Immigration Detention Hell

by Raymond G. Lahoud, Esquire

I just got off the phone with a deportation client. Of course, I can’t reveal lots of details about his deportation case. In any event, he is being detained under the ridiculous INA mandatory detention statute.

This client was charged with a crime in late-2000 and is a Permanent Resident. USCIS, DHS and ICE forgot this fact though. Instead, they waited until early-2010 to decide to commence deportation proceedings against him. Yes, 10 years!

He is married, has children and, until recently, had a successful local business. Mind you, the business was forced to close because my client was in prison. I forgot to tell you . . . he only received probation for the underlying crime.

Now, the wife and children are on public assistance, get rental help from the government among other subsidies. They went from a family earning hundreds of thousands a year to one that has become the responsibility of the state because of the state’s failure to promptly act on the laws it enacts. If he was deported in 2000, maybe things would have turned out different. Or, if the deportation laws were not so tough on people who made ONE mistake a decade ago for a non-violent, non-narcotic crime, we would not be in this position. Like it or not, he has been sitting in prison for almost a year and DHS does not care about him, his family or the huge public charge they are creating in their attempt to deport him.

I’m writing about his Thanksgiving. While so many of us were sitting in our small houses- in Easton, Bethlehem, Peoria or even Miami- he was sitting in his cell and what happens– a sewer line breaks causing the worst of our bodies to swarm into his cell and others.

Mind you, he was sharing a cell with 5 others. He told me that the smell was so bad that two of his cellmates vomited– making the condition only worse.

What makes it crazy though, the guards did not move them. They DID NOT CARE! They kept them there for hours- surrounded by urine and feces. Inhumane? Yes, to say the least.

Let’s add some insult to injury- because they were exposed to the bowel movements of others, the “prisoners” could not go to the cafeteria to have a Thanksgiving meal. Instead, it was delivered to their cell.

By the way, prison authorities have yet to clean the cell. It’s 8:15 pm. 12 hours have gone by. The “prisoners” are still surrounded by the most disgusting of urine and feces.

They ate their Thanksgiving dinner in that cell.

My client’s question- as he cried on the phone- “is this not torture? I thought we were in America.”

Is it torture? Is it America?