From a letter sent to FFI by TTH, currently detained at the Northwest Processing Center

Dear Americans, who are anti-immigrants and Trump supporters,

I am a detainee at Northwest Detention Center (now is Northwest Processing Center). I would like you guys to know how your goverment has been treating us as immigrants who want a better life for us and our family. Please keep in mind that America is made of immigrants. President of the United States, Donald Trump, is a descendent of an immigrants. First Lady is an immigrant.

  • Americans, particularly who are anti-immigrants and support Trump, believe that immigrants steal their job opportunities. The fact is that we are hard workers who would do everything to support our families. Family is always our top priority. We work as farmers, janitors, senior caretakers, dumpsters, etc. Jobs that none of you guys Americans want to do.
  • In USA Today newspaper, on December 11, 2019, there was a huge article about U.S. farmers offered TN visa to Mexicans to work for them at the farm, with fancy titles, for cheap labor. Without immigrants who are willing to do hard and tough jobs, American labor market is in crisis. Also, ICE created a fake university to lure international students who wanted to come to American for higher education. They ended up arresting and deporting them to their countries because the university did not provide education or classes and the students were "supposed" to know that at the time they applied for the admission.
  • Immigrants, especially who are illegal and use fake social security numbers or IDs, are paying taxes without having taking any deductions or tax refunds back. Not like Americans who are legitimately working with proper paperwork, illegal immigrants know that they are risking their freedom and their lives by using fake social security [numbers]. However, they believe in paying taxes to support the American economy. They do not depend on the government to support them just like Americans.
  • Immigrants, who have lived their whole lives or half of their lives in American, establish their family here. They choose to live in America because they believe in the country's fairness, freedom and the support from the community. Even though Congress passed legislations to allow immigratns to be released back into the community, Americans need to understand that it is very hard for us to be granted those reliefs. Deporting us who have families in America is similar to giving us a life sentence. We have to leave our families behind, especially our children who are Americans. Families are broken because of this system. Children cannot live iwht both of their parents, not because of divorce, but because of immigration issues.
  • The biggest issue with being detained is not about all the physical [trauma] we suffer. It is all about the emotional and mental [trauma] from family separation. I can talk to my child but I cannot hold, kiss or hug them. I can talk to him all day, but when he gets sick or feels uncomfortable, I cannot be there to comfort him. Listening to him crying and calling "Mommy, help!" is one of the harshest punishments that every detainee who has children has to endure.
  • Every detainee and their families is facing a reality crisis, which is that there is a chance that we would have to be separated and might have never seen each other in person if I get deported. Even if my husband allows my son to live in my country with me, my son is facing a crisis that he has to be separated from his father, who will continue to live in America.
  • In this detention facility, we do not receive adequate support. I spend $300 a month to communicate with my family. That amount of money does not include foods and hygiene costs. I have a 3-year-old who has been away from his mother since he was only 2 months old. We have a strong bonding because I communicate with him every day. The cost of a video chat is 20 cents per minute. Please look at the situation! We actually make one of your companies, Telmate Corp., rich. They make money on detainees and their families, like Americans have a say, "Take advantage of the weak!"
  • Since we are the money topic, all items sold on commissary through Keefee Corp. are from Dollar Tree. Detainees pay double and triple the price of every item they sell here at NWDC. For a top ramen, it costs us 57 cents. While in prison, it costs 25 cents. In reality, it costs $1 for five top ramens and Dollar Tree stores. For a shampoo, VO5, it costs $4.95 + tax and fees. Our families and friends can deposit money into our accounts. The costs of the fees and taxes are so costsly. $20 deposit costs $4. As you can see, we are what make your country's economy grow.
  • We are in ICE detention for a civil matter. However, we are treated like criminals. [Unlike] criminals who complete their sentencs in prison or jail, we continue to be treated like criminals. As a normal person who live their lives, people get anxious and depressed to be in a holding cell, doing nothing, for hours. Being in a holding cell for hours is our daily activity. To an officer and to an outsider, it is okay to be in the holding cell for "security purposes." However, to us who actually have to be in the cell for that long, it is mental abuse.

In America, it is well documented how segretation terrorizes a person's mental health. Placing us in a holding cell with nothing to distract our minds is the same as placing people in segregation in prison. The difference is that people in prison "deserve" it as a punishment for their criminal behaviors and people in ICE detention are "onlyhere for a short-term, civil matter and security reasons." However, we are all treated the same way. In fact the officers at NWDC repeatedly told me personally, "this facility was like jail," no matter how you worded it.

We, detainees, are forced to use used clothes. Who uses used underwear (pantie for women especially when they have their periods), used socks (what if people have athlete's foot), used towels, etc. The facility's explanation was that they washed it. My question is: "Who uses used items like that?" Not the officers for sure. Not the GEO or DHS or INS employees. In fact, there are multiple officers who have told me that they would never use those items, ever.

