From a letter sent to FFI by Aroldo Rodriquez
On June 30, 2019, the third hunger strike in less than a year was started by 37 people in one housing location at the Yuba County Jail in Marysville, CA. By the fourth day, 14 people decided to continue past the three-day mark, which is when the jail officially recognized the hunger strike, and removed all commissary food. For four days, 13 people continued with water only. There is a sadness to a hunger strike that must take place in order for voices to be heard. A support rally was held on July 3. https://www.facebook.com/CIDRNorCal/videos/337074327195033/
Although there were no concessions made by the jail or by ICE, which was expected, the people at Yuba took a stand. This letter was written by one of the people taking part of the hunger strike. He wanted everyone know that although “we were denied most of our demands, we will keep on fighting and remain strong as one with God’s help and those who support us on the outside."
I am an ICE detainee at Yuba County Jail and also one of the people that won't just stand around and watch my people be mistreated.
We started this hunger strike in an attempt to have our voices heard.
First and foremost, the living conditions in Yuba County are inhumane. There are cells that have no working lights or water, and the place is crawling with roaches. The water out of the sink tastes like rust and lead and it is the only water they provide for us to drink. The medical staff is not compensated to care for us as they should. We have numerous complaints due to them neglecting our medical requests for weeks at a time. By the time they tend to us, medical attention is no longer needed. I understand they have more important patients to deal with, but still don't see why it takes 3-4 weeks to be seen by the doctor, and most of the time they don't call us at all.
Another reason why we did this is because we would like access to recovery programs such as AA, NA, and for anger management, parenting, and so on. We are denied these programs due to our "classification," as the jail staff calls it. Due to our mistakes in the past, we carry a label with us that we can't get rid of. When I say this, I speak for myself as well as others in detention centers.
WE ARE NO LONGER ACTIVE GANG MEMBERS. WE PAID FOR OUR CRIMES. WE ARE ONLY HERE DUE TO OUR LEGAL STATUS.
We are asking for a chance to prove it to ourselves and families that we have changed. When I brought this demand to the jail captain and lieutenant they said to me, "You are not fooling anyone by saying you want these programs to better yourself when in reality you just want to look good in front of a judge."
I believe we all deserve a second chance at life. We want to be viewed as human beings, not criminals.
The most important reason we did this was for those of us with kids. We want contact visits with them. Most of us have kids whom we haven't hugged in a long time. Unfortunately, in the situation we find ourselves in, we might get deported to third world countries and we don't know if we will ever be able to see, let along hug, our kids again. I believe contact visits are something that can be arranged. ICE just refuses to let us have such visits. Seeing my son through a glass window breaks my heart. I have not held him since he was 3 months old, and honestly I don't know if I'll ever get to hold him again.
The way the immigration courts are set up, the judges are not giving us a chance to prove we are not a lost cause. The judge makes his decision based on what's on paper, our records and our past mistakes. They neglect the fact that what's on paper doesn't define who we truly are.
We are dads, we are sons, we are brothers. All the judge sees is a criminal. We are not viewed as human beings who deserve a second chance.
We want our voices heard.
A lot of people are afraid to speak up. Well, we did this hunger strike to be the voice for those who don't have a voice. We want to bring the injustice of the immigration system out for everyone to see and realize what's going on.
I'm really sad and disappointed we were denied most of our demands. We will keep on fighting and remain strong and united as one. With God's help and those who support us on the outside, we keep our heads high.
It is not over yet.