ICE, detainees
Inmates at Otay Detention Center. Photo credit: BBC World Service / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

What is it like in an ICE prison? A former detainee describes the often inhuman conditions in which prisoners are kept.

The US government is currently holding about 400,000 men and women in a patchwork of immigration prisons. Some are kept in corporate facilities that are guaranteed a minimum number of prisoners daily; others are in cells leased from county jails and other lockups.

Carlos Hidalgo has spent two stretches at California’s Adelanto Detention Facility, where he witnessed food with maggots, guards having sex with inmates, easy access to drugs, and difficult access to legal counsel and family members. It’s an eye-opening look at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prisons in America today.

In this WhoWhatWhy podcast, Hidalgo also reports that ICE guards have little training, and says they are more like mall cops than professional prison guards. With a population ranging from serious felons to undocumented people with a DUI or minor violation, the guards are outnumbered and unable to break up fights between prisoners.

And he tells of the time he spent in solitary confinement for helping others with legal papers and organizing a hunger strike over food and other issues.

Related: The Hidden Truth About Mass Incarceration

Related: Youth Jailed at Age 16 for Years With No Trial, Kills Self — Who’s Responsible?

Related: RadioWho: Many Prisoners Say They are Innocent. Some Truly Are.

Related: TVWhoWhatWhy: Russ Baker Talks Private Prisons and Their Real Toll

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Full Text Transcript:

