From a letter sent to FFI from Felix Calderon Pedrosa, currently detained at La Palma Correctional Center. It details instances of physical and verbal abuse, medical neglect, racism, and retailatory punishments from ICE and CoreCivic officers.
I am an exiled political man from Cuba and I am fleeing from the dictatorship present in my country. Today, I am requesting asylum [from] La Palma Correctional Center.
I arrived at La Palma, entering from the the border of Sonora, on the 16th of October, 2019. I entered in order to turn myself in to immigration and request asylum in the USA. I had arrived tired and scared from the journey I went on through various countries. I was taken to ICE headquarters (la yelera) where I slept on a mattress on the floos and I ate burritos for approximately 2 days [until] I could be transferred to a detention center.
I arrived at La Palma in Arizona and I was very surprised to find that this place was called a detention center. It wasn't the way that I saw it on television and it was nothing like the way that my Cuban friends described it. At one point, they had come just like I did now, for the first time in their lives, so they had previously experienced this before.
This is a maximum security prison with prison laws, "so called" guards, and detainees that come from prison. They lock you up every 2 hours, practically for an hour or an hour and a half, in order to conduct a count on a daily basis, until it is 10 o'clock at night when you can no longer come out of your cell until the following day.
They treated me with contempt and they saw me as nothing but waste.
When I entered this prison, they put me in a cell to lock me up without telling me anything about what would happen to me. They treated me with contempt and they saw me as nothing but waste. I couldn't speak to my family until after 3 months because in order to make calls, you must have money in your account. If you don't, then you can't communicate with anybody on the outside. The free call that they gave me was 1 minute; I don't recall it being any longer. It wasn't nearly enough time to give any information about my whereabouts. I didn't even know where I was due to all the misinformation given.
Within a few days ICE interviewed me in order to determine credible fear, which I was able to prove. They also explained to me what the procedure is like here at La Palma and how ICE is supposed to conduct themselves, even though they fail to comply with their own set standards day by day. One of the first things they said, which I will never forget, was that my asylum case with the judge would be concluded in less than 6 months. At that time, everyone [here] had spent more than 7 or 8 months without finishing their case. I myself have spent [a] year and I still haven't finished my asylum case. Every time I want to speak to ICE or my deportation officer, I am forced to fill out a request form and they will, in turn, respond in 72 hours. I find that this is seldom if ever the case. In all the time that I've spent here, I still don't know who my deportation officer is.
Him and a few other officers took out their handcuffs and their mace solely for me asking a question.
The months began to pass without anything happening. I still don't have a court date nor have I been able to meet my deportation officer despite having sent requests on several occasions. I have spoken with my fellow detainees who have been here for an extended period of time. They told me that, in order to speak with ICE regarding my case, I had to go to Segregation (the hole, punishment cells). So, this is when I decided to speak to an officer upon leaving the cafeteria, explaining to him my problem with ICE, but he ignored me. He told me, in a loud manner, to keep walking. As a result, I told him to take me to Segregation along with 16 other individuals who also wanted to speak with ICE. Him and a few other officers took out their handcuffs and their mace solely for me asking a question. I thought they were going to assault me because I am from Cuba, and that is what we Cubans have to expect. We sat down on the floor. We didn't want to cause any problems; we only wanted to go to Segregation in order to speak to ICE.
While in Segregation, we met with the ICE officer [name withheld], but I couldn't speak to him very much about my case. He only said that court dates are scheduled within 3 to 4 months, and without asking anything else, he left. I spent 7 days in Segregation, showering only twice and leaving my cell only 3 times to go to yard.
Upon completing these days, they took me to Mohave Alpha where I met case manager [name withheld], who had previously threatened me, and in that moment of arrival, had threatened me once more. I asked to be moved to a different facility. I spoke with Unit Manager [name withheld], and she told me, using a contemptuous tone, that if I didn't like it here, she would send me to Segregation once more. I spoke with officer [name withheld] and with Case Manager [name withheld] to ask them for help, only to receive the same disdain. I started to notice a hint of racism against me in these people, since the hatred was directed only towards me. Within the next few days, I started to send requests to ICE Homeland Security, and to Warden [name withheld] in reference to the mistreatment, but they never responded.
