Journey of an Immigration Delegations: Delegates’ Notes (2014)

Delegates met face to face with about three detainees at one time.  ICE allowed a total of 90 minutes.  Over 85 persons had signed up to meet with the group.  To preserve anonymity and privacy detainees’ names are not identified.  A detainee’s name appears as an initial.  The first name in red is the name of a delegate. 

1. Aileen 


J. (México)-18-20 yrs old 

J.  came to the United States at 8 years old with his family. At the time we spoke, he was in touch with family members currently living in Arizona. He was a level 2 “orange suit” detainee, and explained that he had been arrested for assaulting a police officer, which was how he arrived in detention.

When talking about conditions inside the detention center, he commented that some of the guards seemed to take pleasure in making the lives of the detainees as difficult as possible, within the extent of their authority. He cited situations in which they would withhold bottles of shampoo and other small commissary items for no apparent reason other than to provoke detainees. He also mentioned that on a particular day there were so many detainees waiting to take a shower that the guards had them all shower together in an open area (as opposed to private stalls). This made him very uncomfortable as other men jeered and made comments.

J.  (México)-approx. 20 yrs old

J. came to the United States at 2 years old with his family. He grew up in Texas and was in touch with his family that still lives in the state. He had been in the detention center for over a year, possibly because he was contesting his deportation order. He was arrested for minor drug possession, which was how he arrived in detention.

When talking about life in detention, J. also highlighted spotty treatment by the guards, as well as a lack of communication about court dates and the progress of individual detainees’ cases. He also mentioned that many detainees felt isolated and frustrated with being held for prolonged periods of time without knowing what was happening.

D.  (Romania)-approx. 40 yrs old

D.  came to the U.S. in 1979 and, according to him, got caught up in the “wrong crowd”, which led him to break the law (my foggy memory thinks his infractions were related to drug possession and/or petty crimes). He had several children, one of whom was currently attending college in the U.S. Apparently, D. old criminal record recently came to the attention of ICE which led to his detention. He had been in Pearsall for over two years fighting his case and trying to demonstrate his ties to the community and civic participation as a spiritual adviser. He also alluded to his father’s anti-communist work in Romania as another reason why he couldn’t return to that country; however, I don’t know if he said that in part to support an asylum petition that he might have been undertaking in the U.S.

Besides these remarkable details, D.  also expressed his gratitude to us for having visited the center and listened to the men’s stories. He said that in the two-plus years he had been in detention, he had never seen any other community groups do a visitation like ours. He, and all the men we spoke to, seemed very grateful for our presence there.

R.(El Salvador)-approx. mid-30s

R.  was an interesting person. He was the only detainee we interviewed who, before signing the release form, directly asked us what our conversation would do for the men. He struck me as a very street-savvy, articulate, but potentially deceptive man. He had come to the U.S. recently with his wife and her sister to escape gang violence in El Salvador. He admitted that he had been dealing in drugs, which led to his arrest and detention, and that his wife had been detained at another center before being released. He also mentioned that he was not enamored with the U.S., despite what other people might say about the opportunities here, and he left El Salvador simply because of the insecurity and fear of gang reprisals.

When we asked about his experience in the detention center, R.  was adamant that the guards treated the men as “sub-human”, the food was only fit for dogs “perros”, and the detainees could only eat meat twice a month. He also said he was in touch with his family, and that they had hired a private lawyer to fight his immigration case. Unfortunately, the lawyer was unscrupulous, took the family’s money, and never returned their phone calls.

Of all the men we spoke with, R.  was the most vocally grateful for our visit. He repeatedly said thank you at the end of our interview, and in the final moments before the men were lead out of the room he echoed those thanks.

R. (México)-approx. mid-30s

R. was from Aguascalientes and arrived to the U.S. by crossing the Rio Grande. He had a wife and young child in the U.S. with whom he was in touch, and who miss him very much, he said. When we spoke, R had been detained for five months and was visibly exasperated with the legal process inside Pearsall. One of his greatest complaints was the lack of communication about the detainees’ immigration cases. In particular, he mentioned that appointments with the judges were often announced at the last minute which caused him a lot of frustration and anxiety.

J.(Honduras)-approx. early 20s

J.  was one of the youngest detainees we spoke with. He said he arrived to the U.S. by crossing Mexico on the cargo freight trains popularly known as “La Bestia”. He also commented that he had been at Pearsall for over a year, and that he was in the process of requesting asylum.



2. Christian

CHRISTIAN’S NOTES RE Detainee Interviews

Pearsall Detention Facility, 5/16/14


(1) M. (El Salvador)

At time of meeting had been in Pearsall for 6 months.

Deported from the U.S. in 2004

He is from El Salvador, Asylum Seeker (fleeing persecution for being gay)

28 year-old, partial English speaker and has 6 brothers in North Carolina.

American Gateways (legal aid nonprofit) came for orientation purposes to offer legal assistance, etc. but has had no response to his request for legal representation.

M.  paid someone to bring him across the border, they kidnapped him, threatened to give him over to the cartels to have him killed, and held him for days;

It took him 2 months to get to the border; when his family in USA paid $10,000 to them, the kidnappers tossed him over the border for the Borer Patrol.

