There was deep and profound soul shattering heartbreak, watching these vulnerable women and children who have come to this country seeking asylum being systematically crushed and broken.
Every child in this place was sick. Every. Single. One. Coughs, flus, runny noses, watery eyes, losing weight, not sleeping, vomiting, diarrhea, not eating. Ever single woman without exception when asked if they had seen a doctor said that the nurse they had seen gave them Tylenol and told them to drink water no matter what was wrong with the patient.
One of my clients, who had been denied credible fear as a victim of domestic violence, something that should have been granted at the interview, and was denied credible fear again in front of the immigration judge, spent an afternoon telling me about the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex husband during their marriage and then after their divorce. This was a hard enough story to hear. She then told me that she was about ready to give up and go back even though she thought he would probably kill her for taking their son to the US because she had been treated so badly and was feeling so hopeless there in Artesia.
Here is the story of her first week in Artesia: they arrived and her son, who is 6 had a cut on his arm that looked infected. She and the son were told they had to be put into isolation so the son could be given antibiotics for 24 hours so he wouldn’t be contagious. They put her into a room with her son alone. They were not allowed out to eat or to let the kid play or exercise. There were no toys or TV in this room. After about 18 hours the doctor finally came to give him medicine, thus starting the 24 hours countdown. One of the guards tried to cheer her up saying the 24 hours were almost over. She told them the doctor had just come and begged them to at least put them in a room with some toys or a TV. They did move her and her son to a room with a TV. But inexplicably the 24 hours turned into 5 days. They weren’t told why. They weren’t let out except to be escorted to the bathroom.
At day 4 the mom got sick herself and was vomiting and having diarrhea. She called the guard to ask to take her to the bathroom. They told her she would have to wait. She said she couldn’t, that she was sick. No one came to get her and she ended up defecating in her pants. She was telling me this in a room full of people, because there is no such thing as confidentiality at Artesia, the attorney room has no way to meet privately with your clients. She was crying, I was crying. She said it was the most humiliating experience in her life, more humiliating than being beaten by her husband. When the guards came to get her they laughed at her. She had to walk across the compound covered in her own feces to the bathroom to take a shower. Then she had to walk back in a towel because she didn’t have any extra clothes. She was humiliated. Her son was terrified. She said she wanted to give up even if it meant going home and being beaten or being killed. She was being treated like an animal and a criminal. Her son had lost 7 or 8 pounds in 3 weeks. And this is just one of the stories that I heard of women and their children being treated like sub-humans. My federal criminal clients are treated far better
Look for my final thoughts in a post tomorrow.
Written by Angela Williams, AILA Member and Artesia Volunteer
If you are an AILA member who wants to volunteer at Artesia or elsewhere, please see our Pro Bono page or feel free to contact Maheen Taqui at firstname.lastname@example.org–the end of September and early October are short on volunteers and we could really use your help.
If you aren’t able to come help in person, consider donating at http://www.aila.org/helpthevolunteers. And thank you!