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Some Barriers Detained Migrant Women Face



sentenced in San Diego, California. I am now in federal immigration detention in Dublin, California, and am completely alone in this country. The attention we receive here as Mexican women is deficient, an ironic fact since 75% of this institution's population is Hispanic, primarily from Mexico. We are lost and the Mexican consulate has abandoned those of us here. As Hispanics we lack information on legal processes and on the path we need to follow to be transferred to our home countries, a legal right guaranteed by treaties between the United States and several countries. Sometimes the administration simply tells us that we have no rights. The only thing available for our protection is a small brochure in Spanish containing the facility's rules. It is very sad to see the lack of real support for people lacking an education. Many women in this institution have not even completed elementary school and do not have the assistance they need. When they go to the doctor, there is no translator to explain their conditions or the medications they should take. Doctors do not fully explain what is wrong and we are prohibited from having other women serve as translators. Seeing such disrespectful treatment is discouraging and depressing. Nobody ever comes to see us! As a Mexican woman, I am deeply disillusioned by the lack of organizations or institutions to intervene on our behalf; most of us here are treated like "stinking illegals." Although discrimination in these places is everywhere, the Mexican Consulate only intercedes when we are about to be deported. Our rights need to be respected and I write this to show that I do not accept the discrimination we are experiencing here and to demand support and attention to our situation. If the administration here finds out that I wrote this, I could be sent to segregation and be placed under "investigation." The threat of these measures keeps all women in fear of doing anything they might disapprove of. There is no literature in Spanish provided. The little we have access to comes from women here who donated their books. Library workers only speak English,
* EDITOR'S NOTE: This author remains anonymous to foreclose any possibility of retaliation from the federal detention administration, however unlikely. The testimony reveals the violent relations between captives and their keepers, as well as how captives are stripped of their rights. The author hopes to provide a critical understanding of the daily battle migrant women face in federal immigration detention.


Social Justice Vol. 36, No. 2 (2009-2010)

Some Barriers Detained Migrant Women Face


so we lack the necessary support for questions or legal needs concerning our cases. There is nothing in Spanish about the steps to take when we are going to be deported. Our consulate should provide that. There are too many imprisoned women here to receive such little attention. I have contacted several institutions in my country of origin for clarifications on our options and our rights as Mexicans. We need information on the rules and regulations for transfers, on institutions that can help us, and for people who do not have a place to go when they are deported. Writing this is a risk because every day the rules here are stricter and organized against us, but people outside need to know our situation. We need to demonstrate that we cannot be treated unfairly just because we are Mexican. The U.S. and Mexican governments need to respect our rights. Especially important is information on constitutional rights that cover transfers to our countries of origin. Treaties between countries should be respected, but Mexicans in this place are not afforded that information. The lack of attention to us means that some women here receive misinformation from others and thus waste time or make mistakes. I hope people will help imprisoned migrant women in the United States receive reat support and information about their rights, obligations, and options. That includes literature in Spanish about transfers and the deportation process; the rights of legal residents to appeal their deportation cases; and general legal attention. Information is needed on what Mexican women should do when they arrive in federal prison; what their expectations should be; and which services are available. Is there any assistance at the border for people who do not have anyone to help them when they are deported? What options do they have? Where can we go if our rights are not respected? For people without anyone in the United States, family members in Mexico cannot send them money. If someone in prison helps them, they are punished. Why is there no way for families in other countries to send money? Although my family in Mexico and I have personally contacted the Mexican consulate, in almost three years I never received a visit or a response to my calls or letters. We need general information and we need outside pressure groups so that women in this place are not abandoned. Language, culture, racism, and a general lack of support are a few of the barriers that migrant women face in U.S. immigration detention centers. That issue must be addressed on both sides of the border.

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