He was picked-up by the Border Patrpol, quickly taken, no abuse, and tossed into one of the “hieleras” for 5 days: very cold, only given a small sandwich, a little bit of water, no phone calls, refused to give him things, rude because of his nationality.

M. was transferred to Pearsall; OK treatment, Correcrtional officers yell at them and are rude. When transferred he spent 4 days in a mass containment cell with 100 other straight men. He had panic attacks, found it difficult to use the toilet in front of all those men, asked to be moved but was refused (no segregation room). So, he said he “just got used to it”.

The COs would joke/mock and poke fun at him.

Pearsall used to have separate cells for LGBT men, but no longer.

During the first 2 months he was assaulted by two other detainees, stripped him naked, but a staff officer stopped them before they could go further.

Feels discriminated because of his sexuality.

He is running away from El Salvador where they would kill him because he is gay; his nephew paid a gang to kill him because he was gay. Beaten and verbally abused, an attempt to rape or gang rape him. No police help. (All of this happened in Feb. 2010)

He moved from his home city to another in El Salvador to get cash for his trip to the US, then over the border, then up to Canada.

He says it is difficult to be here because there is no guarantee that he will get asylum.

It is going to be three months until his court hearing, after which he will not appeal if it fails because it is too painful. Will have to return to El Salvador, then will try for asylum in Europe.

Has tried to get the police report from the attempted rape, requested his El Salvador family to get it from the police, so he could use it as proof to obtain asylum. The police must have buried it or never filed one.

He was raped from age 7 to 13, beaten at school by bigots and discriminated by his family and community because he is gay.

He feels insecure; he left El Salvador because of depression and fear, came here to escape; he couldn’t speak out; didn’t ask for help; 2007 tried to apply for TBS, to get residency, denied and deported. Asked once if he was afraid to go back by a lawyer… he didn’t respond because of fear.

Themes in stories of detainees:

Intense Anxiety & Fear (an openly gay man, a history of physical, emotional, sexual abuse; insecure; on anxiety meds, meets with a psych; discrimination based on sexuality)

Hopelessness (cannot return to his country, his family in El Salvador will not take him back because he is gay, fears for his life; does not expect that he will be granted asylum, knew 10 other gay men at Pearsaul denied asylum & were deported)

Necessity/Endurance (disowned, held for ransom by coyotes in Mexico, kept in a “Hieleras”, the cold-boxes that the Border Patrol keeps, discriminated against because of his sexuality, once assaulted by 2 detainees at Pearsall – but he cannot return to El Salvador so he will continue to try for Canada or Europe)

(2) E. (Haiti)

4-month detainment

from Haiti (Leoganne), Asylum Seeker

32 years-old, Creole French, Spanish/English

-No US family, all back in Haiti; he hasn’t spoken to his family or communicated with them for over 6 years.

-Left in 2008; problem with the voodoo practitioners who want to kill him because he is Catholic; everybody in his village and his family practice voodoo. They beat him and stabbed him.

-Long journey up through Central America: 1 ½ years in DR, 1 ½ years in Panama, 1 year in Nicaragua, 1 year in El Salvador, 1 year in Belize, 2 months in Mexico. Worked for food, or cash, or a place to sleep. He was discriminated because he was black, laughed at, lived in the brush, at garbage. Then he crossed the bridge and turned himself over. At the border he was not treated poorly; they asked him why he came. In Mexico he was beaten and was still bleeding when he crossed the bridge. They gave him a burger and a coke and sent him on to Pearsaul.

-Gave me his ID number: A-205839974

-At Pearsaul he was given a bed, food, etc. (3x a day), soccer, and exercise; no problems with the COs, keeps his head down and keeps his distance; some show no respect, he tries to show respect to all; some sympathy from the COs and they help him get forms and tell him what he has to do with the forms, etc.

-Court Date June 17th; nothing at home for him, poor and he fears for his life.

-Voodoo sacrifice, beat and killed people, violence – he refused and converted to Catholicism, which his community called a white people’s religion.

-Thanks God for protection, education, for the COs, for safety. (will not say anything bad about anyone in the PS admin…)

-High School education, no chance for university.


Necessity/Endurance (fled Haiti because of religious persecution [he is Catholic and was threatened by practitioners of voodoo] fears for his life – lived in Dominican Republic, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Belize, Mexico, homeless)

Impotent Sympathy (the PS guards, Border Patrol, judges, etc. all say that they believe he should be granted asylum [based on recent media attention on Haiti] but no real legal help is offered)


(3) F. (Honduras)

2-month detainment

lived in New York City for roughly 7 years, has a US-born daughter, who is now living with his mother in Honduras; from Honduras, Asylum Seeker

32 year-old, partial English speaker

3 brothers (1 NYC, 2 Georgia) & 5 cousins in the US

-From Siguatepeque, Honduras – wrote the name down for me, very methodically, slowly. Lived in NY, has an ex-wife, lived in Long Island for 2 years, 4 years Central Eisley. Worked in Honduras for his father as a farmer; worked as a roofer in NYC.

-Has a tattoo of barbed wire over a long stomach scar/ says that La Esperanza (the Spirit, the Holy Spirit) looks over him.

