For most people who have entered this place, it’s the start of a new life, but it begins badly, because this Detention Center—that they call a shelter for immigrants—but only those of us who live here know it’s really a jail.
The staff here treats us really poorly, they look at us with pity and revulsion. To begin with, most of the staff (not everyone) treats us as though we were animals or as though we were criminals who have committed a very serious crime, there are very few GEO employees who understand us, who know what it feels like to be a prisoner.
The food that they give us is completely disgusting. They don’t cook it properly, it’s either raw or burnt, there are times that it is inedible. That means we have to buy things from the Commissary, and the products there are overpriced.
When the GEO supervisors come to see how everything is, the GEO workers fill up the refrigerators with cookies, juice, and yogurt, even, to make it seem like everything is fine, but after they leave, the refrigerators are practically empty. We can’t take anything out of the refrigerator and take it back to our rooms, because they do inspections every week, and if they find anything from the dayroom or the kitchen, they take it and throw it in the trash, and write you up, because according to them, that is theft.
The air conditioning doesn’t work in some rooms; it’s been eight days without it. They have sent a request, but they haven’t fixed anything. The only thing they say is to open the door.
When a family member comes to see us, they give us a time limit for being with them, as though we were some kind of delinquents. Our only crime was to enter this country illegally, looking for a better future.
When someone is really sick, or feels bad, and goes to the doctor, they just give you an acetaminophen, or if not that, they tell you to drink enough water, but most of the time, they ignore you. Almost all of the babies get sick with colds or infections. Then the only thing they tell you is to run hot water in the shower, and they’ll breathe in the steam (supposedly that’s a treatment), but it’s more likely they are taking in a parasite, and get even sicker. A baby has to have a temperature of 104 before they will give you [cough] syrup or acetaminophen.
Every day we have to check in to the Rec Room three times daily for the “count:” at 7:30 in the morning, at 4:00 in the afternoon, and at 8:00 at night. If the babies are asleep at those times, you have to wake them up, or they will write you up. They don’t allow the children to have toys in their rooms, they embarrass them by saying they are stolen, and take them away.
They don’t allow us to have more than 6 changes of clothing, if you have more than 6 changes, they take away anything more. In order to change something that doesn’t fit you, you have to send a Request and wait two or three weeks for them to respond. If they do change out your clothes, first they embarrass you by saying everything you are given there is borrowed, you can’t stain it, tear it, ruin it, or any other thing, because when we leave, we have to return everything.
They are thinking of making this place much bigger, and for what? To hold more immigrant families, because they want to keep more people in these precarious conditions. Because they want to slow down the processing of so many families who are suffering here inside, because they want to force us to obey the rules of this detention center.
Why do they want to make this place bigger?
Because they want to keep more families apart.
Because they want to keep more families here for up to four months, just to deport them afterward.
Because they like to see people who were just looking for refuge suffer.
Because they don’t put themselves in our shoes for even one moment.
Because they destroy the dreams of people looking for refuge and protection, so we don’t have to return to our countries an be in danger.
When we go to the dining hall, we have to line up outsider the dining hall, no matter how cold or hot it is.