Cesar, who grew up in California, spent a year and a half in immigration detention before being deported to Mexico in June of 2017

U.S. Mexico Border Wall in Playas Tijuana. “La Poesia No Tiene Limites / Poetry Has No Limits” by Acción Poetica. Photo Credit: Tina Shull

*Cesar’s account below is from letters written between November 2016 and May 2017 and sent from the Adelanto Detention Facility in California. Adelanto is run by the private prison corporation GEO Group. Cesar was deported to Mexico in June of 2017.*

“I won’t stop helping those that need help here”

Thank you for your time in reading this letter and for your interest or should I say support to us in detention. Since my detention, December 10th, 2015, I’ve been trying to help those that I can here. As you might imagine, most people here lack the legal education to understand the process they are going through. So I fill out forms, explain what I understand and have been writing to anyone that can help us with our rights. I’ve been waiting for a response from the Office of the Inspector General. I filed a complaint against the inadequacies of the law library and the medical deficiencies at this facility. From what I’ve gathered here, the Department of Homeland Security issues the same information nationwide, thus the problem must be nationwide.

A little about myself. I grew up in Santa Ana, until I married in 2003. That didn’t last for more than five years but I did get three wonderful children. To date I’m fortunate with a boy, a girl, a boy, and a girl. My little one, I saw her when she was between 3 to 8 months of age through glass. Her mother works two jobs and fortunately she has done a good job. Our separation ended our relationship as a couple but we maintain a good relationship as parents.

Probably the hardest thing for all the family men here is our children. Faith and the knowledge that eventually I will be out keep me going.

As I mentioned before, I help others here with their legal paperwork. So far I’ve succeeded in one appeal, one cancellation of removal, and several bond hearings. Unfortunately, my assistance has gotten me in trouble here.

What happened was that there was a man from Guatemala who needed some documents translated. He suffered serious torture at the hands of the Guatemalan Army during their civil war in the ’80s and is seeking asylum, as he still has a military warrant for desertion from the Army. Four other soldiers that deserted with him have been executed upon capture since then. So I was translating official documents the way the institution here wants them done.

Now, I am locked out of the library system because they say it was an unauthorized use of the library account. Well, I’m not the one to back off of a legal claim when I am right and the Supreme Court has already ruled on such matters (Bounds v. Smith and Lewis v. Casey). As if I don’t have enough claims against this facility.

Regardless of what they say they want me to do I won’t stop helping those that need help here. Many don’t have anyone to help them. There is an agency named Esperanza but their assistance is limited and not everyone gets seen. I hope you do share this with others. It is motive for me to file suit. I’m collecting enough ammo to survive the battle when the time is right. I’ve written to the ACLU and other rights advocates to see if one hits.

“The government has ways of making a good thing bad”

You mentioned in your letter that for-profit facilities are “especially bad” nationwide. I can tell you from my perspective when I was initially incarcerated, I was incarcerated at Theo Lacy Jail in Orange County. The jail also houses immigration detainees. To me there is no difference there between the “detainees” and “inmates,” except that there are education programs available to inmates and not detainees. It’s the same food, same water, and the same extreme bad attitude from the sheriff deputies and jailers.

Not that I am pro-GEO, but I think people are better off here [at Adelanto] than at Theo Lacy. One guy here was moved out of Lacy because of inappropriate conduct by deputies at Lacy. I think it has to do with the fat wallet ICE has, and GEO has an image to keep with ICE. Much needs to be done here, rights-wise, but the jails are just that, jails, and not appropriate for what civil detention should be — CIVIL. So one thing that does keep the security personnel more respectful in my perspective is that GEO wants the contracts.

When you mention the end of private prisons in CA it makes me wonder if that would mean getting sent out of California to some out of state prison. I do know the government has ways of making a good thing bad.

We get La Opinion and the Victorville Daily Press newspapers so we are somewhat informed about what the President has been trying to push through. Something I’ve not seen mentioned is why the Department of Homeland Security keeps people detained unnecessarily.