-Crossed twice.

-Mother and Father in Honduras and 6 more brothers.

-No legal help at PS.

-A cartel leader killed one of his brothers and nephews in Honduras, shot Fredy four times; afterwards Fredy moved from city to city, fleeing the cartel. Fled police corruption, a $50,000 bounty paid to the cops to catch him and turn him over to the cartel boss, Marco Antonia Elvir Aguilar (wanted by the DEA). His neighborhood (with 40 families) was shot up by Marco’s cartel. While fleeing he had to jump from one bus to another to flee a thug/hitman. Moved to Puerto Lampira, in the state of Gracias Adios.

-Bused to the border, stayed in an over-crowded safehouse for days, then walked to the border, swam from Reynosa to McAllen, TX, border patrol got him at a checkpoint. They pushed him and told him to go back, asked him why he came. Fredy said that the Mexican chicanos were bad people; they asked again and again why he came. On the border for 7 days; sent to Port Isabel; then to Pearsaul.

-At Pearsall he has water, food, shelter; waiting for ICE to send him to court, he has never seen a judge at PS. One man working for his papers. Needs hi passport, called the Honduran Consul but received no response, lost his credentials in transit.

-Thanked us for hearing his story and said that “Here, only God listens.”



(E (Haiti)… had come across…)

Guatemalan, Mexican, Nicaraguan, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Somalia, Ecuador, Honduras, Belize


Observations of the Pearsall Detention Facility:

First impression: rows of stocky, boxed, chin link-topped pens (“exercise yards”) – the throb of basketballs on pavement, the silence of the shot, the wordless calls of triumph, foul, or simple winded respite.

Randal Henderson (ICE Field Officer)

  1. Mr. Short (Geo Group Officer)

May 2005, 1020 beds up to 1821 beds, was Male and Female; as of January 2010 it is now an all male facility.

2036 sq/ft.


Henderson totes their “Full-sized Soccer Field” like a badge of honor…

100 man units/ 64 man/ 2 man (REDS)

On site courtrooms, medical units, dentists, rec fields; they do TB checks, chest X-rays; no onsite judges until 2003, now 3 assigned judges (hearings, allegedly, 8:30 to 5pm Monday through Friday)

Credible Fear Process

Reasonable Fear Process

  • monikers for asylum seekers…

Usually at full capacity, as of 5/16/14 there are 1698 detainees, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico – buses rolled in that night to refill – by 2013 ICE had removed 13,000 individuals from the facility.

Henderson set the average stay at 24.73…

Henderson claims that generally Guatemalan and Honduran detainees are subjected to expedited removal within a week of their arrival.

RGV = Rio Grande Valley

an “El Sal” = ICE jargon for an El Salvadoran

Arizona and Louisiana have ICE air ops locations (135 seat planes used to deport, needs 100 persons to take-off)

ICE run only facilities in the USA: Chrome (FL), El Centro (CA), Batavia (NY), Port Isabel (TX).

Dedicated CGFs (?) – detainee category?

Border Patrol/Customs and Border Protection are in control of detainees at the borders, ICE/GeoGroup takes control at facilities.

Border re-crossing is a “criminal act”, but cannot be prosecuted in all cases; the 2nd re-cross has a higher penalty and re-crossers would be considered level 2 detainees.

Del Rio Border Patrol prosecutes 100% of border crossers (usually get time served, roughly 30 days)

Misdemeanor = crossing the border once

Do they have right to attorney? Henderson stressed that it is not a criminal facility, it is Administrative Detention, they hold, hear cases (Asylum), deport/transfer (air or bus). Border patrol provides attorneys during their proceedings.

Henderson = a bald-headed man with a bureaucrat’s silver wristwatch, a neck obscured by a fringe of flesh, cheeks like falls of skin, eyes bored, rote, practiced in the number-game of ICE. Dressed in a caftan of a blue dress shirt, voluminous slacks, his gut slung low over his belt, a distended ridge. His hands are large, those of a fat man, but delicate, well-manicured, pinkish, thin-fingered for a fat man. Pencil-pusher’s spectacles.

On the map the dorms are like meatpacking plant floors sprouting from a central chute.

Somalia, Eratrea, Ethiopean detainees come up from Central America, over land, usually across the border bridge and claim the asylum, some are caught out in the brush.

24/7 interpreter access

Indigenous people, not often, and interpreters are hard to get by ICE, DoJ, DoHS…

Transgender, apparently segregated from the population and considered by the Admin to be male, the gender they were born as. LGBT are, allegedly, given a choice to go gen pop or not.

400-500/day Asylum proceedings

Officer Short: a soft-spoken, young-faced, bull-dog in blue with a greying flat-top.

The Geo Group reps wear tan uniforms, militaristic.

Smells like rubber, latex, paint, and boiled hot dogs

Intake Panopticon – laid out the usual inmate kit on a table:

3 pairs of underwear

3 pairs of socks

a detainee handbook

slip-on shoes and shower shoes

toiletries (shampoo, soap, cup, toothpaste, lotion, toothbrush, comb, gel)

sheets (white) & a blanket (grey)

3 t-shirts

3 uniforms (pants & shirt, red, blue, or orange)


hamper bag


In one of the intake pens, recent arrival, their hands and feet cuffed, a big man, bull arms, grey flat-top, acid-washed shirt (or tye-dyed pink & blue), looks Eastern European, Croatian? Wry smile.