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Peter B. Collins: Thanks for grabbing this WhoWhatWhy podcast. In San Francisco, I’m Peter B. Collins. Today, an insider view of immigration prisons, the conditions that are often well below most federal and state prisons, and the lack of access to legal counsel and legal advice. Our guest today offers a first-person account of his experience in an ICE prison here in California.
The United States government manages a whole network of detention facilities for what are called illegal immigrants. Currently as many as 400,000 people are locked up in facilities across the country, and it’s a patchwork of facilities. Some are privately operated corporate prisons. Some are leased facilities in county jails, and currently, what we are seeing is a cost of significant proportions to lock people up. They’re often not given access to legal services, unable to contact their families. Many times, the families don’t even know where they are.
Presently, Texas, California, Arizona, Georgia, and New Jersey are the top five states with the largest number of people in immigration detention. To learn more, we’re going to talk today with a gentleman who has had two tours. He’s had two sentences at facilities here in California, the Adelanto prison operated by the for-profit GEO Group. Carlos Hidalgo is a 50-year-old gentleman who joins us today. He’s now an activist trying to expose what goes on in these immigration prisons. He’s aligned with a group called CIVIC. Carlos Hidalgo, thanks for being with me today.
Carlos Hidalgo: Thank you for having me, Peter. It’s a pleasure being here and given the chance to expose this atrocity that’s being committed right now. So I thank you.
Peter B. Collins: Well, essentially I want to talk about language because it’s interesting. The GEO Group describes the facility where you were held at Adelanto as a state of the art residential center. It has flat screen TVs, and soccer fields, and modern classrooms with up to date technology, but gosh, you’re behind barbed wire. You’ve got armed guards to make sure you can’t leave, and by any honest, objective look this is a prison, not some kind of a residential facility.
Carlos Hidalgo: You’re absolutely right. Look, of course they’re going to show you what I personally call the display window. Okay, I’ve been in both sides, east and the west side of Adelanto Detention Center. The east side is the old jail that had been there for years as one of the local state prisons that they were using, and then GEO has successfully developed because of the profit they’re making off of us immigrants that that extended to the west wing. Now, the west wing is made as a state-of-the-art detention facility supposedly, but what makes it a prison is because they use prison tactics to run this facility.
Now, although there are a lot of commodities such as electrical doors, you don’t use the keys like in the old prisons. Yes, they have big screen TVs in the center dorms and the game room area where they give you access to play anything, congregate with the rest of the guys there, but it doesn’t change the fact that the system is a prison system. That in the end, you end up in a cell, you’re surrounded by barbed wire, like you said, and the structure that is built around the way they run it is all prison tactics. From the way the guards talk to you, from the way they line you up to go to chow, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, all prison tactics.
One of the main things that you hear from the guards telling you is that they want [you] to know that you’re nothing, so they tell you, “They don’t pay me enough to give a shit about you.” That is something they really live by because they want to make sure that you are submissive to what they want you to do, to have less problems. When you’re there already broken down, half the time that you’re there, you have no way how you’re going to get out, what’s going to happen because they have you indefinitely, morally you’re already destroyed. Then them telling you and questioning you further down, it just brings you down to your knees.
Most people, as you already know have just been noted that it’s just been … committed suicide, attempted to commit suicide. In six [inaudible 00:05:06] deaths in the facility was supposed to be cared for as detainees. How did it happen? So, we still have no answers on that.
Peter B. Collins: So Carlos, as I understand it, you really think it’s important to use the right language here. I agree, because these detention facilities with over 400,000 people locked up across the country are off the radar of virtually every American. They have no idea these facilities exist. They only know that when ICE conducts a raid, people disappear. This is a very critical issue to me, because I believe that the constitutional standards and the obligation to avoid detention that is cruel and unusual are frequently violated with impunity. There is no accountability for the wrongdoing that occurs in these facilities.
Carlos Hidalgo: That’s very true. Let me tell you how I can attest to this 110%. When I arrived in the United States in January 10th 1981, I was only 11 years old. We were caught at the border. I’m from El Salvador, so we were coming at a time where our country was at the worst of its violence. So once we got here, we immediately invoked political asylum, and to me, what I’m about to describe to you was one of the biggest moments of me being in America, and knowing what America was all about. The moment we got detained, my mother … It was my mother, myself, my younger brother, and my younger sister that was 2 years old. My brother was 5 and I was 11.