There are people here that have agreed to be deported, ordered deported, but DHS still has them here in detention at $144 a day. For instance, there is a Canadian citizen that has been here over two months and has a deportation order signed by the immigration judge. Then there are people from countries across the oceans that can be here over a year after they have a deportation order. I’ve met several from Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Laos, and China that the government delays in sending them back. Someone should bring it to everyone’s attention that this would save taxpayers money and they don’t need more detention facilities if they remove those that want to leave and have been ordered to leave. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

“I won’t give up”

Here I am again, in limbo, but I won’t give up. The frustration with GEO just keeps increasing week by week. It’s indisputable that private prisons make money and are there for the money. At every corner, they try to cut corners.

For instance, when it comes to our meals there are times when they do little things to avoid expenses. Such as: you forgot your spork, good luck getting one, either borrow one or make a scene. Same with cups. If the menu includes dressing, butter, or some type of condiments, it’s a 50/50 chance you get it.

Now as far as my case goes, I received a motion from the government attorney opposing my stay of removal pending my appeal petition in the Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals. So if the motion is granted sometime in the next couple of weeks, I will be removed to Mexico. This can be very bad depending on what happens to me in Mexico and if I am able to return safely. The bad is that I’m not safe down there, aside from what I have already lost during my detention. However, I might be able to return to freedom after the legalities clear.

“With enough complaints, something will change”

I read about the contract expansion at Theo Lacy. Legally, civil detention is supposed to be a penalty, not a punishment. So why is it that after completing the punishment (sentence), the penalty (detention) remains the same: same living conditions, food, clothing, and disrespect from the sheriff’s deputies.

My bunkie was initially detained at Lacy. When he arrived there, he said the deputies were making derogatory and racist comments. They were calling the detainees names, like mother f******, wetbacks; telling them to go back to their country and don’t come back. What I told him and others with similar stories is that they need to complain to the right personnel. It needs to be documented for the government to take it seriously because eventually with enough complaints something will change. There are government employees specifically assigned to assess the seriousness of the complaint. Even though the process is arduous, eventually someone will get tired of the complaints, you just need to find the right person. Even Lee Baca didn’t escape decades of abuse. The biggest problem is getting others to actually file the complaint when it matters.

Well my case is still pending. What I can use is information on how to file a prisoner class action suit. Some type of information that would serve as a sample for me to initiate the process. I do know that I can file a personal habeas corpus complaint but I have a better chance of getting all the claims heard if it goes in as a class action suit.

Well that’s it for now. Thank you for your efforts.

Border wall art in Playas Tijuana. Photo Credit: Tina Shull

#### **Postscript — June, 2017**

I lost my Motion For Stay Of Removal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in May. However, in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California, there was a pending order that DHS was not to remove me from the country until my Habeas Corpus petition was resolved, or notice to the Court. I made the deportation officer aware but obviously they deported me anyway, against a Federal Judge’s order.

So as I am awaiting the transfer back to Mexico, I am told that if I complain to Mexican authorities that I have any medical problems, I will be returned to the detention center for medical screening and/or transferred to the San Diego County Jail for screening and they will lose me for about a week and I will get deported anyway. This was said to us by the subcontractor CCA [now CoreCivic]. Well I have medical problems that go back at least three years, that were not resolved at Adelanto, and I felt that they wouldn’t be resolved, so I kept my mouth shut so I can attempt to get medical treatment in Mexico, even though I maintain fear of the Police down here.

I stayed at the Casa Del Migrante, in Tijuana. When you can look it up, it’s run by an American priest and the kindness of the Catholic Church. Fortunately for me, I have found a place to live for now through a friend.

My mother tells me about what is being shown in the Spanish news channels about Adelanto Detention Facility. It’s not just that I was done an injustice, but companies profiting from indigent people needs to stop. Like Talcom, that doesn’t refund the money paid into the phone service ADF utilizes.

I maintain communication with as many people in my situation as possible — I meet so many people who have been deported and I try to get them assistance. Some have been removed illegally. As is the case of a barber I met that is the adopted son of a US citizen. I am trying to document what I am going through and what I am witnessing because as things stand, and with three lawyers’ opinions, the government is wrong, again.

Gladly I will keep you informed. Thank you for checking up and God Bless!

Cesar shared his story by corresponding with Tina Shull at Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC). His letters were transcribed and compiled by Natalie Naculich. To learn more about immigration detention and to join the movement to close immigrant prisons, visit endisolation.org.