Chickenpox spreads in the Spring.

Capt. Haug (MD? or Pharma?) in he facility dispensary; one of the Immigrant Health Services Corp, a uniformed service, but civilians, operates under federal government (bars & stars), but are personnel at Pearsaul.

Allegedly no, as of yet, cases of suicide…

The Bunk House: open space – bunked cots – microwaves, phones, TVs – lockers – video conference phones – eat, sleep, shower, shit, and rec there (an attached basketball court) – a small room for religious services, a small group was holding a bible study, sitting along the walls on the floor – an onsite library cart service and small library.

The Library – computers with Lexis Nexis for law – printer access – small selection of book, both English and foreign language – saw a copy of The Pearl, The Count of Monte Cristo… — soft-covered, screened, donations…

At one point TXDC housed 72 nationalities.

Interviews; almost all Spanish speakers, 3 English speakers, a handful of bi-lingual:

  1. M(El Sal)
  2. E (Haitian)
  3. F (Honduran)


Contact Visits (with Attorneys)

Non-Contact (Family) through glass…


1088 days without accident, on an LED sign in a front intake office…

Randall Henderson (ICE) sounds like a soft-spoken John Goodman…

Request boxes in the dorms

GeoGroup Box (for material requests)

ICE Box (paperwork, legal, etc.) – (oh the irony…)

Medical Box (self-explanitory)

G-28, notice of representation of any alien

Positive Credible Fear

Positive Reasonable Fear

Officer Randall Henderson spoke of a man with a possession charge, they let him go to be with his wife who was getting brain surgery… he whipped that little gem out to perhaps pluck the cords of us “bleeding hearts”…


Officer Henderson, without fail, referred to the detainees as “Aliens”…

DHS, Detention & Removal Operations: Motto –

Probitas Virtus Praestantia

At Pearsaul there is a German-speaking Romanian man who has been in the center for 2 years; he lived in the US for a long while, had a family here, owned properties and a business; he was picked up for a misdemeanor charge from his youth…

An Iraqi detainee a year+ (Sunni), free by the American forces in Iraq from a prison at the end of the invasion of Iraq, taken to the US as a refugee – used to work out and lift, a body builder, and was deep into illegal steroid use – a friend asked him to hold some for him, he was busted (living in San Antonio), his friend fingered him as the ring leader – now he’s being labeled as a terrorist because of his nationality, if he goes back to Iraq he’s a dead man… he’d rather be anywhere but Iraq.



3. Arantxa ‘s Notes (translated) 


These are the notes of Arantxa (from Spain)


ATCF May 16, 2014

Habría como unos 65 detenidos. 3 blancos. 6 personas sólo hablaban un poco de inglés. 2 sólo inglés.

There were about 65 detainees. Three White, only six spoke a bit of English and 2 Only spoke English in this group.


R. (Honduras)

Profesor de educación primaria. Le secuestró el Cartel de Carlos Quintero durante dos semanas, mientras migaraba. Le obligaron a hacer cosas terribles como enterrar a una persona. Huyó.

R is a primary school teacher. He was taken by the Carlos Quintero Cartel for two weeks while he was migrating from Honduras. They forced him to do terrible things like burying a person. So he fled.


Es de Honduras. Mataron a su familia. Estaba sobornado. Huyó. Vivió en Laredo, Texas, y le entregaron a ICE por la S-Comm. Lleva en Pearsall 6 meses.


He is from Honduras. They killed his whole family. He was captured and controlled. That is why he fled. He lived in Laredo, TX and he was turned over to ICE under the Secure Communities program. He’s been in Pearsall for 6 months.


Hielera: trato inhumano. The placement of detainees in the “ice lockers” at the border is inhumane.


Pearsall: buen trato. Desesperación de estar solo. Quiere solicitar un trabajo en el Centro. Teléfono, te dejan 3 mins cuando entras, pero a él no le dejaron, le cortaron la llamada (lo hacen habitualmente si no les gusta de lo que hablas).

Todo está en inglés, no hay intérpretes


At Pearsall he has been treated bettter. He is desperate at being all alone. He would like to apply for work in the Center. As for pone use detainees are allowed 3 minutes when you come in, but he was not able to get that privilege, they cut off his call. The staff also regularly cut off pone calls if they don’t like what you are talking about about.   Everything is in English in the detention facility. There are no translators or interpreters.


EEUU: no me gustan como son las leyes, no te respetan los derechos. Vienes a respetar a la comunidad.


As to the United States, “I don’t like the laws, they do not respect your rights. We come here with the intention to respect society.”


M (Honduras)


Dos semanas secuestrado en un rancho en México, sin comida. De ahí les llevaron a “una línea”. Cuando les agarraron en Casa Grande (Tucson), un oficial de la BP les dijo que les iba a meter dos balas en la cabeza. Él pidió un psicólogo. Su vida corre peligro y no es un juego. Recibe amenazas.