We invoked political asylum, and immediately the officer, the DHS, the Department of Homeland Security back then, had this green overall suit on him. I remember this man was blond, tall with a big receding line, red face, been in the sun all day, with big green eyes, reaches to me and puts his hand on my shoulder and he tells me, “Muy bueno, muy bueno, muchacho. Vas estar bien, vas estar bien.” That heavy accent talking to me in Spanish and patting me on the shoulder, and gave me that look, to me that was my Captain America. I get emotional because what I’m about to tell you is the two sides of the story here. It made me feel protected. It made me feel that I had arrived to the place where I can fulfill my dreams, because I don’t want to hear bullets whizzing by my ears anymore. I don’t want to see my nephews or my uncles being slaughtered and shot and tortured and found dead the next morning.
I don’t want to see that anymore at the age of 11. In my country at the age of nine, I was forced to shoot and kill a man in self-defense. At the age of 9, my childhood was gone. So here I am in a place where now I can fulfill my dreams, of being something. Now, think about that. It just made me feel that immediately when he did that. He, in one gesture, made me feel like the whole country embraced me. One gesture, one person made me feel that way. Now, having gone through all this that I’ve been through in the last five years, it makes me feel like I’m a criminal. It had made me feel like I don’t belong here, like everything I’d done in this country … I was a [inaudible 00:08:46] real estate agent. I have three children born here. I have a grandson. I pay my dues, my taxes.
Now, the system who is now built around this immigration issue that we are now living has made me feel like I’m a nobody and have nothing to give, and taken everything from me, everything I’ve earned, even the right to see my children. Because while in detention, I was not allowed to answer to my complaints in family court, so I lost the custody to my children. My business, my financial security, my stability, everything I worked for all these years taken away on a system that is so crooked and corrupt right now, because us immigrants are now the highest, the biggest commodity in business. Private industries that create this “detention centers” are nothing but money-making machines.
Peter B. Collins: Well, and we know that the contracts that are written with the corporate prison operators guarantee them payment for a certain number of beds every day of the year. So, there is this incentive to fill them up and to keep them filled.
Carlos Hidalgo: That’s correct. I mean, imagine that they’re putting now numbers, guaranteed. That means no matter what, we’re going to get these people. We’re going to keep them indoors. There’s a gentleman, a friend of mine named Sylvester who recently, we did a big event, had been detained for nine years. Imagine yourself being incarcerated nine years without having committed a crime, without having violated any laws other than the fact that you don’t have a stable status in the United States. It doesn’t take nine years to develop a status in the United States [inaudible 00:10:43] you’ll be deported. Instead, they shuffle you around, and for nine years, you’re in limbo in this system that is profiting every day from you.
Peter B. Collins: Oscar, we have a known backlog of cases in the immigration courts. The judges are overwhelmed with caseloads in the thousands. Most recently, there was a decision that came out of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals here in San Francisco, and that’s supposed to be the most dangerous liberal court in the country. They ruled against the interests of teenage children, saying that the government is not required to provide an attorney for them in deportation hearings before immigration judges.
Carlos Hidalgo: Yes.
Peter B. Collins: The claim was made by the judge, the justice who wrote the decision that well, the immigration judge can advocate for the interests of this child. The statistics presented showed that when a lawyer represented a minor before the immigration courts, 46% of the time, there was a resolution in favor of the child. When no lawyer was present, the resolution in favor of the child was only 10%. So, these are very clear, black and white figures that demonstrate the barbarity of the dungeons that we have created with profiteering right on top of it all.
Carlos Hidalgo: Exactly. I try to go back in time and figure out when did this all change? When did this country become so predatory towards immigrants? When did this country change the compassionate heart that it always had, that this is the land of your dreams where you could fulfill all your dreams and fulfill your pursuit of happiness? When did that all change? This country used to stand for something.
Peter B. Collins: Well, I have one answer for you. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which doubled the number of people in immigration detention. In just a two-year period, it increased from 8,500 to 16,000 by 1998. If you go way back to the 1970s, we, at that point, only had a handful of people being held for immigration issues on any given day.
Carlos Hidalgo: The proceedings were different too. They all had a deadline, a time limit. Now, it’s indefinitely. Immigration has now changed to a point that they have given ICE such power that they call them discretionary rules. That means that each individual ICE officer has the power to grant you release bond by making an assessment based on their own discretionary rules. That they have to detain you if you have committed an aggravated felony, but because we are not under the spotlight, we’re not under the scope, that’s a group that’s not being watched or not being monitored, they’re taking everybody, whether you have an aggravated felony, a misdemeanor, it doesn’t matter. You’re an immigrant, you’re gone, you’re going.
