and be supportive of your loved one.  Send mail, send money (if you can), and be understanding of their feelings.  Also, encourage the detainee to watch and listen to the orientation video inside the detention center.  It contains valuable information.  Make sure your loved one gets to know their ICE officer, ICE supervisor, CCA unit manager and CCA case manager. They can help the detainees.  It is important to be respectful and friendly, even when it is hard at times. Encourage your loved one to stay active mentally and physically by reading, using recreation time and interacting with others.  Their emotions will be up and down.  The immigration detention centers are lonely, sad, and degrading places. Remember to be compassionate and try not to depend only on them for your emotional well-being.  Part of that process is making sure you take care of yourself by finding support and using resources that are available.

14. Bonds- Consult your lawyer about how and where to pay for the immigration bond.  You may lose your money if you pay a local jail bond.  Make sure it is an immigration bond.  These are different types of bonds it is important to know the difference.

15. Take Action- Taking action can help you and your loved ones feel better.  Contact your representatives and congresspeople to tell them how you feel about immigration reform.  Sign petitions and write letters that are positive. Reform Immigration for America (http://reformimmigrationforamerica.org)  and www.change.org have updates and daily actions you can take.

16. More information: 

This is a very comprhensive document about everything you need to know legally when your loved one has been detained, especially in NC, although there is alot of good info that applies to other states too.  It is written by NC Immigrant Justice Project:

http://www.ncjustice.org/docs/PickedUpEng.pdf

http://www.ncjustice.org/docs/PickedUpSp.pdf

Here is some other important information about being confronted by police or ICE agents:
http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/bustcard_eng_20100630.pdf


Know your rights:
http://www.aclu.org/images/resources/kyr_english.pdf

 

 







 

Pictures of Our Family

 

Check out the homecoming pictures!!

Take ACTION!

Sign other petitions that help immigrants!

Information

Stewart Detention Center is where Pedro was detained.

NACARA is the type of relief Pedro was granted. Click here to find out what it is.