M was held against his will on a ranch in Mexico without food. He was then taken to a lineup. When he was aprehended by the Border Patrol in Tucson a border officer told them he was going top ut two bullets in their head. Mario asked for psychological assistance.   His life is at risk and it’s not a game. He receives regularly threats.

Primero le llevan al Centro de detención de Valverde “Te va a cagar la madre”, le dice la migra.


He was first taken to the Detention Center in Valverde. The immigration authorities uttered obscenities (mother is going to shit on you).


Tiene miedo. I am afraid.


No sabe nada del proceso, no puede comunicarse con ninguna organización. “Nos tienen encerrados. Esperando lo que ICE quiere”

He understands nothing about the process, and he can’t communicate with any organization. They have us locked in, waiting until ICE decides what it wants.


“Yo quiero que respeten los derechos de uno. Nunca he soñado con el sueño americano

I would like for our human rights to be respected. I’ve never had the American Dream.   We need an organization to help us financially (for our cases?)


Necesitamos una organización que nos ayude con la fianza.


O #1 (Honduras) 34 años


Lleva 12 días en Pearsall, estuvo 3 días en el Centro de detención de Valverde y 6 días en la Hielera, allí (en la hielera) le maltrataron, como si fuera un criminal. En la hielera le daban un “taquito” al día para comer. Unas 100 personas en la misma celda. El agua de la llave del lavabo. Se puso muy malo, le internaron en Pearsall. Padece asma. En Pearsall esl trato es regular, ni bien, ni mal.

Estuvo viviendo 16 años en EU. Se le venció el permiso de trabajo. Le interceptó un retén de migración (S-Comm??)


O. had been at Pearsall for 12 days when we spoke; he was detained for 3 days at the Valverde facility; was 6 days in the ice locker; there he was mistreated, treated as if her were a criminal. In the ice lockers they gave him one taquito all day to eat. There are about 100 persons kept in the same cell. The wáter they have us drink is for the toilet. He got very sick and he was sent to the infirmary at Pearsall. He formerly lived in the U.s. for 16 years. His work permit expired. He was caught under the Secure Communities program.



J. (Honduras) 31 años


Salió de Honduras huyendo de problemas con el impuesto de guerra (extorsiones). Se fue el 11 de abril con su familia (mujer y dos hijas pequeñitas).


J left Honduras freeling the problems caused by war, extortions. He left the 11th of April with his family (his woman and two small daughters).


Ruta migratoria à Coyote: $5000. Vendió su taxi para pagarle. El 28 de abril cruzaron el río en tubos. Después caminaron 30 minutos hasta que les agarró la Border Patrol (BP).


He used the migratory route. A coyote charged him $5000 dollars.   He sold his taxi in order top ay the fee. On the 28th of April they crossed the river using tubes. Then they walked half an hour until they were caught by the Border Patrol.


Estuvo 2 días en la hielera. Su esposa e hijas tan sólo 12 horas. Les soltaron y están en Louisiana con la mamá de una amiga. Tienen una hija muy malita con hidrocefalia, la niña de 2 añitos. La otra tiene 12 años.


He was held two days in the ice locker. His wife and 2 daughters were held for 12 hours. They released them and they are in Louisiana with the mother of a friend> One of their daughters is very sick with encephalitis, the two year old. The other girl is 12 years old.


La BP: buen trato.  The Border Patrol treated them OK.


En el Centro de detención de Valverde estuvo 10 días. Llegó a Pearsall el 10 de mayo, esposado, como si fuera un criminal, por manos, pies y cintura. Trato regular.


At the Valverde detention center he stayed 10 days. He arrived at pearsall the 10th of May, in handcuffs, as if he were a criminal, both legs and hands. This is they way they are all treated.


Me pide que llame a su mujer y que le diga que la ama. Me da su número de teléfono. Dos semanas más tarde le llamo:


[he asked me if I would call his wife to tell her that I love her. He gave me his numnber. I called her two weeks later.]


J. (Mujer de ), Hondureña (his wife)

Está en Louisiana en casa de la mamá de una amiga. Sus hijas están muy bien, muy bien tratadas.

J, is in Louisiana in the home of a friend’s mother> Her daughters are OK, and they are getting treated well.

Ruta migratoria: terrible, angustiosa. “Uno viene porque su país está muy feo” Ella nunca hubiera expuesto a sus hijas por todo lo que tuvieron que pasar, ella no sabía lo que se iba a encontrar.

The migrants’ route we went on is terrible; makes you very anxious.   We leave our country because it’s horrible there. I never would have exposed my daughters to what we went through if I’d known what we would encounter.

“Mi país está muy feo. Los mareros (bandas), cobran impuestos, se hacen los dueños de las casas y de los barrios”. Engañados por el Coyote, muchas mentiras. Tuvieron que pasar el río a las 3 am con sus niñas en neumáticos, horrible, no quiere recordarlo, fue muy duro.

The situation in my country is awful. The gangs charge you taxes, they take over your homes and the neighborhoods. They were lied to by the coyote, Lots of lies. They had to cross the river at 3 in the morning with her daughters in pneumatic condition.

