When you practice immigration law, like I do, your world fills up with people who have been caged for the so-called crime of escaping poverty and violence. Right now, I have a client who, after over five years in a detention center, is free to go at any time – as long as he comes up with a $10,000 bond. That’s money an average American couldn’t scrounge up, let alone a refugee from Mozambique, earning $1 a day scrubbing down floors in the detention center.
My client is desperate to be free. Being detained like this is one of the most isolating experiences a person can go through. So I promised him that I would do my best to show him that he isn’t alone, that there is a whole community of people who don’t want him jailed, who care about him even though they’ve never met him. These are the words he asked me to share with you.
I came to the United States from Mozambique because my life in my country was terrible. We were so poor, and I saw my sister die from a terrible sickness and watched the police shoot and kill my brother for no reason at all right in front of my eyes. I was locked up in a mental hospital, where I was tied to the bed and beaten.
In the United States, I tried to make a new life for myself, but I didn’t have medicine to treat my mental illness. My life spiraled out of control, and in 2012, I was detained by immigration authorities at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma and put into deportation proceedings. I have been fighting my case for 5.5 years now.
Thankfully, because of my illness, I was given a free immigration attorney, and even though the judge denied my case, we won my appeal. But then my case went back to the judge, and she denied it again.
In detention, I have learned about my illness and how to manage it with medication and by finding inner peace. I do this through song and prayer, and in my time here, I have become the leader of a prayer group at the detention center. I try to help other detainees find the faith and strength to keep fighting their cases, so they have a chance to be free and go home to their families.
I have been locked up for so long now, I am getting tired. I often think about giving up, but I know I won’t be safe in my country. All I want is to have the chance to keep fighting my case in freedom, where I can have my basic dignity and don’t have to be locked up anymore.
Finally, the judge has recognized that I have been detained for so long that she has to give me a bond – but it is $10,000, and I do not have that money. I work at the detention center for $1/day cleaning and cooking and doing laundry, so I have saved a little bit of money, but nothing compared to my bond. My family in Mozambique is poor and cannot help me.
In the times I have despaired and have seen others despair, I have learned a lot about generosity. My fellow detainees and I have lifted each other up when we thought we had nothing left to give. They and God have given me the strength to keep my hope alive.
I don’t know you, but today I thank you for listening, and I ask you for your generosity. I will be forever grateful. God bless you.
So much of what happens in these detention centers is hidden from the public eye. Very few people have heard from someone who has been on the wrong side of this broken system, and that can make it even more isolating. It also makes the system harder to fix.
It’s a rare opportunity, to be able to show my clients that the outside world sees them and hears them. We have already received some donations from all over the country, and I can hear the gratitude and hope in my client’s voice every evening when he calls me to get an update.
We are half way to raising the money we need to get him out. If you can give, no matter how much, you can be one of the reasons his life takes an enormous turn for the better. The money we are raising will go directly to my client’s relative, who will pay the bond and, upon conclusion of the case and return of the bond, give the funds to my client. You can donate here.
Thank you again for reading his words.