The Imprisoned Path to Asylum at Adelanto

Originally published on The on October 26, 2018. Note that this man’s bond was provided soon after this was written, with the help of Freedom for Immigrants.

The Adelanto Detention facilities, looking south towards Lake Arrowhead at the left and Wrightwood to the right. The facility to the lower left is a men’s prison; in the lower center is the East facility, which primarily houses 700+ women and some men; on the lower right is the West facility, housing 1200 men. An industrial park housing a drone supplier is adjacent to the facility, and there’s a huge power station just south of it, in the center of this Google Earth image.

Yesterday in New York, a young woman from El Salvador gave birth to a boy that she and her husband named in memory of her brother, who had been brutally beaten to death by gangs in her home town when the couple refused to help traffic drugs for a gang there. After the incident, the couple and woman’s mother made the arduous trip to the US, via a network of boats and cab drivers, a several month stay in Guatamala, and a tunnel near Tijuana. After they entered the US, they applied for asylum in San Diego. Apparently they thought it would be easier to use the tunnel than to apply for asylum at the border CBP office; they made no delay with their voluntary application. I visited her husband, a young man at Adelanto, yesterday. His bail bond is set for $15,000, and he had an initial trial earlier yesterday morning; his next trial to present evidence for his asylum case will be on November 30th.

With the help of an interpreter, I learned that he is afraid to tell other detained immigrants there where he is from, in case some of them are tied into the gang that killed his brother-in-law. He mentioned that not only MS-13, but also MS-15 and MS-18 are active in his home town. He had been a carpenter, working for a construction company that frequently moved him around his home country.

Advocacy groups in NY, CT, and CA are trying to help raise funds for his bond. The woman and her mother were able to get released from detention with help from the wife’s grandfather, who is a legal US resident. The husband was in detention at government-run Victorville Prison for three months, where he described the food and treatment as vastly better than the nearby, private, GEO-run Adelanto Detention Center. (In recent months, there has been an effort to move detained immigrants out of government prisons into private detention centers) He has been at Adelanto so far for two more months. His contact with his wife and her family has been minimal, although, unlike many others in detention, he has been able to contact them by phone.

To make phone calls, the 2000 Adelanto detainees need to have money deposited in a kiosk at the detention center. GEO takes a 30% cut on contributions for the detainees, and the detainees are eligible to work for a dollar a day helping serve the food or clean the detention center. Another detainee said that often the burritos that were served were still partially frozen.

He seemed excited to learn that his wife was in labor, but I sat there wondering what it must be like to leave a country for your own survival and not to know if you’ll ever see your newborn son, or how long it would be before that could happen. Why does an asylee and refugee get thrown into prison for months, if not years – as we have witnessed, for the privilege of becoming a US citizen? These are not “illegal” immigrants. These are people applying for legal citizenship for their own survival and safety. Then their bail is set for an astronomical amount.

Reverse aerial view; Adelanto West, East, and Men’s prison.

As the interpreter and I left, we were escorted through three remotely locked doors, by a security guard station with a wall filled with handcuffs and desk filled with surveillance monitors, through a metal detector. When you visit someone, you cannot take paper or pencil with you, or even a cough drop. We retrieved the contents of our pockets from our locker, exchanged our locker keys for our drivers licenses, and walked a narrow road from the East to West detention facilities. A man in a car sat near the parking lot, like a high school security guard. He instructed us that the driveway was only for ICE or GEO staff, and that next time we needed to walk all the way out to the road and back through the parking lots. The visiting room lobbys were mostly empty yesterday, but the parking lots had no spots for visitors, forcing us to park along the desert road nearby. I was less bothered by that than our other elderly visitors; furthermore, the heat, which has sometimes been 110 degrees, was not bad yesterday. After all, I thought, at least we’re free to come and go as we please. As we re-grouped, impatiently dealt with the traffic from the nearby Dr. Pepper bottling plant, and sought some fortification from Starbucks to resume the 85 mile drive home, we shared our stories.

Terry had visited a man from Kenya who has been detained at Adelanto since November of last year. He had a hearing with judge Jose Rosaperez, who has a reputation for being the most racist, with a high asylum denial and deportation history. The Kenyan been experiencing heart pains, and after continual complaints was permitted to get medical attention at a hospital nearby, in handcuffs. They thought he was lactose intolerant and shouldn’t consume any dairy, but the detention center of course won’t give him soy milk or an alternative. Carmiel had visted a man from Jordan who was also struggling with many of the same issues, which brought to mind a cross-country plane trip I’d taken, sitting adjacent to a man from Jordan who’d come to school in the US to become an electrical engineer, but was unable after numerous immigration steps, to secure employment in his field, and opened a gas station between Bakersfield and Fresno. He had extended an open invitation for me to visit him and his family there. So much for the bigoted complaints about immigrants stealing our jobs.

Trump and the GOP continues to utter empty threats about the migrant “caravan” trying to make its way to our border, assisted by gangs and other unsavory people. They leave at 3AM to escape the brutal heat of their journey. They are fleeing gang violence that is a consequence of U.S. destabilization of their home countries, assisted by an illegal network that can only profit from the migration as long as it’s prohibited. Trump is now threatening to allow no one to cross the border, sending military to the border to defend us from refugees!?! What an utter lie and waste of taxpayer money. Please, please, please – contact your representatives and senators and implore them not to support this inhumanity with your tax dollars.

If you’d like to contribute to the El Salvadoran man’s bond, contact me, and I can put you in touch with the three organizations that may be able to help him. I’m not sharing his name for his safety.