Ahora lo está pasando mal porque no sabe nada de su marido. Porque su hija pequeña está muy malita y tiene que cuidar mucho de ella, por lo que no puede buscar trabajo porque no tiene con quién dejar a su hija. La hija mayor a partir de agosto quiere que empiece a ir al colegio.


Things are bad now because I know nothing of what is going on with my husband. My smallest daughter is very sick and needs a lot of care, and I can’t get any work because I need someone to take care of my daughter. I want the older daughter to go back to school in August.


O #2. (Honduras)


La BP le agarró con violencia, le insultaron (‘Son of the bitch!’, ‘¿Dónde está la droga que traes??, eres un narcotraficante!). El oficial de la BP se apellidaba ‘Gallego’ (Spanish surname).

Tiene dos hijas nacidas aquí en EU, e incluso se está comprando una casa aquí. Aún así no le quieren dar fianza.

En la hielera les obligan a firmar papeles y no les explican lo que están firmando. Todo en inglés. Si no firman, les amenazan.

En la hielera las mantas (cobijas), son muy viejas, y sin lavar!!


W. (Honduras) 33 años

Es la segunda vez que le atrapan. La primera fue en abril del 2013, le agarraron en el check point de Falfurrias, en el desierto. Firmó deportación.

This is the second time for W being caught by the border patrol. He was first arrested in April last year (2013) at the checkpoint in Falfurrias TX in the desert. He signed the papers for self-deportation.

Esta vez en la hielera no quiso firmar nada.

This time when he was caught and placed in the ice locker he refused to sign.

Ruta migratoria por México muy peligrosa. Vino solo. Casi fue víctima de secuestro en Reinosa por un Cártel del crimen organizado.

The migrants’ route in Mexico is very dangerous. He came by himself. He came closet to being captured by one of the organized crime/drug cartels in Reynosa.

Cruzó el río, la BP ejerció abuso, le dio golpes en la espalda. Le reventó los dos dedos de los pies, sangraron.

He came by the river; think the Border patrol was very abusive; they struck him on the back. He suffered two broken toes and they bled.

Huyó de su país porque tenía problemas con las pandillas y fue víctima de un robo de dinero. Estaba amenazado por la policía.


He left his country because he had difficult encounters with gangs and he was the victim of a robbery of his money. He was threatened by the pólice.


Desde el 21 de diciembre está esperando la respuesta de la entrevista. Ha pedido asilo.

[this is may): he has been waiting since Dec 21 a response to his interview. He asked for asylum.

Trato en Pearsall: regular, variable.

The treatment by officials in Pearsall is regular; it varies.

Quiere ir a Florida porque allí tiene amistades.

He would like to get to Florida because he has friends there.


S (El Salvador) 29 años

Lleva 4 meses. Huyó de su país porque tenía problemas con las pandillas y la policía.

S has been in Pearsall for 4 months. He fled his country because of problems with organized criminal gangs and the pólice.

Ruta migratoria: iban 20 personas. Le costó $7500, se lo prestaron. Quiere ir a NY, tiene allí a un cuñado.

He came by the migrants’ route. Was part of a group of 20 people. It cost him $7500 dollars. He wants to get to New York as he has an in-law there.

Le pilló la Migra en una carretera que conduce a Houston.

He was aprehended on a highway that goes to and from Houston. They brought out the search dogs and he was beat up by the Border Patrol.

Les echaron a los perros. Fueron golpeados por la BP.

En la hielera estuvo 72 horas. Le obligaron a firmar.

He was in the ice locker for 72 hours and they forced hi to sign (self-deportation papers).


En Pearsall el trato es variable. A veces los oficiales, aunque sepan español, dicen que no saben. Otros, hacen el esfuerzo.

The treatment by staff in Pearsall varies. Sometimes the officials, even if they know Spanish pretend they don’t understand. Others make an effort.

Lleva 45 días esperando la entrevista. Está desesperado.

He’s been waiting for 45 days since his interview. He is desperate.


Y (Honduras) 26 años

Homosexual. Se va de su país por discriminación, persecución y falta de empleo. No tiene lugar en la sociedad hondureña.

Y is gay. He fled his country due to anti-gay discrimination, persecution and he can’t get work. He doesn’t fit in Honduran society>

Estudiaba Ingeniería Industrial en la Universidad, donde un traficante quería que traficara. Él se negó y le amenazaron de muerte. Huyó.

He was studying industrial engineering at a University; he encountered a drug trafficker who wanted him to do trafficking for them. He turned them down and they they threatened to kill him. So he fled.

El coyote le pedía $4500 hasta la frontera y $2000 después hasta Houston.

The coyote (human smugglers) asked him for $4500 dollars to get him to the border and another $2000 to get him to Houston.

Tiene una carta de apoyo de Casa Marianella para cuando salga.


He has a letter of support from Casa Marianella for when he is released.


Su madre y primo están en Houston.

His mother and cousin are in Houston.


Ruta migratoria: muy dura por México. Estuvo días sin comer. Lugares horribles para un homosexual. Cuando llegó a McAllen les dejaron en un lugar donde llegó inmediatamente la BP. Eran 15 personas cruzando, todos hombres.


