Jose was detained at the Adelanto Detention Center in California for over a year, from 2015–2016

Photo Credit: Tina Shull

My name is Jose U. I am 44 years old and have lived in the United States for 24 years in the San Fernando Valley in California. I have been married 23 years to my wife, and we have two beautiful children, 22 years old, and 16 years old.

There have been a lot of things I’ve experienced in the duration of my time here. I have made mistakes like everyone else. But something has become very clear to me: it is through these experiences, and mistakes, I have learned to value what I have. I have realized how to mature and grow as long as I focus on the positive.

I would like to write down all of my experiences. I hope that in a not-distant future my book on my lived experiences can be read. For now, the focus is my history or small narration of what I’m living in this moment. October 21st, 2016, was the one year anniversary of my detention at Adelanto, California. I am a transfer from prison where I was sentenced to 3 years with 50% of time completed, which was 19 months. Now, I am stuck here in this detention center. During one of my first hearings, the judge asked me, “why have you spent so much time in prison over a DUI,” and for a charge that I paid a fine for to Los Angeles County?

It was a charge that never even went through because it never happened. I was sentenced to 1 year and did 7 months in prison over this. I told the judge that I did not know why I spent all this time in prison. The point is that I am still stuck in detention, putting up with inequalities, unfair treatment, and poor nutrition, and from horrible medical treatment that occurs here. The staff is not capable, rather they are unprofessional, lacking education and a work ethic, and the ability to communicate. They are so young, barely high school graduates. They do not have the patience or capability to accomplish this kind of work. It is irresponsible of the owners of these large private establishments to have staff that lack professionalism.

The stories to be told of the Latinx community are endless. It is no secret that greed and wealth are based on our suffering.

I have newspaper articles on the earnings made so they can live comfortably while we are easy prey, suffering along with our loved ones. Dishonest lawyers, bond companies, along with the staff and owners of these detention centers, through lies and false promises, steal money we do not have. They pretend to be something they are not and ignore the reality of what is happening.

Lawyers charge us $5,000-$6,000, and sometimes up to $10,000 for services. Sometimes they postpone hearings up to three months so they can keep charging us; they sometimes do not show up to hearings or call in sick to continue this game. Personally, I had a bad experience with one of these lawyers. This is sad and hurtful for us, for our wives, mothers, and relatives. They are the ones making sacrifices on the outside to pay the high costs of lawyer services.

There are so many things that are swept under the rug, and those of us who denounce irregularities, we always lose. We are impotent because of our legal status. They call us “criminals,” “undocumented,” and “wetbacks.” They humiliate us and separate us from our children and wives. We have arrived to the principle of suffering, as the word of God says. What we are living is something prophetic but many of us do not recognize this.

There are spiritual books available in the library, and computer access to limited information about laws and legal codes. Also, there are distractions, some might say “comfort,” for the many who prefer to focus on television, watching soap operas and obscene programs for 5 to 6 hours a day. Many do not want to read or write, much less share their history and experience of what happens here. Many do not recognize the psychological, sociological, emotional, and physical waste of being locked up in here. This is severe because our families are suffering and our children are traumatized and suffer social and economic effects — A catastrophe that leads to a lack of unity and fraternal love resulting from these separations. Due to our separation, my children and my wife have suffered and continue to suffer extremely.

It is very sad yet real. “We need to do something” and yet the humanitarian efforts are not enough.

“When governments or nations stop believing in God, there will be grave consequences.” (Proverbs 14:34 and 16:25)

I am not a writer or poet, nor theologian, nor a philosopher, nor am I educated. But if I must say something, it is that through my mistakes and mishaps I have been humiliated in the presence of my Creator and savior Jesus Christ. He is teaching me, so that my true story can serve as a voice demanding justice.

I think that if every human being had to answer for things we have said and done in our lifetimes, if everything we have ever done and our secrets came out publicly to the world, we would all be paying for something; or paying in the form of a prison sentence. Because what human being has not done something bad that does not deserve punishment? Everyone — perhaps every human being — in some way or another pays for their bad actions.

We all sin but not all have to confront an earthly tribunal nor face a judge. I want to be clear that I am not stating all of this for self-justification.

I have paid for my mistakes, and I continue to be judged once, twice and even three times under the law, for the same mistake.

This happens because we are a money-making machine for those people who lack compassion and do not think of the suffering they are causing our families. What the Bible speaks of continues to be fulfilled.

“Because of greed they will turn you (us) into commodities, under false pretenses. Due to such acts, their condemnation will soon come and their perdition is not too far away.” (II Peter 2:3)

Because we are foreigners or undocumented, as they like to call us, they consider us criminals or the worst of society. They point at us and judge us as if they do not commit mistakes. In all honesty, these laws are very unfair. We Hispanics and Latinos are people who acknowledge, but we also like to work and foremost, get ahead in life, accepting our mistakes and rectifying them accordingly, and renewing ourselves by focusing on the positive.

I would like the public to know how detention centers keep us here only to make more profit. They drain our money and oppress us. Those who own and operate the private detention centers do not have any compassion for our suffering. These human beings no doubt study the ways in which they can rob people blind while we without power cannot do anything about it.

While private detention centers continue to make a profit, things in here are not what they claim to be.

In newspapers and in the media, only a portion of what really happens gets reported.

There are horrible regulations in here. For example they lock us up 4 or 5 times per day, just to count us as if we are dogs. They take us outdoors 2–3 times a week for 1–2 hours when they should be taking us outside every day. They do not allow us to bring food into our dormitories, and when we try to bring food into the dormitory for various reasons, like not being hungry during eating hours or because the food is not tasty or cooked, they take our food away and throw it in the trash.

Besides the bad treatment from GEO, the personnel that work in the kitchen are not adequate. Many times the rice and beans contain rocks or hair; the apples and bananas are often rotten or have worms, and when we try to exchange our rotten fruit, the personnel yell angrily at us.

I truly believe that if a thorough inspection were conducted this place would not exist.

The medical services aren’t real professionals. The nurses have often given the wrong medication to a sick person, and sometimes they call the same person over many times to have blood withdrawn, later apologizing that they made a mistake. I remember one of my friends and cellmate, had medicine injected that he didn’t need until he told them that he wasn’t sick. And all they did was apologize to him. I have had a swollen foot for four months and I have been asking them to tell me what’s wrong but they ignore me. They did an x-ray and said that nothing is wrong. The pain in my foot is pretty strong and they told me to take 800mg of ibuprofen, which is hard on the liver.

Every day I have to climb onto the top bunk because they refuse to give me a lower bunk bed. I’ve asked for an ankle brace for my swelling because I want to go out and walk. They tell me that they don’t have them and that I don’t need it. If I ask for athlete’s foot cream to protect myself from fungus, they answer with rupugnance and even laugh, making fun of me. One time, they told me, “You just want everything,” and later said they would not give me anything and did not care if I was bothered or upset. “I do not care if you got mad,” they said.

With respect to drinking water, every day we wait for its delivery.

Sometimes they do not deliver drinking water at all and tell us to drink from the sink or the faucet. These are the things that happen in here.

Thank you for taking the time to read my small narrative, and taking the time to hear me out. There a lot of things that I would like to say now that you have given me the opportunity to express what is happening within these detention centers.

There is a lot more to be told.

Originally written in Spanish and translated by Rosa-Linda Fregoso and Angelica.