Do not let GEO's handbook and video instructions fool you. We are not served foods as buffets or cafeteria as they show on the video. Our foods are served on a tray into our units, like how criminals get their food. We have been served moldy foods or foods with worms inside. It has happened multiple times. I personally got served with moldy eggs. Another detainee got served moldy turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. The most recent was around November 2019. A detainee had a living worm come out of her tray in D1. If an American eats rotten, mold, or a living bug inside their foods, they would call the Health Department and there will be an investigation launched. When we get those foods, the officer just simply gives us another tray. Obviously it has traumatized the person who receives it and around it. The officer simply puts Refused/Refusal as the detainee does not want the food. We have no one to call and report it except an officer who simply records it in his or her records.

The most recent incident was on December 14th, 2019. A detainee received a tray and found a dead fly in her lettuce.

We do not go to Medical because the doctors do not help us. The majority of the people here have constipation, me included. Instead of changing our diet, the doctors prescribe fiber pills and other medications. Most of the time, the pills do not work. We get tired of going to the doctors and they will do nothing to help with our medical conditions. There is an 80-year-old grandmother who suffers from all kinds of age-related pains. The doctor does not do anything but give her a shot to relieve her pain temporarily. I often ask her why she does not go to the doctor or seek medical help. Her reply is "They do not do anything. I do not want to get a shot." Americans like to prescribe medications or give out pain medications. Instead of changing things to save their money in the long run, they keep prescribing medications.

At GEO Corp. Inc. detention centers, there is no separate unit for people with mental health issues. I have been detained for around 11 months. I have seen at least 3 occasions that detainees get physically, mentally and emotionally abused by other detainees who have mental health breakdowns. There was one detainee who got slapped by a detainee. Another detainee, who already got deported back to Mexico, got hit on the head with a trash can. One more occasion was a detainee who was taking a shower who was involved in a slappy incident. A detainee pulled her shower curtain while she was taking a shower, where she expected privacy. It is a safety issue - the main objective and mission of the company, which they fail to do so badly.

When American sex offenders, murderers, etc. complete their sentences, they are allowed to be released into the community. They allow going to treatment and rehab. Immigrants who make mistakes - everyone does - they consider as dangers to the community that the ICE officers, immigration judges, Department of Justice blindsided. It does not matter which and how many classes they attend to better themselves, how many community supporters who forgive, support and give them a second chance, how desperate their families need them to reunite, and how they try their best to be better, much better than any American criminal can be. Don't Americans always say, "We believe in second chances. We believe in rehabilitation. We believe in family and community support?" What is the difference between Americans and immgrants? Perhaps it is because you guys are Americans and we are immigrants from other countries. In our point of view, it is a discrimination of our rece, original origin, and color. For us who are immgrants and get in trouble with the law, we have much more to lose than Americans. We know and understand that if we mess up one more time, we will lose everything.

Unlike a 72 convicted offender in King County, WA. This person, an American, got convicted 72 times. He completed his sentence and walked out on the street. For no reason, he poured coffee on a stranger's toddler. The judge gave him a 73rd chance to go to treatment. He escaped from the treatment's facility.

So Americans, is it fair to give us a "death sentence" by sending us back to a country we have not lived for half our lives, separate our children and families, just because we are immigrants?

ICE and Homeland Security waste taxpayer money in any way possible. People are ordered to be deported or people who just want to leave without fighting with the system spend unnecessary time in detention centers. As a normal common sense, you would think ICE will try to get them out of the country as soon as possible. For Mexican and Central Americans, it takes them a week. For other countries, it takes from 3 to 6 weeks to get them out of here. It is a waste of taxpayer money to continue to detain people.

We do not live a comfortable life her at detention center. We are suffering both physically, mentallly, and emotionally. We just want to let you know that we just want to be with our families, our children, and be normal. For us, doing the right things, which are attending any court hearing without being detained and following all the requirements from ICE, are very important to us. As I have mentioned above, we have a lot  more to lose than Americans. We will lose our whole lives and future if we make mistakes. We want to be great models for our children. We would not run away from the system which will give us a fair trial and proceeding. People, who cross the border, turn themselves in at the checkpoint because they want legal status to live in America. There is no reason for them to run from the system. Who wants to play hide-and-seek with the authorities their whole lives? Even if we are ordered to be deported, if we are allowed to take care of our children or our properties before we leave, it will cost your government and country much less money than if they detain us.

I have to give credit to the officers who work at GEO Group here. They work for the broken system, under restriction of ICE directions, but they make the best out of the worst situation. I would say around 90% of them officers who work here are nice and treat us with respect.

Treat us humanely and with dignity, we will respect Americans and America's government as how we are treated. Don't Americans have a saying, "Treat people the way you want to be treated?"

Let's say if nothing I mention here matters to you guys, I bet money does. To detain a detainee, it costs $300 per day. I have been in here for 11 months. It costs close to $11,000 just to detain me a month. There are people who have been detained for years. Can you think of what that money can do for your community, state and country? Why not save the taxpayers' money? Let us help the economy to grow, and use the money to solve other crises like homelessness, etc.? We just want you guys to realize that we are also humans and have human rights. This is not an American dream that we have dreamed of when we leave behind everything in our country to come to America.

Cover art by Jared Schwartz