*Note: Before I begin part 2 if you haven’t read part 1 here is a link My time in jail Pt. 1 . In order to really understand this blog you must understand it from the beginning.
I migrated to the U.S with my family at the age of five. My family and I came over with nothing but hope for a better life. I had always tried to keep myself under the radar because extra attention would risk my family getting deported. So to find myself in jail, in front of two officers, I was shaken. I felt a rush of coldness that went from my head to the tip of my toes, my jaw locked, I could not speak. That fire I had before to fight for injustice was vanished with the coldness of reality. I now sat there with no rights, no voice, no options, so I thought.
After the officers told me they knew I wasn’t legally in the country they went for the attack. They wanted me to sign self removal papers. Which meant I would voluntarily leave the country. But, this is my home! This is where I wanted to live! All my life was here.
So I sat there no movement, no sound. The office was empty only a desk and a chair which made the room the more intimidating . One of the officers stood next to the desk and the other very arrogantly sat on the left side of the desk. He did most of the talking. He grabbed a stack of papers and threw them on the table.
“It’s your best option. You can sign self removal papers and you can go home.” He meant that I could go back to Mexico and not come back for ten years.
He went on to say that if I didn’t I would be in jail for much longer. The thought of being one more day in there made me cringe but the thought of losing my home, losing the opportunity for a better life was worse.
As they went on and on I couldn’t concentrate anymore. I ran a million scenarios in my head of what my life would be in Mexico. I love my country but my life there didn’t look promising. I told myself, “Say something!” I couldn’t. I felt like I was a criminal. Something I had never felt before. I felt so exposed, as if my legal status made me less than anyone I had encountered throughout my life. I felt like I didn’t matter.
Right after I had that thought the officer that was standing said,”you don’t belong here, just go home.” I knew what he meant however, as crazy as this may sound I thought it was God talking me. It was something about the way he said it, and the look in his eyes, I knew he was trying to speak to me. He wanted to remind me that I wasn’t a criminal. That I didn’t belong there. That all I needed do was go home. That woke me up and brought me back to my senses. So I spoke,
” I am not signing, I want to speak to a lawyer.”
I didn’t really know how they would react or what would be next for me. I just knew I couldn’t give up my home.
They stood up frustrated and said okay. They would now have to call an immigration office to take over. To my luck there were no near by offices. One was six hours away and the other three. So they had to wait. They needed to transfer me to another facility.
The race began. They needed to find someone that could come and transfer me over. My family needed to find a way to get me out before the transfer. Have you ever felt like you had no control? That’s exactly how I felt. My family needed to work fast to get me out and I couldn’t do anything. My fate was in the hands of someone else. I learned the true meaning of patience and faith in my time in there.
As I left the office my energy was different. I just gave up freedom for what was right. As I walked back to my cell I almost regretted it. I was focusing on instant gratification. Then to make matters worse I had an encounter that was less than pleasant. Next to the women’s cell block there was a recreation area that was meant to be used by males and females. The males were in there. As I passed by, the males could see me, so the yelling began. They said things that made me incredibly uncomfortable. I could feel the men undressing me in their minds. Something about a man that has been in jail for very long yelling profanities at a woman, it’s very uncomfortable. I closed my eyes and told myself “think of home”
As I arrived at my cell block it was free time. Meaning the women were just hanging out. Some were walking, some were watching the small t.v. mounted to one of the walls. I spoke to no one. I walked pass everyone, straight to my cell. I think my face of defeat said it all to them. I just stayed in my cell crying. I think at this point I was hitting a very bad depression. My desire to live was slowly being questioned. My freedom was being questioned. To be quite honest I think I was losing it. I asked myself again and again how something you love so much could reject you. I loved a country that wanted to get rid of me. Tears continued to fall.
The next day as we lined up for breakfast I could smell the food. Something about that smell, it still haunts me to this day. I hate going to hospitals because that smell is there. There are days when I am going about my day and I get that medicine/cafeteria smell. When I do, I have the urge to look down to my clothes. I guess to make sure I am not wearing jail attire, I can’t explain it.
As I got my tray I sat down and right after three women sat down in front of me. For once I was not afraid, part of me felt just as guilty of whatever crime they committed. One of them asked,”Are you going to eat your cornbread?” I handed it to her. I really wasn’t hungry. I had lost my appetite ever since I stepped foot in there. They began to ask questions about why I was in there. I answered as many as I could. I myself didn’t know what was going to happen to me. Then they began to tell me their stories.