Another thing is because of that rule, what you read earlier about a mandatory amount of individuals that need to be in detention, well, since when and where is it written that it has to be a mandatory six months detention? There’s no immigration law that’s written that says that once you’re detained, you have to be detained mandatory six months in these detention centers for GEO. What that’s doing is guaranteeing these people a certain amount of dollars for individuals every six months.
Once that comes, there’s something that’s called the Rodriguez bond hearing where now you’re playing a numbers game. How many will be released under bond? The bonds given in immigration, some are bigger bonds than there are given in criminal courts, which is ridiculous because if people who are now being detained in these “immigration centers” are now being convicted for crimes they have already paid for. Meaning in the judicial system, they already did the time for the DUI, or any other conviction they might have been convicted of. It’s already done and paid for. On the eyes of immigration, no, now you were convicted of a crime. Now you must come here and do six months again, and you’ll be held in detention.
That’s double jeopardy. I see it very clear as double jeopardy, and now it’s just another loophole they have to keep you, to make that money, because if you don’t find yourself in that loophole of committing a felony, they have something else that is called crimes of moral turpitude. Every crime is a crime of moral turpitude, even if it’s urinating on the street. It’s immoral, so they’re going to charge you for that. So therefore, they’re going to hold you, and guess what, six months. So, they have made this loophole to no matter which way you go, or how you’re being detained, or for whatever reason they’re keeping you, they’re going to hold you there for six months.
If you’re lucky to afford an attorney, you’ll be having representation when you go to court. That will give you a chance, in six months, to get a bond. Now, if you don’t get a bond, then the deportation procedures will continue. With this waiting line, it could take years. Why is that the issue here? Why not just immediately make an assessment, allow you to have voluntary deportation where you can pay your own ticket and fly back to your country? That option is not given. You mandatory have to stay six months.
It aggravates me, because having been there, I see the atrocities they do. These facilities have no ability to maintain that many people detained at any given time. People that have dialysis have to be moved every other day from four in the morning to a different location to get dialysis, being brought at 11 o’clock at night, no extra meals, no protein meals. I see them almost dragging their feet, shackled hand and foot back into their dorms. You’re talking a lot of people of age here. Dialysis drains the life out of you. How can these people have the heart to see that and do that, and don’t even have the facilities to provide that service in house? People that are diabetic, they don’t have extra meals, protein meals that could continue to give them the energy they need.
Peter B. Collins: Carlos, I understand that you organized a hunger strike at one point, and they put you in solitary confinement. Tell us about that.
Carlos Hidalgo: Well, when I arrived the first time around, I got myself known by GEO officers because I was helping everybody to get their paperwork done and vacate their conviction so they can get a better chance once they saw the immigration judge. Well, when I was released the first time around on a $10,000 bond, it was in a year’s time, under the same conviction they would, I don’t know, follow me, whatever have you, but I had committed no crime. They found me again, and they take me again for the second time. This time, they’re getting more bold because now they do these round-ups just to compensate for the people that are being released. So, I decided that this time to make a change here, and not just a one change, I mean a lifetime change to let them know this cannot be happening.
I slowly started to communicate with the different ethnic groups within the detention center, and we orchestrated a hunger strike now, so we can have a fair chance to survive in that place. We were asking as a mandatory, better medical, meals, the living conditions, which is better housing, clothing, a yard, what they call the state-of-the-art soccer fields. In the middle of the desert, they’re going to put AstroTurf. Let me tell you how state of the art this is. They give you shoes that when you’re walking, you step on the AstroTurf, it is so hot. Not only you cannot even use the AstroTurf, your shoes literally melt, the soles of your shoes. I’m saying that because that happened to me. I am literally melted in the grass, in the AstroTurf, that my shoes went right through it.
So well, we did this because we needed to have a better environment to at least be able to survive day to day, okay? The way they treat you, the way they make you feel, the meals are so poorly in taste and so small, you’re hungry all the time. In one occasion, they gave us brown turkey meat. The minute the trays arrived to the dorm and we lined up, we started smelling this smell. When I saw the first tray, because I used to run the dorms and serve the food off the cart, I noticed the meat itself was moving. There were maggots in the food, in the meat. This is something so obvious. The sergeant tells me, “There’s nothing there. Serve it, you eat it.” I said, “No, you eat it. Take one spoonful of this, and then I’ll eat the rest only if you take the first bite.” He couldn’t even get close to the tray.
