Sunday 01 August 2010
by: Yana Kunichoff, t r u t h o u t | Report
More than 300,000 immigrants languish in detention centers around the country. Why are they there – and who is profiting from their imprisonment?
Pedro Guzman Perez speaks to his wife, Emily Guzman, by phone every evening. They speak around 8 PM, a talk filled with stories about their days, shared projects and love. Sometimes their three-year-old son, Logan, wants to get on the phone too, but usually Logan will be watching a show in another room. They have a great relationship, Emily says, and the conversations are often the highlight of her day.
There are, however, some logistical difficulties. Pedro, a Guatemalan native who was in the country on a work visa, can only speak on the phone for 20 minutes at a time – precious little for a couple sharing the tumult of raising a three-year-old. Each phone card costs $5, and the already staticky connection is easily broken.
This is because Pedro is calling from the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, an immigration detention facility where he has been detained for nearly ten months. Many aspects of Pedro’s case led him to the detention center – two ten-year-old charges of marijuana possession, one of which has since been dropped; an administrative mistake by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to which they have admitted; the harsh record of his immigration court judge and even the patchy memory of an older woman whose answers in an immigration interview led the federal government to look into Pedro’s status.
But neither Emily, Pedro’s lawyer nor the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) thinks these are enough to warrant keeping Pedro under lock and key, away from his family and with tax payers bearing the cost of his prolonged detention.
Pedro is one of the 383,524 individuals detained by ICE while they await court dates, deportation or bail. Detention is a key aspect of the federal government’s push to deport immigrants, both documented and undocumented, who have committed any crimes or misdemeanors. Continue reading