By Cindy Knoebel
Jennifer Gonzalez has tried seven times to visit her father at the Adelanto immigration detention center. And each time, she’s been turned away.
When Ismael Gonzales arrived at Adelanto ICE Processing Facility on December 5th, the facility was on lockdown due to an outbreak of chicken pox. He had already had chicken pox when he was 8 and living in Mexico, but since his family couldn’t produce any medical records to prove it, he’s been basically living in quarantine for nearly 11 straight weeks.
Ismael Gonzalez first came to the US in July 1996, when he was 21. He was struggling to find work in Mexico, and he and his wife recently had their first child, a boy.
By that time, his wife was already in the US, having arrived in 1993 on a visa, and traveling back and forth to Mexico. The couple now have four kids here with ages ranging from 27 to 8.
“My dad came here to find a better life for me and my brothers and sister, and to find work,” Jennifer says. Her father has held a variety of jobs since arriving in the US, and most recently worked in construction. The family lives in Riverside, CA.
"He and my mom were crying. ‘They got your dad,’ my mom told me."
Jennifer vividly remembers the day her father was picked up by ICE. “It was the week before Thanksgiving, on November 20th,” she recalls. “I was on vacation in Washington, and it was seven or eight o’clock at night when my brother Facetimed me. He and my mom were crying. ‘They got your dad,’ my mom told me. I couldn’t believe it – I was 20 hours away from California, and felt completely helpless. I started throwing up, I was so scared.”
She learned that her father and his partner from work had been on their way home, and his partner was driving and talking on the phone, when they got pulled over in Murietta. They thought it was the police, but it was border control. The officers asked for identification and discovered the two men didn’t have papers.
"But then we didn’t hear from him for a whole week. We didn’t know what had happened to him."
Jennifer continues, “My dad was able to call my mom for just a few minutes from his phone. But then we didn’t hear from him for a whole week. We didn’t know what had happened to him. When we finally found out where he was, we called and asked for information about him – but they wouldn’t provide any.”
What happened was that after being detained at Murietta County Jail for a week, Ismael was then transferred to the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, then to Arizona, and finally, on December 5th, to Adelanto.
After the November 20th Facetime call with her family, Jennifer and her fiancée, who was with her at the time, grabbed their things and drove immediately back to California. The family sought and found a lawyer, who told them Ismael would certainly not be released before Christmas.
Ismael’s first court hearing was scheduled for December 18th. The day before, his work partner had had his hearing – and was released. But Ismael’s hearing was cancelled due to the chickenpox quarantine. Another court date was cancelled when a judge called in sick.
She keeps calling and begging the officers to give her father his high blood pressure medicine.
Since being in detention Ismael has been diagnosed with high blood pressure and provided with medication. Jennifer says her father would be awakened at four o’clock in the morning to take it. Eventually, he was given the pills so he could take them himself. But two weeks ago, when he was down to only 3 doses, he asked the nurse for a refill only to be told he should’ve filled out a form a week ago so they could “get the pills ready.” She keeps calling and begging the officers to give her father his high blood pressure medicine. “They say yeah, yeah, yeah, and then when I call my dad, he tells me they still haven’t given him anything,” she says.
She was told the quarantine would end on February 12th – too late for her father’s hearing on February 11th, which was cancelled. Her father told her that everyone has been checked, and no cases have been found, but the quarantine was reinstated. Most recently, Jennifer was told that they plan to lift it on February 25th.
During all this time, Jennifer continued to try and visit her father. Even when she calls in advance to confirm her visit, she’s still turned away when she arrives because of the never-ending quarantine.
“My dad says, ‘I’m done. I just want to sign, to get out of here, they treat me so badly here.’ But who will support our family?"
Jennifer says her father is growing increasingly frustrated and is actually considering signing his deportation papers. “We don’t know who to call or what to do,” she says. “My dad says, ‘I’m done. I just want to sign, to get out of here, they treat me so badly here.’ But who will support our family? If he leaves, it will be a total loss for us.”