"It's very horrible here. We need help."

Among the immigrants held in U.S. family detention facilities is an Iranian couple and their 9-year-old, Canadian son who were on a direct flight from Guyana to Canada when their plane made an emergency landing in Puerto Rico because a passenger on the plane died from a heart attack. In Puerto Rico U.S. immigration officials arrested them for not having U.S. visas -- despite the fact they never intended to pass through U.S. territory. After several days in a Puerto Rican jail, the "Majid" family has been held at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Texas for almost three weeks. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! radio interviewed the "Majid" family today. (They asked their identities remain concealed.)

Apparently, Majid and his wife lived in Canada for ten years, during which time they had their son. When they lost their case for political asylum, they were deported to Iran, where they were immediately taken into government custody. Majid told Goodman:

"I was in Iran a small cell for six months, and lots of torture and hitting. Now I have physical problem and knee problem and lots of things. And they took my wife to other prison, where we have no news from each other."

He said the government held his wife on and off for more than a year. Eventually the family escaped and was on their way back to Canada -- but have ended up at Hutto in rather abject conditions.

Goodman spoke to 9-year-old "Kevin" who said:

"I’m sleeping beside the washroom, and I can't -- and I’m upstairs. I can't go to the washroom all the time. And there's a lot of smell coming out from the washroom. And the food is garbage. And the school is very bad. I can't learn anything good. And I have asthma, and I got sick in here. I can't stay here anymore."

By "washroom" he meant "toilet". Apparently, he's sleeping next to a toilet in an old prison cell. Kevin said his mother has also fallen ill during the almost three weeks that the family has spent in Hutto so far. They have law students from an immigration clinic working on their case but have neither been charged nor had a hearing.

"Majid" explained where things stand and why he asked his true identity remain hidden:

"We are in very bad situation, because I don't trust here immigration, because the first time they said lots of things to us, but they broke their promise. [He says they told him the family would be held in a hotel and then let free.] ....But now they said we're going to deported. OK, maybe we deported. And we are like this. We are in 100% in danger. If our whole full name goes, it's 200% in danger, because especially United States -- if you go from other country, you have less risk with government. If you go from United States, because they said “US is our enemy,” they said, Iranian authorities says, OK? But that's why we are in more and more trouble if we go back, because they will say, “Why you go to US and this happen?”

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Anonymous Mickey J. Ellis said...

I'm sorry for the nightmare these Iranian/Canadians are going through. What can I, as an American citizen do, to bring this to the attention of the public. The only place I read about these people are on your blog.

11:44 PM, February 23, 2007  
Blogger Jeremy Goren said...

You can write to your elected officials, expressing your concern, and to the editorial departments of major publications. A lot of news sources pick up stories covered by other outlets. All of these folks should have e-mail addresses for just such a purpose. And it's always good to let them know how you heard, so they know where to start investigating.

1:04 PM, February 25, 2007  

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