The migrants’ route is very hard in Mexico. He went several days without eating. They were in places that were very bad if one is homosexual. When he got to McAllen he was taken to a place where the border patrol immediately showed up. There were 15 men trying to cross, all men.


La BP le golpeó, le tiraron al suelo, le pusieron los pies en la espalda. En la hielera estuvo 4 días. Estuvo fatal, sin agua, sin cobijas, sólo les dieron un plástico y no a todas las personas. Le cambiaron a otra hielera.


The border patrol officers beat him up, threw him to the floor and placed their boots on his back. He was placed 4 days in the ice locker. It was almost fatal, no blankers, no wáter, just a piece of plastic and not everyone got that. They put him in another ice locker.


En Pearsall lleva 9 meses. He has been in Pearsall for 9 months.


La celda para los gays sólo tiene una capacidad para 10 personas. Como estaba llena, pues cuando entró en Pearsall le llevaron a la celda de castigo porque tenían celdas libres, pero sin embargo, le trataron como a un castigado.


The cells for gay men only have room for 10 persons. Since it was full when he arrived at Pearsall they placed him in the solitary confinement cell but they treated him like a criminal.


Sólo podía ducharse 3 veces a la semana, y le llevaban esposado a las duchas. TV sólo una vez cada dos días y una hora.


He was allowed to bathe only 3 times per week and he was handcuffed even in the shower. They get TV only once per day every other day, for one hour.


No le atienden si necesita libros, lápices.

They do not supply them with books or pencils.


Un oficial se reía y se burlaba de él. Estuvo allí 12 días, y de allí le enviaron al cuarto de gays.

One of the officers would make fun of him. He was in that cell for 12 days and then they placed him in the room for gay men.


Tienen a una ‘consejera’. Siempre están aislados. Desde hace tres meses ya está con la población general. Allí está muy bien con sus compañeros, sólo tiene problemas con los oficiales.


He has a counselor. They are always isolated. He’s been with the general population for 3 months now. He’s OK there with his companions (other gay men?); his only problema is with the staff at Pearsall.



En una de las ocasiones, un oficial con conducta homofóbica ni les miraba, les hace moverse a ellos (presos gays) para poder pasar él, aunque no sea necesario.


One time one of the homophobis officers wouldn’t even look at them; he forces the gay detainees to move over so he can pass, even it isn’t necessary.


Él y sus compañeros gays pusieron una queja. Al tiempo les dijeron que habían solucionado el problema, pero realmente ellos no saben qué pasó porque el oficial sigue trabajando igual.

His fellow gay detainees filed a complaint. After a while they reported that the problema had been taken care of, but in reality the supervisors don’t know what happened because the staff oficial keeps doing the same thing.


También tuvo incidentes con los médicos. Uno de los doctores no quiso atenderles. A la tercera vez que preguntó por qué no les atendía, el médico les dijo en actitud prepotente e inquisidora “¡Cáyense!”. Se lo comunicaron al oficial del dormiorio, y el médico dijo que había sido una confusión y les atendió.


There was also an incident involving the medics. One of the doctors refused to treat them. When they inquired as to why the medic wouldn’t treat them he yelled back, “shut up!” They filed a report to the officer in charge of the dorm, and the medic replied that there had been some confusión so he then treated us.


Trabaja como limpiador de pasillos. He does janitorial work.


W#2 (Honduras) 21 años


Se va de Honduras por la discriminación, es homosexual. En McAllen le atrapa la BP, sufre maltrato. Un oficial le pone contra la pared con la intención de pegarle en la cara. Sufre abuso y discriminación, le amenazan con que le van a deportar y además le dicen: “te van a violar en una cárcel de México”.


He left Honduras because he is gay. He was arrested by the border patrol in McAllen and was mistreated there. One of the officers shoved him against the Wall with the intent to strike him in the face. He has experienced abuse and discrimination. He has been threatened with deportation and told “you are going to be raped in a Mexican jail.”


El camino migratorio: mucho riesgo. Un nicaragüense le obligó a tener sexo oral con él.

Ha pedido asilo. Lleva 6 meses encerrado. El juez le ha quitado la fianza por no tener los documentos.


The migrants’ route is very risky. A man from Nicaragua forced him to have oral sex.

En Pearsall sufre racismo. Siempre desconfían de ellos.


He has experienced racial discrimination at Pearsall. He is very distrustful of the staff there.



A (Honduras) 25 años


Miembro de una asociación de LGTB en Honduras. Los homosexuales en Honduras son denigrados, por la sociedad y las autoridades. Los militares hondureños entran en los clubs gays. Son maltratados psicológica y físicamente. Violaciones, secuestros à peligro constante.


A is a member of an LGBT organization in Honduras. Honduran gays experience discrimination by society and the authorities. Honduran members of the military go into the gay clus and mistreat them mentally and physically. They are unconstant threat of beatings, kidnapping and constantly in danger.

Trató de disimular mucho su homosexualidad en la ruta por temor a represalias, torturas o secuestros.

A tried to suppress his homosexual identity or tendencies during the migratory route for fear of reprisal, torture or being kidnapped.

En la frontera el coyote les dijo que corrieran, él se cayó al suelo, y la BP le levantó con mucha agresividad.

