A Filipina and a German are the last two women detained in the facilities of the Detention Center of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) in Adelanto.
This detention center has been left semi-empty after an order from a federal judge that forced, in 2020, to release immigrants detained due to the covid-19 pandemic.
That same year, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed a class action lawsuit against ICE and the GEO group that manages Adelanto, on behalf of 10 detainees, for not taking protective measures against covid-19, and the use of chemicals. toxic.
This lawsuit prompted the judge’s order to dramatically reduce the population of Adelanto to levels that would allow for social distancing.
Just this week the last Mexican immigrant was released, Laura Gálvez, who spent 5 years in custody in Adelanto, after being transferred by ICE from a California state prison, where she spent 5 years in custody for a lawsuit.
“These years have been very difficult. I suffer from high blood pressure,” said Laura, 52, who is an immigrant from Zacatecas, Mexico.
German immigrant Jacqueline Van Bezooyen and Filipino immigrant Ligaya Jensen are the only two women left at the Adelanto Detention Center.
They have seen how, little by little, the friends they made in detention have been released.
“It has been very painful emotionally. I cry every night,” says Ligaya, who has been detained in Adelanto for 3 years and 4 months.
“I have written to President Biden, Governor Gavin Newsom, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Alex Padilla and California Attorney Bonta asking for their help in getting my freedom back. I have not had an answer. Only the prosecutor answered me to tell me that he could not help me because my case is a federal matter”.
Ligaya is 46 years old, and is the mother of two children aged 24 and 19. She was living in the northern California city of Stockton, and working as a trainer at a gym, when she landed in prison.
“My children were 14 and 9 years old when they arrested me. I spent 4 years and two months in a California prison. When I finished my sentence, they brought me to Adelanto”, he says in an interview with La Opinion.
He talks about having lived in the United States since 1996. “I was a permanent resident. In 2014 I was sentenced to prison for an offense I committed; and in 2018, on my release, ICE arrested me. They want to deport me to the Philippines, but I no longer have anyone there. My whole family is here.”
She says that the letter her children submitted to the court, supporting their release and exposing the tremendous harm they would cause them if they were separated from their mother, was not taken into account. “ICE just wants to get us out of the country.”
Through tears, Ligaya says she feels desperate. “I don’t have a lawyer or anyone who helped me get out of this place. I committed a foul, but I already served my sentence. You can’t condemn us for a lifetime for one mistake.”
Says she’s just asking for a chance. “The immigrants who have committed a single fault, deserve a single opportunity to stay in this country with our families. We don’t deserve deportation. What they want to do to us is not correct”.
Ligaya, who comes out as a lesbian woman, says her biggest dream is to be reunited with her children whom she hasn’t seen for 8 years.
“They are very upset with the justice system in this country.”
After being detained for 4 years at Folsom State Prison in Northern California, Jacqueline Van Bezooyen, 56, was transferred to the ICE Detention Center in Adelanto, where she has been for two and a half years.
At the time of her arrest, she lived in Mendocino County, owned a child care business, and is the mother of three adult children.
“I feel very frustrated to have been locked up for so many years because of a mistake I made.”
In Adelanto, his health problems have been complicated by his diabetes and because he does not receive the medications he needs. “I also suffer from anxiety.”
What he wants most is to be reunited with his children and grandchildren. “All I ask is an opportunity. It is a nightmare to live inside Adelanto, without knowing what is going to happen to us.”
Jacqueline came to the United States in 1967 as a child, and the only language she knows is English. Deporting her to Germany is sending her to a world she doesn’t know and whose language she doesn’t speak, she says.
The Adelanto Detention Center has operated since 2011, is run by the private group GEO, and has a well-documented history of abuse and retaliation. It started with a capacity for 975 immigrants, but was expanded to hold up to 2,690.
A leader who advocates for detainees at Adelanto, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals against the immigrants she defends, says there are currently just under 30 detainees left at Adelanto. At the ICE Desert View Annex next to Adelanto, there are about 275.
“Right now Adelanto is losing a lot of money because of the low capacity of immigrants in custody it has, and because of the court order that doesn’t allow them to receive more.”
However, he ruled out that the Adelanto Detention Center will close. “On the contrary, during the pandemic, they took the opportunity to expand their capacity, but from that to the time they are going to close it, I do not see that happening at all. In a matter of days, they can receive up to 1,000 new immigrants.”