It was at this time that I sent a request to medical telling them that I am depressed and that I want to die...
It was at this time that I sent a request to medical telling them that I am depressed and that I want to die because I could no longer stand being incarcerated and abused, since the whole purpose of fleeing from Cuba in the first place was to escape being incarcerated and mistreated.
They locked me in a cell without clothing [and] I [slept] on the floor, with only bread to eat for an entire day.
The next day I was taken to medical so that they could ask me if I wanted to hurt myself or anybody else. I only told them about what was happening to me, about the threats and mistreatment and racism that I experienced in the facility where they decided to take me. However, it seemed as though medical didn't care about what I had to say. They locked me in a cell without clothing [and] I [slept] on the floor, with only bread to eat for an entire day. The only way that I could leave the cell was to tell them, while being recorded, that I didn't want to commit suicide. This procedure reminded me of Cuba. These methods of torture are applied to people who are in opposition [to] the government.
Upon leaving the hospital, I was taken back to Mohave Alpha once again, where the threats of the officers changed. Now, the threats were coming from a different source; the threats were coming from Officer [name withheld] and Officer [name withheld] from Investigation, who still continue to threaten me to this day.
I explained all of this to ICE through a request form, and for the first time in 3 months, after much resistance, they responded. They told me that one officer would speak to me, a promise which, to this day, I am still waiting for them to fulfill. In time, I decided to go to Segregation voluntarily in order to speak with ICE about this kind of mistreatment and racism.
Officer [name withheld] told another man to turn off the camera, and then proceeded to throw me to the floor with the aid of another officer.
On the 5th of December, I left towards the cafeteria, and I asked an officer, once again, along with 5 other people, to take me to Segregation so that we could speak with ICE. In that moment I confirmed the racism that occurs at La Palma because there were 5 light-skinned people, and I was the only dark-skinned person there, who they called upon first, and handcuffed me. They started filming the entire procedure with a camera, but when I told the officers, in a calm manner and with my back turned to him, that he was hurting my arm, they didn't listen to me. This was when Officer [name withheld] told another man to turn off the camera, and then proceeded to throw me to the floor with the aid of another officer. During the process they hit me in the knee and face. Without any sort of resistance, I asked the officers that were watching for help, but no one offered me any help. I only heard a voice, that I couldn't identify, telling them to ease up. They took me to the hospital, and following me were the other detainees who didn't experience any of the same abuse that I did. On the contrary, they were treated with respect. Supposedly, I was examined in medical, but they failed to see that I had been injured in my knee and face.
He didn't care about what I had to say; he simply kept calling me a delinquent.
Afterwards, medical decided that I was fine and they took me to Segregation. Officer [name withheld] soon appeared and told me that what the officers did was well done. He told me that I was acting like a delinquent despite the fact that I told him about the problems I've had here at La Palma and after showing him the injuries on my knee and face. He didn't care about what I had to say; he simply kept calling me a delinquent.
I started complaining to Washington DC over the phone at 1-800-323-8603, speaking to [name withheld] from National Security, telling her all of my complaints up to the present day as well as those of other detainees, such as [name withheld] who had suffered an assault here at La Palma at the hands of officers [names withheld], to the point where he started bleeding. I was nearly maced after this incident because I tried to ask for the officers' names so that I could submit a grievance report. I have never received a response from these officers because they said they need to investigate further. None of the officers liked the fact that I would submit a report about them, and each time that I did, the number of officers who disliked me and mistreated me would be augmented. Officer [name withheld] insulted me, as well as my family, for having a card game and a bottle of soap in my cell, which we are permitted to have. However, he didn't like the fact that I had them. Officer [name withheld] was there to translate, from Spanish to English, the insults that [he] was giving me. I remained silent so that I wouldn't go against their authority.