When they got to the border the coyote told them to run, he fell down and then the border patrol picked him very aggressively.


Estuvo en la hielera un día. No sufrió mucho allí, le atendieron bien.

He was in the ice locker only one day. He didn’t suffer there; they took care of him well there.


En Pearsall, los oficiales les denigran, siente mucho el racismo. Muchos hablan sólo inglés y no tienen traductores.


In Pearsall he is put down by the staff and feels a lot the racial discrimination. Everyone speaks English and there are no translators.






Toured So Texas Detention Center, May 16, 2014

(notes of Whitney Devin, delegation co-leader)


“[…] because in here, only God listens” – a detainee expressing gratitude for our visit


Data shared about the facility:


  • 1,851 beds (usually 1,830-1,840 occupancy)
  • 1,698 population on day of visit after flight to Honduras that morning
  • 236,000 square feet
  • 3 judges and 1 videoconference room are generally open and operating from 8:30AM-5PM every day
  • Population makeup is mostly Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras
  • 13,000 individuals deported from facility in 2013 fiscal year
    • 47 per day average
  • 23,000 men were “booked” in 2013 FY
  • 8,000 transferred to other facilities
  • 135 individuals on each flight out of US
  • 400 credible fear hearings each day


Medical services data:


  • 2RN, 7PA, 2MD, 2 Dentists, 1 Pharmacist
  • 60-70 full time medical staff
  • 17,000 prescriptions provided (2013)
    • given 2 week supply of prescriptions upon exit
  • 5,985 dental appointments (2013)
    • If detained for more than 6 months, will get routine dental check up




The tour started in a conference room with 2 ICE officials and one uniformed GeoServices guard. We were given an overview of the facility and had the opportunity to ask questions. Below are some points from this conversation:


  • Transgender individuals kept in separate area of the facility (space that was women’s segregation units – doors are kept open to common area)
  • LGBT have options available for safety (“we are required to keep them safe”)
  • When answering questions about legal charges faced by those who have entered repeatedly, the ICE official responded: “Actually it’s a criminal act the first time but DOJ can’t keep up.”
    • Second+ unauthorized entry sets individual in same category as other non-violent criminal offenders
  • Del Rio Pilot Project – 100% detained are prosecuted and processed at the border (rather than voluntary departure/catch and release). They are provided legal representation.
  • DOJ and DHS communication issues due to computer system being down for several months


We were then taken on a walking tour of the facility that included the following areas: detainee intake, medical services, soccer field, library and computer lab, one dormitory, and courtroom hallway.


“This facility does have the chickenpox…” – our welcome to begin the tour


Intake area: there was an incoming group who had both their hands and feet tied, one man was in a room alone (it was explained he may have TB), another room with a toilet in the corner was filled with a group that was already processed (they were holding a bag with their belongings)


Medical area: ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) – a division of public health services is a uniformed service but civilian (falls under fed gov’t)


Recreation: 1 hour every 2-3 days on soccer fields (1-2 dorms on field at once); can go to small concrete rec yard that is attached to dorm every day


Dorm: open air restrooms with no doors on stalls; one small room where detainees can assemble privately (glass door)


Library/Computer: computers access Lexis Nexis Law; lab was empty but guide claimed it is usually full; religious books are free


Jobs: $1/day (ICE) or $3/day (Geogroup)


Information COMPILED from delegates


  • Countries of origin: Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti, Kongo, Romania, Peru, Iraq, Venezuela, Ecuador [by second hand: Bangladesh, China, Somalia, Belize]
  • Length of stay: 2 days – 2 years
  • Age: 18 years – 52+ years
  • Detainees’ family located in following US states: NY, GA, TX, AZ, IN, LA, NC, CA, FL, NJ




Psychological impact: frustration, isolation, feeling sub-human, confusion due to lack of information, severe anxiety


Journey and/or arrival: held in Hieleras; caught at border; kidnapping, assault, violence while traveling through Mexico


Motivations for migration: Escaping extortion, extreme poverty, organized crime violence


Abuse/Mistreatment: Forced to sign forms only in English, unable to communicate with family, guard special treatment and general lack of respect


As a group, the delegation also wanted to highlight the absurd practice of detaining an individual with deep community ties who has proven to be rehabilitated and/or has complied with all court requirements nearly a decade after a qualifying charge. Furthermore, the arbitrary and exorbitant bond amounts assigned to upstanding legal residents creates additional barriers in their case and further impacts the wellbeing of dependent family members.




  1. A 34-year-old US resident who was brought from Mexico to the US by his parents at 3 months old. He has not returned to Mexico since moving here as an infant but faces deportation due to an assault charge in his 20s. He was not told the charge would affect his immigration status and claims he acted in self-defense but has no evidence because the event was so many years ago. He expressed deep feelings of outrage and humiliation with the system. A loving boyfriend to a pregnant girlfriend, he provides for her and her two adopted children by working for an oil company in Corpus Christi.


  1. Incomplete sample: Kidnapped and dumped, then held in icebox, victim of attempted rape while in detention (stopped by guards)


Writer, attorney, Lawprof Emerita from Northern Illinois University.
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