I mean, that’s how careless they are. I mean, how can you be so heartless you’re going to give us food with maggots in it? So, when all these atrocities are being committed, we decided to take a stand, 840 detainees decided to do this. So, once they found out that I was the one that orchestrated this, they came after me with the intentions that they want to take me to the doctor, but I knew that was not the case, because I had no medical call. So, they took me out from my dorm and they put me in solitary confinement. My attorney, my civil rights attorney [inaudible 00:21:12] from CIVIC, they kept calling. My daughter was calling, and they could not locate me. My number was off and they didn’t know if I’ve been transferred, what had happened to me.
In the end, they ended up transferring me to Theo Lacy in Orange County. My transfer documents read, “To be transferred to Theo Lacy, considered a danger to the safety and the security of this facility.” I was transferred immediately … well, eight days after detention, they transferred me to Theo Lacy.
Peter B. Collins: Now, let me ask you about violence in the prison, and the extent to which the guards really operate without any constraints, because if you get beat up by a guard in an ICE detention center, who do you call? Who do you report it to?
Carlos Hidalgo: Let me tell you, that’s happened quite often. The thing is that solitary confinement is solitary confinement, which you would think that is a place that would be more monitored because you are in solitary. You have more tighter security. Well, those are the blind spots that when you’re in there, you’re fair game. So, the guards have a way of making sure that you are in the blind spots, so yes, there are times that the guards have … I personally know for a fact that one of the individuals who passed away in the detention center was taken by the guards for supposedly stomach cancer, but I knew the guy. The guy had no stomach cancer, taken to solitary confinement on Friday, pronounced dead on Tuesday when he was in solitary confinement.
One of the guards who had the shift that night had some bruises and scratches and bandages. It’s just very clear that they have … there’s premeditation. They think it. It’s premeditated for them to take you to the blind spots, make sure the security is not anywhere in sight for them to do what they do to you, regulate you, put you in a spiral of fear so you won’t do that again. That is some practice. It happens all the time, and when it comes to the opposite side of what you should be doing, detention centers providing safety to the detainees, okay?
Remember earlier when I said about the Captain America individual who welcomed me here? Well, that’s not the case now, because now I don’t have to worry … then, I didn’t have to worry about being hurt. I felt secure. I felt protected. Now, the very same people, even ICE officers have done, on the outside when they detain you, aggressive, violent acts against immigrants. We are treated now immediately like we are the criminals, like we are somebody that’s such a threat that they have to make us submissive immediately, and put us in fear, and use violence to subdue us so we can obey to what they say, and it’s not like that.
Why would they use such violence? Why use such aggressive tactics to something that is very simple? We are people just like everybody else, with a different status. We are hardworking individuals, and we want to pursue a chance to succeed in our life for our families, but in their eyes, we’re not. So, we are treated in a way that we’re less. I would say … what’s the word I’m looking for? We are less of a person to have the chance to be given to succeed. That really aggravates me because I grew up in an era where you were given the chance to succeed, and it’s great to achieve that and be accomplished, show a sense of accomplishment. Nowadays, all we’re doing is the very same way of life that the United States has always said is the stability of family.
They are the very same ones taking it away. You’re taking mom and dad out of the equation, breaking homes. Now you have a broken home where a kid will stray to drugs or gangs or the next wave of crimes they’re going to generate in the future because the stability of home is gone. Financial stability is no longer there, so they have to look for other ways to survive, and that becomes stealing, selling drugs. It escalates. I know a family who lived very well before the husband was brought into detention. Now, they live in a garage, and now it’s only the mother and daughter because at 14, they killed the son because he got involved with drugs and the gangs when the father was in detention for two years. So, those kind of atrocities not only affect immigrants individually but there’s whole communities that’s been hit.
Peter B. Collins: I understand. Carlos, when fights break out between prisoners at Adelanto, what do the guards do?
Carlos Hidalgo: Let me start by telling you this, the guards are not prepared to be handling one on one fights. These guards, at best I would say, they are security guards. Their tactics are based on the tactics of a prison, and for them to put into practice are very unlikely they’d be able to use them.
Peter B. Collins: So, these are mall cops who aren’t even as well trained as a state prison guard. Is that what you’re saying?