Now up to this point I viewed them as the worst of the worst. However, when one of the women opened her mouth to tell her story, everything changed for me.
She was part of an Indian tribe and ever since she was a young girl she had gotten rapped by men in her tribe. She went into detail of how the men in her family participated in this monstrosity. I couldn’t help but shed a tear. I didn’t ask her why she was in there, I didn’t need to know. It was not my place to judge her crime. I will leave that for God. But to see someone go through something so traumatic, I knew god wanted me to hear that story.
The rest of that day I spent it getting to know some of the girls in there. Oh were they characters! Some had fallen for the wrong man that led them to crimes. Some had made mistakes they were paying for. Everyone had a story and everyone knew they had made a mistake.
As I walked the cell block waiting for answers I got to see what up to this point I was too blind to see. A sisterhood, everyone supporting each other through what we all knew was a hard time in our lives. Then as I head to bed at the end of that day I met my cellmate. I think she knew I was about to cry myself to sleep so she said, “Be strong, this is not worst.” As I talked to her I found out she was homeless. She committed pity crimes just to have a bed and a meal. I felt bad, I felt ungrateful. Because I at least had family at home fighting for me. Working hard to see me free. She had no one. I smiled at her. I think that was the first smile she had received in a very long time I could tell by the emotion in her face. I will carry that with me forever.
I woke up the next morning and it felt like a real brand new day. Up to this point, days were just hours meshed into one hell hole of a day. This felt different. We had pancakes for breakfast. As the day went on a couple of new girls joined the cell block. At lunch time I sat with the girls I had the day before and they told me something interesting. One of the new girls was in for what I was accused of. She was the reason I was in here! She was the one they were looking for! Now, as I stared at her many would be angry, furious even. I just looked at her. She fit the description. Latina, mid 20s, with dark long hair.
I realize then how profiling works. You are not innocent until proven guilty. You are guilty until proven innocent.
And by then that may be too late.
About an hour later I heard my name over the intercom that said “Guadalupe roll up” which meant my family had won the race. I was going home! As everyone heard that, many of the girls clapped. I felt the warmth of their claps. One of the girls said, “Go home girl.” Oh I did.
As I got home my family was so happy to see me. I felt different. I felt vulnerable, tiered, but above all grateful!
What I didn’t realize then was that my time in jail would be only the beginning of my fight. I would go on to fight for eight years for the opportunity to be part of this country. I had to fight in court and outside of court. I knocked on so many doors for help only to get turned down or hear the dreaded “the only way you will stay in this country is with a man.”
I spent countless nights scared out of my mind. Overworking myself just to make enough to pay my bills and pay for lawyer after lawyer, fee after fee. I was left so vulnerable to be fed to the wolves. Many people tried to take advantage of my despair, some actually did. They ate away at my dreams, my hopes, and my will to live, all while dangling false hope, false promises, and false love. There were nights when I really considered the possibility of giving up. I thought to myself if I have been such a good citizen, good student, good friends, then why does this country act like I am the worst of the worst. Why can’t my good actions, good intentions, and good service to this country be enough for them to accept me as part of their own. Those nights that I fought with demons in my head were nights I actually considered the possibility of not wanting to wake up. And there were days I felt my chest get so tight I could not breath. Just the thought of having to be away from everything I ever new as home. The thought of not having an opportunity to live a happy life where I got to pursue my dreams. I ran scenarios in my head, always trying to think of a way out. Think of a way to make the pain, the loneliness, the despair, and worry go away.
Every time I had court I could feel my body get so weak, so cold. There were times I got so cold I could not control my shivers. I ended up biting my tongue, locking my jaw. I couldn’t even confirm my name to the judge.
However, I think the worst part of it was the loneliness. I had to face it all alone. At the time my family couldn’t join me because they themselves couldn’t step into an immigration office. I couldn’t tell anyone at work because if I did I would get fired. I became isolated, depressed. All people saw was a nice, hard working girl. What they didn’t know was that I was terrified out of my mind, I was facing an order of deportation.
So when someone says I don’t deserve to be part of this country , you tell me. Do I deserve it?
….I think I do