by Mari*, currently detained at Adelanto Detention Facility
Telling my story is very important to me. I want to share my journey and my dreams, and the hope that pushes me to carry on, and about the reality of being detained in Adelanto. But above all, I want others to see, through my experiences, that God does not abandon us, and when a door closes, a million windows open.
I am a lesbian, and I lived my whole life in a country where I am not socially accepted and the laws that are supposed to protect me are not followed, even by authorities.
In the summer of 2018, I fled Honduras with my girlfriend. The father of my girlfriend’s son had divulged information about our relationship and sexual orientation. My neighbors turned against us. Every day, they threw stones at us and would harass us. But this wasn’t enough for him—he wanted me dead. He hit me with the intent to kill me. I barely survived—and at that instant that I decided I’d have to leave my life in Honduras to live in peace.
It took us one month to reach McAllen. And the trip was horrible: we almost died from asphyxiation, they extorted us in Mexico, and the worst part is that at the end, they separated us.
On the way to Villahermosa, we almost died from asphyxiation in the truck that transported us. We were desperate because it was the first time that we were out of our own country and we were scared of the police in Mexico and of the border patrol, so we thought it was a better idea for our family to travel in a transport truck. But the moment they closed the doors of the truck, all of the air became heavy and we couldn’t breathe. [My girlfriend] has asthma and suffered a strong attack. We almost lost her.
Later, when we arrived at Villahermosa, some gang members kidnapped the three of us and threatened to rape and kill me and my girlfriend if our families didn’t give them money. We had nothing to eat and were very scared. Coincidentally, a woman saw us and she helped us escape and cross the river. It was clear that they would kill us in Mexico and Honduras, so we could only move forward by heading north.
When we arrived at McAllen, the border patrol detained us. The officials told us that they were going to separate us because they had never seen a case of two women who were a couple, with a young child. They didn’t recognize our relationship as a valid one because we weren’t married. But we would’ve never been able to marry in Honduras. And they separated us. I was very scared; they took me to four different rooms. Every time that I arrived at a new place, I would ask about my girlfriend and her son. But nobody told me anything. And I could only think about the little boy screaming my name, feeling scared, because they took me far away, handcuffed, in front of him. I remember that while he was crying, I told him, “My love, don’t cry—I’m only going off to do a few things and I’ll be back,” and he told me that he was scared. They took me to Port Isabel. For weeks, I had no news about them. It wasn’t until the last week of February that I received a call from my girlfriend, whom they had let go with her son. He only cried and asked where I was, he said he was scared. Every time he heard my voice, he would start to cry. He’s a very intelligent little boy, he knows that something’s not right. Then, I lost communication with them. They transferred me to Adelanto and I lost his number en route. I don’t think they know where I am now. It’s been 4 months.
Life at the Adelanto detention center was bearable before they knew I was a lesbian. The officers here found out and they began treating me differently, observing me more. Friends who have been here longer tell me that this is the way it is for gay people. They don’t allow us to have contact with anyone, and if we go up to someone to chat, they accuse us of harassment. We can’t have friends because they accuse us of being girlfriends and they scold us. One time, they followed me to the bathroom, watching me the whole time. When the guards walk by me, they point at me and laugh.
Also, here, I got sick and they haven’t provided me with proper care. At first, it was a mild pain in my chest, although sometimes I couldn’t breathe. I asked to see a doctor. They said my pain was caused by my stomach and gave me ibuprofen. The days passed and the pain became stronger—until one day, I couldn’t breathe. Here, the only thing they know to give is Tylenol and every time that I asked for help they’d tell me the same thing—and they gave me more Tylenol. The nurse didn’t believe me.
So I let some days pass without going to the doctor because they wouldn’t listen to me, or much less help me. I was like this for 3 weeks, until the pain returned with such intensity that it ran down my left arm, and my arm felt asleep and without sensation. They only gave me Tylenol for this and a pink pill that made me vomit. They kept saying that the pain was caused by my stomach. One day I got much worse and a friend asked the officials for help. But since it was a shift change, they left me unaccompanied for 1 hour. By then, I couldn’t move or breathe well. The officer told me to get up from my bed quickly and I said that I couldn’t. She was annoyed and didn’t take me to the doctor. I was in pain and unable to move all night. They didn’t come back to take me to a doctor. Last night, the pain returned with a greater intensity. I had never suffered from anything in my life or had anything more than a flu before coming here.
I have been praying at night for the pain to go away. I always feel sharp pains in my chest. This pain is caused by stress, my incarceration, and the anguish. The pain is increasingly more constant.
In February I had my credible fear interview and they gave me a bail of $25,000, but I have no sponsor and without a sponsor, I can’t reduce my bail amount. This has me worried. My second bail hearing is on August 6. I’m scared that they’ll take it away and that I’ll have to stay incarcerated 9 months or more until my case is resolved. I need to better understand the system in order to also know my rights. I want to be able to defend myself and debate with the judge. I want to be able to be with my family.
The thing that keeps me alive for the future is the solidarity with and support from friends that are here with me—especially those friends who are gay and understand the situations that I’ve experienced.
The first thing that I want to do to begin my life here is learn English. I also want to study civil engineering. I just want a normal life, without abuse or fear. I want to be who I am, and be with my family.
This story was based on an interview conducted by Cynthia Galaz of Freedom for Immigrants.
*Mari’s name has been changed for her safety
**Matrimony between same-sex individuals is strictly prohibited by way of an amendment to the Constitution in 2005. This amendment also prohibits recognizing matrimony occurring in other countries between same-sex individuals. There is a current case pending in the Supreme Court of Honduras that looks to legalize the equality of conjugal rights.