Roberto Carreiro has been detained for 18 months in Plymouth, Massachusetts

Image by @CartoonRalph

My name is Roberto Carreiro, and this is my story.

I was born in Portugal in 1976. My family and I entered the United States on March 13, 1981, with green cards at the Boston Logan Airport, and I’ve never been back to Portugal since then. I don’t speak, read, or write Portuguese. I went to school in the United States. When we first entered the United States, we lived in Bristol, Rhode Island. Eventually we moved to Fall River, Massachusetts, which is where I’ve lived most of my life. My parents, brothers, sister, nieces, nephews, uncles, and aunts all live in Fall River.

I have two children with two women. Sierra is my oldest. She is eleven. My son, Roberto Carreiro, Jr., just turned 5 in July. They both mean the world to me. Sierra lives in Tennessee with her mom, stepfather, and two sisters. I haven’t seen her in three years or more. It’s been a custody battle with her mom for me to be in Sierra’s life. Sierra is very special to me; she is legally blind. Roberto (Robert) lives with me and his mom, Starr. Starr and I have been together since 2009. We’ve had our ups and downs but always get through it together, and we hope to get married someday.

I’ve worked since I was 16 years old, and I always pay taxes and child support for my daughter. I have good family ties, and I help my community.

In late 2015, I witnessed the aftermath of a shooting at the Ships Cove Apartments in Fall River, where I live with my fiancée and son. I was the first on the scene and provided first aid to the victim after he had been shot twice, and I stayed on the scene and provided a statement to the police. Subsequently, in March 2016, I was summonsed to testify at trial about my observations of the victim and general observations of the night of the murder. I appeared at the Fall River District Court to testify on the matter during the trial Commonwealth v. Tate.

On April 10, 2016, I was picked up by ICE at Ships Cove Apartments. It was a Sunday morning when Falls River Police and two ICE agents knocked on my door at 9:30 a.m. asking for me.

I had never heard of ICE until that day. I never thought I would get picked up for the petty crimes that I am here for.

My last conviction was in 2010, when I pleaded guilty to something I didn’t even do just to get it over with in court. In 2009, I served 6 months at Bristol County for violating the restraining order that my daughter’s mother had against me through the Abuse Prevention Act to keep me out of my child’s life. I did my time and was released on April 10, 2009, on parole. It was all over a custody battle for my child. When ICE picked me up on April 10, 2016, they said that they had come because of the Abuse Prevention Act and my previous restraining order violation, and that I needed to see an immigration judge. But I was never given any information about how to contact one, and they never followed up with me regarding the matter.

Now, I am still detained and fighting to stay in the United States. My fiancée cries every time I call home. My son asks, “Daddy, when are you coming home? I need you, Daddy.” Those words eat me up inside. Sometimes I just want to end my life, but I know that it would be selfish of me to hurt them like that. So I keep telling him, “Soon, lil’ man, Daddy will be home with you,” but I don’t know if it’s going to happen. It’s been a struggle for my fiancée; we had never been apart since we’d met. I had never been away for a day since my son was born.

During my first 13 months being detained, I was at the Bristol County sheriff’s office, 15 minutes from my home. It was the worst time I had ever had in terms of medical care, food, bedding, and general living conditions. When ICE picked me up, I had a broken leg and had just had surgery three weeks before. It was a broken shin bone, and I had metal screws inserted at St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River. When I was detained, I was on crutches, and it took a long time for my leg to heal.

I was denied bond in 2016 and then denied again on May 5, 2017. My family really needs me, but I can’t do anything for them. I feel helpless and useless to them, but they still support me every day. My fiancée doesn’t have much family to help with our son. She tried getting a job but had no one to help with our son to drop him off or pick him up at daycare. She lost her job a few months later. She was 120 pounds when I was first detained, and now she’s down to only 100 pounds. She’s always stressed and overwhelmed about how to make ends meet. Since I’ve been gone, it’s been hard for her to pay the rent. She’s being evicted.

I went to court on November 16, 2016 for cancellation of removal, and that day, I was granted release and cancellation of removal. But on December 12, 2016, the lawyer for the DHS filed an appeal. I waited 5 months for an answer, and on May 7, 2017, I received a letter from the Court of Appeals informing me that the cancellation of removal had been reversed. When I got that news, I felt hollow inside, and I didn’t know how to handle it. All I could think was that they’re going to send me to a country that I know nothing about. Even worse, I don’t even speak the language. I have no family out there and don’t know where I will go or where I will be taken to.

I am scared. I don’t want to lose my family. My son will lose his father, and I’ll never see my daughter again. Just the thought of it kills me. I know I wasn’t born in the United States, but I consider myself an American. This country is all I know. I would fight and die for this country. My family lives here, and my life is here. Today I’m still fighting to stay in the United States.

Months into my detention, my fiancée became addicted to heroin, and as a result, she has lost custody of our son. She has been trying to get help, but she keeps relapsing. The Department of Children and Families took our son, who now lives with my fiancée’s brother. My fiancée’s addiction got worse after she heard the news about me losing my case, and she also got worse after losing our son. I wish I could be there to help her with her addiction.

My son’s heart is deteriorating with pain. His father was taken from him last year, and now he has been taken from his mother.

The immigration system is destroying our family. When I was detained at Bristol County, I was 15 minutes from my home, so at least my family could visit regularly. I have since been moved to Plymouth County Correctional Facility, which is an hour from home. My fiancée’s addiction and her loss of custody of our son are being used as evidence against me. I’m going back to court to try to get cancellation of removal again, and I hope to be allowed to stay in the United States. My son and his mother need me here. I am afraid that my son and I will lose his mother to drugs and that she will die from her addiction.

I have a lawyer, and she’s doing a very good job, but nothing is guaranteed. She’s not currently charging my family any money, and they don’t even have any money to give her.

I miss my family, and most of all, my children. I hate that my children have an immigrant for a father when they are both U.S. citizens. I can always be taken from them whenever the U.S government wants.

I’m called an alien, but I always thought an “alien” was someone from another world. I am a human, and I bleed the same color as everyone else.

Sometimes I just want to end my life, but I know that that would only hurt my family more.

I feel like human livestock; we get moved around like cattle. I hope that telling my story can help me. I have been in this country for 37 years. I came here legally with a green card. I don’t want to go to another country that I haven’t lived in since I was a young child. I don’t want to lose my family, and I don’t want to let them lose me.

I have now been detained for almost 18 months. I don’t get visitors anymore. My fiancée seems to have moved on, and my mother is afraid to drive the distance on highways. My immigration judge has sent my case back to the Board of Immigration Appeals to reconsider, so I might get an answer by November or December, and at the same time a criminal lawyer is working on vacating my charges. If I lose, they might deport me. I’m praying for the best.

Thank you for reading my story.

Roberto shared this written testimony with Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) to be published in IMM Print. It was transcribed and lightly edited by Nina Randazzo, a graduate student in Earth Sciences at Stanford. To learn more about immigration detention, visit

Subscribe to receive a weekly digest of stories from immigration detention in your inbox.

Read more Detention Stories on IMM Print.