"Ah! No, please! Just give me your hand!"
When I heard the commotion, I jumped up from the cold concrete bench and headed towards the small window on the holding tank door. When I realized what I was looking at, it made me feel angry and scared at the same time. How could this be happening? Why isn't anyone stopping this?
I remember that morning in March of 2019. I was in Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield. At 4am one of the GEO officers woke me up saying, "Sir, please roll up your property. You're being released."
I was still half asleep but I knew I wasn't being released. My case was still in appeals court. I asked the GEO officer to please double-check. He got on the radio with his supervisor.
Sure enough, it was my name. I was confused and worried but I knew there was nothing I could do. So I packed up my property thinking, I gotta call my lawyer. I went to use the phone but my account was shut down. Luckily, my friend Smiley let me use his account to make phone calls. I got ahold of my lawyer and my sister - they both had no clue what was going on but they were looking into it.
With all my personal property in hand, tired but amped up with adrenaline, I headed down to the intake area of Mesa Verde. Soon after they processed me, the "G4S" got there. G4S is the agency that ICE/DHS uses for our transportation. They shackled me up and loaded me up along with 6 other detainees.
We arrived at the Bakersfield ICE field office property. They put us all in a holding tank. Before the G4S closed the door, I asked where I was going. He responded, "You're all being deported!"
My heart dropped. I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn't breath. I couldn't think. I stopped myself for a moment and tried to regain control of my thoughts. I knocked on the door so I could talk to someone. G4S came, asking what I wanted. I tried to explain that they were making a mistake with me. He told me to hang on while they checked. He called out one of the other detainees to the booking area and he closed the door. I took a seat while my mind and my heart were going a thousand miles per hour.
That's when I heard, "Ah! No, please!" and the ICE agent saying, "Just give me your hand." Through the small window on the tank door I could see the G4S grabbing the detainee by the back of his neck and the ICE agent grabbing the detainee's wrist, trying to force him to fingerprint.
In disbelief, anger and fear surged through me. They ended up putting that detainee in a separate holding tank.
A little while later an ICE agent called myname. I was terrified about what was gonna happen to me. I quickly got up and stepped out. I dug deep within myself and asked God for courage and strength.
"Can I please call my lawyer?"
"For what?" the ICE agent replied.
"Look, I'm still in appeals court. The judge granted me C.A.T.!"
"You weren't granted shit!" he responded.
"I got all my paperwork in my property to prove it."
"I don't care. We have an order for your removal."
Damn! I had to think quick. "Please, you're making a mistake. Just give me a 2 minute phone call. Please!"
He just stared at me for a few seconds. He must have seen the desperation on my face because he gave me the phone call.
I called my lawyer and told him I was being deported. He asked to speak to the ICE agent, but the agent said no. My lawyr had to fax over my 9th Circut Appeal docket number and my Emergency Motion to Stay, which is a motion for the courts to allow me to stay in the US until my case is over.
I hung up and the agent told me my lawyer had until 10am to fax over my documents or else at 11am I'm on a bus to the US-Mexico border. I went back to the holding tank praying for everything to go as needed.
About 20 minutes later, the ICE supervisor informed me that my documents got there and I would be going back to Mesa Verde in the next hour. I was so relieved. Then I thought about the poor detainee they were assaulting earlier. I could only imagine how he must have felt, helpless and humiliated. I wondered how many other people they must have done this to.
To this day I still have flashbacks of those terrifying moments. Luckily I spoke English and could defend myself from being forced to sign or fingerprint. G4S and ICE agents prey on detainees who can't speak up for themselves. Forcing their signatures and/or fingerprints using fear, physically and verbally assaulting them.
Where is the justice in that? Forcing something from someone using fear or physical focrs is "strong arm robbery." In this case, it's "Strong Arm Deportation."
Editor's note: JM was in immigration detention 33 months, at three different facilities in California. Thankfully, he was released on July 25.