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Hama’s Story: What no one knows about detention…

July 7, 2010

Suffering and corruption. These are the words that Hama (not his real name) uses to describe the experience of immigration detention in the United States. Hama’s story takes us inside a U.S. detention center. His is an example of what thousands of immigrants face each day.

For nearly three years, Hama has been held in immigration custody. He explains that while detained he has received little information on the progress of his immigration case and expresses frustration over the government’s failure to articulate an explanation for why he is being detained.

Hama’s experience underscores that greater oversight of detention facilities is needed in order to improve conditions of confinement, treatment by staff, and access to necessary medical care. For example, Hama explains that after undergoing eye surgery a doctor prescribed eyeglasses as part of his recovery but immigration officials denied his prescription for eyeglasses.

Hama describes the facility where he is detained as unsanitary and the facility staff as “corrupt and uninterested in the well being of [the] detainees” He explains that staff are unresponsive to complaints made by individuals detained in the facility. There is rarely an opportunity to go outdoors and recreational activities are limited. Finally, Hama describes the law library as scarce: it contains few resources, most of which are outdated and are not useful to individuals in the facility as they attempt to prepare their cases without the assistance of counsel.

Like Hama, immigrants in detention across the country seek nothing more than to be treated fairly and with respect for their human dignity. For many immigrants, the United States is the land of opportunity, the land of freedom, and the land to live out the American Dream. Immigrants bring their families to the U.S. to provide them with a better future and a better way of life, some are even fleeing persecution, yet upon reaching our shores many are placed in sub-standard prison conditions with little to no access to their loved ones.

“I would just like to go home and be reunited with my family,”— a simple wish that may never come true for Hama.

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