I presented a grievance, along with all the other detainees who witnessed the abuse of power towards me. I spoke in person with Warden [name withheld], Chief [name withheld] and Chief [name withheld], but absolutely nothing happened. On the contrary, I was taken to Segregation because they were saying that I had threatened a nurse, who said that she no longer wanted to work at La Palma because I was here. This turned out to be a lie, because I have seen this very same nurse come to Navajo Bravo to attend to detainees, mainly by taking their temperatures. Clearly, she is not as afraid of me as she claims to be, because those accusations of me threatening her were false. I have spoken to Warden [name withheld]'s assistant, [name withheld], about all of this so she is a testament to my plight.
I was put in Segregation for 20 days, where I decided to conduct a hunger strike for 6 days because what was happening to me was unjust.
In Segregation, I explained what had happened: that I hadn't threatened any nurse. I, along with [name withheld], explained that we were going to file a grievance against her for denying him medical assistance. He had been operated on while on the outside, and the medical sector was to bring his medicine directly to him, but she refused to and told him to walk to medical in order to get it. I was put in Segregation for 20 days, where I decided to conduct a hunger strike for 6 days because what was happening to me was unjust.
In that moment of disequillibrium, I decided to choke myself with a sheet.
After 3 days, ICE Officer [name withheld] came and told me the same thing that had always been said to me. He told me the thing I did were criminal. He left and spoke to Case Manager [name withheld] so that he, in turn, would mistreat me. I know this because his tone changed when he spoke to me. He, along with Officer [name withheld] and Officer [name withheld], started treating me with contempt, telling me that all of us immigrants are insignificant trash. While in Segregation, I submitted an appeal explaining that what the nurse had said was a lie. For this reason, I decided to voluntarily stay in Segregation for another 23 days. So that I would be heard, I began yet another hunger strike that lasted 7 days. They didn't like my decision, so they decided to transfer me to a different cell which had no visibility. In that moment of disequillibrium, I decided to choke myself with a sheet. Once they discovered me, they took me to be confined in medical for another 7 days, only this time with no access to water and having to sleep on the floor.
After awhile, I left medical as well as Segregation, and was subsequently told by CoreCivic staff that my classification level had risen and that they were going to change my color. They gave me a red uniform and placed me in a building full of criminals that had come from prison, such as violators, drug dealers, human traffickers, gang members and even murderers. My life is now at risk, while detained and also once I become free, due to my present surroundings because the Correctional Officers have no control over these convicts. I started sending requests to my deporation officer, [name withheld], who to this day I do not personally know, so that he can interview me, but he never came. The only people who came were a group from ICE, saying that we would no longer need to go to Segregation in order to speak with ICE because they were to start coming every week.
[An ICE officer] told me to cease trying to contact my deportation officer because he was never going to come.
I spoke with ICE Officer [name withheld] and I asked her how I might get an interview with my deporation officr. She told me to cease trying to contact my deportation officer because he was never going to come. I spoke to another ICE official named [name withhled], who said that I should ask for my deportation because the people here in America would not accept me due to the fact that I'm a criminal. ICE Officer [name withheld] was the one who listened to me the most, saying that she was going to resolve all my problems, but I never saw her again. ICE Officer [name withheld] told me that he didn't know anything about what was happening to me, and that everything was fine. ICE Officer [name withheld] told me that he didn't care about anything I had to say, because every accusation I made was false. He also told me that he would hold me in Segregation until the end of my immigration proceedings. ICE Officer [name withheld] told me that he would take note of all my complaints and that he would return to give me a response. I am still waiting to this day for him to fulfill his promise. There are other ICE officers who didn't want to speak with me or divulge their names to me.
In the building where I am today, everything is exactly the same. The officers that are stationed here still see me as dangerous because I denounce officers and I publicize what occurs at La Palma. I have spoken over the phone with reporters and hav appeared on news shows talking about the crimes that are committed here at La Palma. For these reasons, people choose to repress me.
An example of this would be when Officer [name withheld] put detainees against me so that they could assault me in order to stop the critiques that I make. Officer [name withheld] is a racist who not only hates me, but also hates all of the other Cuban detainees that also reside here. He, much like Case Manager [name withheld], has a group of detainees who do his bidding, often going as far as assaulting other detainees that they consider a threat. Since these particular detainees lived in Phoenix, close to where they live, these officers treat them with special preference.
