You can find the full post in its original form at Emily’s blog: http://www.logansdad.org/blog.php
As Pedro, Logan and I drove closer and closer to Georgia, we were excited but also nervous. This would be the first time we would return since Pedro’s release from Stewart Detention Center on May 17, 2011. Now six months later, we were driving back voluntarily. With each mile passing of our 529 mile journey from North Carolina to Georgia, we were reflective about how quickly time passed since we were reunited. Having a “normal” family life seems to speed up time. When Pedro was detained, time flowed like molasses in a Minnesota winter. Every second was painful and agonizingly slow for all of us.
As we crossed the Georgia border, my body, holding our unborn little girl, Lilyana, safely inside, began to ache. My excitement dulled the aches and pains as we arrived in La Grange to pick up Christin and Bryan Babcock from Anton Flores’ home. Christin, Bryan and Anton gave us enormous support in our year and a half of hell. They came to court dates, emotionally supported us, visited Pedro and showed us love, housed us and hosted us at El Refugio. They were also 3 of the 8 that were arrested in protest of Pedro’s detention. My mother, Logan and I were the first guests at El Refugio the weekend of the Stewart Vigil and Rally the year before.
The hour and a half drive from La Grange to Lumpkin, GA passed by quickly. We talked with Christin and Bryan about what had been happening in our lives and Logan quickly fell asleep. At around 10pm we pulled up to El Refugio . When Alterna opened this hospitality house last year, I was amazed. As a safe place for families of detainees it was a powerful statement of love. When visiting Pedro or attending court dates, we were on an emotional roller coaster. We were overjoyed to see him but so pained to have that damn glass between us and then to leave him behind once again. El Refugio provided emotional support, shelter and food for that short, intense stay. It was a life saver for us. We all fell asleep quickly after a long day of traveling.
As we arrived at the normally sleepy Lumpkin Square for the fifth annual Stewart Detention Center Rally and Vigil the next morning, it was alive with 270 people (more than double the attendees from last year). We were greeted by so many warm faces and welcoming hugs! We were interviewed by the media as we marched from the Lumpkin town square to Stewart Detention Center.
As we walked up the hill, I listened to the other stories of families broken by immigration. They spoke of their pain, one husband’s deportation, one father’s detention, and the detrimental impact on their lives. I put my hand one woman’s back, her eyes filled with tears. The words broke my heart but also filled me with gratitude that our family was now whole. We are an exception to the rule.
We turned the corner and the Corrections Corporation of America silo came into view. The gate was filled with state troopers, police officers and CCA guards. I looked at Pedro and I could see the emotions rising. He was on the outside and he was standing up to the monster in his nightmares. We all marched towards the police cars as the rally musicians welcomed us to our makeshift stage on the public side of the Stewart Detention Center property. Many others spoke over the loud speaker, their words of anguish echoing through the air.
Then Pedro and I took the stage. As the Stewart Detention Center guards listened, we spoke from our hearts.
“My husband, Pedro, was detained for 597 days at Stewart Detention Center. CCA, the business that runs this detention center, profited almost sixty thousand dollars off my husband. That money came from the federal government and our tax dollars. Pedro, our son, Logan, and I suffered greatly during our separation. On May 17, when I told Logan his father was being released, he asked, ‘Are all the other mommies and daddies getting out too?’ The heartbreaking truth is that there are so many immigrants still unjustly detained. Pedro is free but so many are not. So many other immigrants are still unjustly detained. Most cannot fight because the system is not set up for justice, it is set up to get as many immigrants out of the country as possible. For the first six months Pedro was detained, I was scared to speak out. My anger and frustration took over, and I cast my fear aside. The system is broken and based on fear. Coming together in courage and love — speaking out together — we can accomplish human rights for immigrants. Our family is reunited, but we will keep speaking out until every family is free.”
Pedro told the crowd the treatment in Stewart was inhumane, the food was bad, and detainees receive little legal help. The CCA guards showed no respect for anyone, there was always a threat of loss of your privileges for food, phone cards, or recreation, or of lock down.
“After twenty months away from home, you lose faith, you feel worthless, this place breaks you, it is made to break your soul.”
The honest truth is that we have both been wracked with survivor’s guilt. When he was released, he left so many behind, only to be deported or continuously detained in these horrible conditions. My guilt comes from all of the families I have met along the way who have lost their husbands, fathers and children to deportation after their detention. I have my husband back but they are still separated from their loved ones, contemplating the horrible decision of whether to uproot their family and go to a place they left long ago or have never been or to live here without them. I thought I was going to have to make that decision. It is a horrible one to make. There are so many questions you ask yourself. Will we find work? Will we be safe? Will we survive? How will we live? Many brave souls have made the anguished decision to stay and be separated or to go and suffer. We were saved from that decision.
I sat it that cold, glaring, horrible room and felt blessed and sad at the same time. Sad for Gregorz, who has been in Stewart for two years and will now be deported, possibly to his death and for Cesar, who is waiting day after day to hear news of his appeal (so far six months). Sitting there, contemplating all of the families I have met that have been ripped apart by our horrible immigration system.
We were saved but we are in the minority. We will keep coming back every year until Stewart Detention Center is shut down! We will speak out in North Carolina and everywhere else that will have us until we accomplish human rights for immigrants! Si se puede!!
Emily works as a licensed mental health therapist whose husband, Pedro, was unjustly detained by immigration due to a paperwork error. Pedro is now a permanent resident. They live in Durham with their son Logan and their 3 dogs, Wilbur, Marley and Cisco. They are currently expecting a baby girl in March 2012. They continue to speak out about immigrant rights. For more information go to http://www.logansdad.org
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