Karim Golding, a 36-year-old who lives in New York City, said his experience with detention showed him that, in the U.S., immigrants are treated as if they’re “sub-human.”
For some who’ve been detained, the effects can linger. Ckatalella Letona, an Indigenous trans woman originally from Guatemala, told Teen Vogue that her experience in detention exposed her to terrors that she said left her with a “horrible aftermath” of “psychological trauma.”
Sithy Bin, a 40-year-old who lives in Los Angeles, told Teen Vogue his detention by ICE began almost immediately after a 15-year incarceration. Instead of getting to rejoin the outside world, he said he was caged again.
“I had paid my debt to society and upon my release, instead of being reunited with my family, with my children and grandchildren, I faced double punishment and was detained,” Bin said. “All the hope and excitement about returning to society and making amends for my past, and being reunited with my family had gone out the window on the day of my release from prison.”
Bin was released from detention last year with an ankle monitor by court order due to COVID-19 conditions at the center where he was detained. He also described the dehumanizing detention conditions, seeing it as a call to action.
“We should end detention now because not only is it inhuman the way detention is holding people together but it breaks the family apart, it brings trauma to the detainee and their family members,” he said. “I plead with this administration, please make decisions that will be the model for other nations to admire and follow by.”
Johannes Favi is 34, lives in Indianapolis, and came to the U.S. from the West African nation of Benin in 2013. He also saw the tragic impacts migrant detention had on people when he was locked up.
“Many People detained with me broke down mentally,” Favi shared, describing the mental anguish detained migrants face and the difficulties they have coping while detained. “Those months were nothing less than torture for me.”
“I saw many things in immigration detention I never thought I would see,” he said.
Interviewees said that migration is a natural fact of human existence. Hernandez said, “Migration is a natural thing that happens, and people are being punished for trying to look for a better life.” Letona called it a “human right.”
“People often migrate from one region of the world to the other seeking a better life.” said Favi. “It is very sad to see our taxpayer dollars used to jail and separate a child from his parents.”
“Immigrant detention needs to be abolished,” Favi told Teen Vogue. “There is no fix for a system that was designed to tear apart families and terrorize members of our communities.”
“Asking for closure of an ICE detention center is not enough,” Favi said. “Let’s be clear. Black and brown people are the majority of the targets of ICE raids in our communities. Systemic racism is the core problem we need to address today. Detention should not be a solution to fix decades of mishandling from a broken immigration system.”
“Those in detention are human beings just like us,” Favi continued. “By separating them [from family members], the system is willingly breaking the core structure of these families.”
“Detention is punitive, and it will never be the solution for a civil matter like immigration,” Favi said. “Immigrants should be permitted to live in the safety of their homes and communities while navigating their court proceedings. Every human deserves to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their origin.”
When asked if they have a message for the president, Hernandez said, “do what’s right and humane and shut down these detention centers. … These ICE detention centers are killing us!”
Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: How to Shut Down ICE Detention in Your Community, a Detention Watch Network Guide