I not only fight for myself, but I also fight for all the detainees that are suffering here at La Palma.
A victim of these detainees who gets special privileges goes bythe name [name withheld], who has suffered even worse consequences than myself. He was assaulted and was told that the next time he would be sexually violated because he locked Case Manager [name withheld] in a cell. As a result, he was sentenced to 5 days in Segregation as punishment, but it wasn't enough for Officer [name withheld]. So he sent someone to go and beat him. I know all this because [the victim] told me about it himself. He knows that I not only fight for myself, but I also fight for all the detainees that are suffering here at La Palma. For this reason, many detainees ceased to threaten me, because they knew that I was fighting for a worthy cause.
I informed Unit Manager [name withheld] about everything that was happening. Upon hearing what I had to say, he supported Officer [name withheld] and Case Manager [name withheld]. He didn't listen to my denouncements at all.
In my current location the detainees possess razors in their cells as well as handmade weapons.
In my current location the detainees possess razors in their cells as well as handmade weapons. They also have alcoholic beverages, they get into fights, and they threaten other detainees. I have witnessed them assaulting officers, and they are subsequently punished by being sent to Segregation for 5 to 7 days. But I have received harsher punishments simply for conducting peaceful hunger strikes and protests and for exposing the transgressions committed by those at La Palma. CoreCivic staff do whatever they want to me and to my fellow detainees. It is possible they will send 7 or 8 officers just to pick me up, much like they did last time, with enough brute force to nearly break my arm, just so they can take me to medical and give me another 30 days in Segregation for all the times I have denounced La Palma. So, if I stop sending letters addressing the complaints that I have, it is becaue they have sent me to Segregation once again.
Officer [name withheld], who acts as though she is morally perfect, is yet another example of someone who lives in Arizona near certain detainees, and therefore, she shows favoritism to these people. So she decides to mistreat people like myself and other Cubans and gets angry when I tell her to treat everyone fairly.
Even so, I was sentenced to 27 days in Segregation for threatening to conduct a peaceful hunger strike.
Right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I can say with certainty that the only tank that hasn't been contaminated would be Navajo Bravo. I had to conduct a protest so that they would give us masks, and so that I could tell the officers that they need to follow these hygenic measures as well. I had to ask that the Case Managers give us shampoo and cleaning chemicals so that we could keep the tank clean. If they didn't comply with these requests, I would conduct a hunger strike, and all the detainees would support me. Because all the detainees supported me, we didn't end up contaminated. Even so, I was sentenced to 27 days in Segregation for threatening to conduct a peaceful hunger strike.
I have been to Segregation on 6 or 7 separate occasions just so that I could be heard, so that I could express to them that I am not a delinquent, that I would never protest in a violent manner, and that I will continue to do this because violence only gives birth to more violence.
I certify that everything that I have said in this letter is true, and that there are no lies. ICE might claim that everything I say is a lie. CoreCivic may also claim everything I say is a lie. All I can say is that all of my accusations have been documented by Homeland Security, the show "Democracy Now" on Univision hosted by Silvia Sanchez, and the Internet. However, if you would like more information about everything I am saying, La Palma is always recording everything and they possess every report that I have ever made.
I am sick of everything, and I am only 33 years old.
I will also mention that I am tired of all the mistreatment, in Cuba and La Palma alike. I am tired of not having a normal life like the average person would. I am sick of living in fear, sick of suffering, and I am sick of everything, and I am only 33 years old.
I would like to be transferred to a different detention center where I may be treated with more respect. Then and only then will I be able to conclude my asylum case and, one day, realize my American dream, which is to live a calm and free life with my wife and daughter.
Thank you for listening to me and for dedicating time for my sake.
Felix Calderon Pedroso
Please consider sendng Felix a letter of support and solidarity:
Felix Calderon Pedroso
La Palma Correctional Center
5501 N. La Palma Rd.
Eloy, AZ 85131