More and more, we’re seeing stories and photos appear in the news and media of detention centers set up for detained immigrants.
While many of these facilities are operated by “for-profit companies,” and not all of them are government funded, government agents are responsible for placing individuals in these horrifying buildings with less-than-human living conditions. While we’ve seen the photos, and we’ve read the news, not all of us have had the opportunity to hear it from someone who actually went through the trauma of being detained.
Wanda Villanueva was on a flight from California to Charlotte and met Glendy on the plane with her son, having come from one of the many immigration detention centers in America. The story is absolutely heartbreaking.
This is Glendy. I met her and her 7 year old son on my flight back from California. She looked exhausted and sad but even so she offered a shy smile when she sat next to me. We began to chat and the story she began to share with me left me heartbroken. This was her second flight since she was taken out of an immigration detention center. She had spent almost a week there with her son. She and her husband were separated at the detention center. The little boy was agitated and clearly distressed. She told me they had slept on the floor each night and given only a small blanket that she described as nylon material. The AC was turned up high and they were very cold. When her husband was separated from them her boy cried for two days asking for his father. They were unable to shower for the entire duration and when her son wet himself from the trauma they endured, the officers did not allow her to wash him up. She witnessed some children being separated from their families and women hysterically crying out for their children. She spoke of pregnant women sleeping on the hard floor. One boy stood by a window looking for his father for 4 days. She described how swollen his eyes were from days of crying and lack of sleep. She doesn’t know where her husband was taken and with tears in her eyes she said she felt dead inside. They had lost their humble home in a mudslide in Guatemala and hoped to find work and a better life in the USA. She told me how much she enjoyed working, as if trying to convince me she was not here to get anything without putting in the hard work. Somehow she was released to the care of some family in Rhode Island until her deportation hearing. Her brother in law had paid for the plane tickets and was waiting for them. She has never met him before. She lifted her pant leg and showed me the ankle monitor they had put on her. She only had the clothes on her back and a few personal items in a clear bag. I asked her if they had given her any food for the trip. No, she replied. “We have not eaten since this morning.” It was 10 pm. She still had another plane to catch once she landed in Charlotte. Once we landed, I bought them breakfast and walked them to their gate. The little boy had been given a clean pair of pants from a church organization. They were probably 4 inches above his skinny ankles and his sneakers were too big for his little feet. His eyes darted back and forth as we walked through the busy airport, trying to understand this new world, this strange language and what was happening to his family. He looked so very sad and frightened. Once we reached the gate, I hugged her tight and told her to try to stay positive, pray hard, and thank God she was not separated from her little boy. I hope one day she will remember that during a horrible time in her life, there was at least person who truly cared. I got to my car and cried in the long term parking lot for 15 minutes. This is really happening folks. What are we doing? Why are we separating families? If we must send them back, why separate children from their mothers?
After sharing the story of Glendy and her family, many people began commenting on Wanda’s post–outraged.
It’s a sad, horrifying, and trying time to be living in America right now. Be on the right side of history–if you see something, say something.