Carlos Hidalgo: That’s exactly what I’m saying. I mean, they’d be like if anyone wanted to overpower these detention centers, Adelanto Center, I’ve been there, they will have no problem. They have one guard inside the dorm watching, and basically, he’s not a guard. I would say but really he’s the gofer, because it is go for this, go for that. You need toilet paper, he’ll get it for you. You need this, he’ll get it for you. So, if they want to overpower this, they could do that at any point in time. They have no self-defense skills.
If they want to jump in and protect a detainee that’s being beaten by another detainee, which has happened many a time … because you have a mixture of immigrants that have now been sent from upstate, coming from prison, to be housed in a “detention facility” who house individuals who come off the street that never committed crimes other than probably DUI, or failed to appear, and now, they’re in mix of individuals who have done heavy crimes. They have the certain system that the prisons are run, so they have to control.
When you don’t adhere to that system, you get regulated, and that regulation becomes very popular as the days go by because you don’t know how to fit in, and they have to show you who the boss is. So, when it comes to people that have never been in jail before, yeah, you know they’re going to get their ass beaten because they’re not adhering to a certain rule. If you’re a homosexual where it’s only obvious people have homophobias, especially coming from upstate, well, they’re going to get theirs in one way or the other. They have HIV individuals mixed in the crowd, general population. Well, people get worried, concerned, and that ignorance … not to insult them, but the ignorance of not knowing how HIV is contracted puts them in fear.
What does fear do? Adheres to violence, so what happens? Anything that can happen in there happens because accidents will happen, and they don’t know how to prevent that. If your officers have no training whatsoever, if you got the chance to ask them how long the training is, I would say the last time I heard, they were held in groups, and they were done on a one week at a time. So, they sent a group for a week, get trained, go to work, because the need of guards, there’s such a high demand that they don’t have enough time to train them, so…
Peter B. Collins: Now, let me ask about this Carlos, because I interviewed a guard from an Arizona ICE prison a couple of years ago. It had a female population, and there were serious problems with guards who were trading sex for favorable treatment of women, whether it was phone calls or access to an attorney. Again, this occurred without any kind of accountability when women reported pressure to give sex for favors.
Carlos Hidalgo: That’s very true. That happened in Adelanto. Some of the female guards, for some reason, they felt attracted to these long term guys that were coming from upstate. Yeah, it was noted in some record that some people got fired for doing favors and having sexual contact with the detainees. They would put money in their books. I know for one of the guys who I was with who had come from upstate was having sexual intercourse with one of the female guards in the storage room. Any time she was on shift that would happen, a few days later, money in his books. He had money all the time.
So, it happens quite often. Also, another [inaudible 00:30:48] where I know other people that I’ve spoken to throughout the years that are transgender or homosexuals, they’re put in situations by the same detainees. They’re being forced to have sex, and the guards knowingly, they completely ignore the incident. So on one hand, they could do something about it or choose not to get involved, so it happens. They’d just rather not get involved and it could happen. Then themselves too, they’re getting involved with the detainees. It’s something that it’s very regular. Believe it or not, it’s very regular that it happens out there, because they feel in a position of power.
Peter B. Collins: What about drugs? How easy is it to get drugs at an ICE detention facility?
Carlos Hidalgo: Very easy. I’m glad you asked that question. Not to say that everybody there is a drug user, but because you have mixtures of people coming from prison, old habits are hard to break. You still have that problem in prison where the practices of detention and security are very high. Now, you come to a security facility like Adelanto where they practice the same tactics at a poor level, but nonetheless prison tactics, the ability to bring drugs, it’s unbelievable. During visits, in practice, they can bring drugs easily. It is sad to say. I’m just being fair. I know all [inaudible 00:32:34] that it happens, and yes, they do bring drugs in, and it moves the circle of business within the facility.
Peter B. Collins: If somebody’s smoking weed, it’s hard to disguise the smell. So, so guards just smell it and ignore it, or do people get disciplined when they’re caught using marijuana, for example?
Carlos Hidalgo: I personally, smoking weed never heard anybody making any issues of it. They’re going to shower, steam up the room. You can still smell it, but what I’m I going to do here? Go in and tell these guys to stop smoking? You’re talking guys with prison experience, so the guy that just came off the street and wants to go home and play his Xbox, what is he going to do? I’m going to finish my shift and go home. So, they let it be. They let it run. They have no choice.
Peter B. Collins: Now Carlos, my final area of questioning is about the access to legal counsel and to legal information, a law library, because as we’ve noted, many people are sent there with a flat six months sentence. They often lose contact with the lawyer they may have had back at home, and they’re really just left on their own. So, what is the quality of access to legal information and legal counsel when you’re in an ICE jail?
Carlos Hidalgo: Look, when I got there, I noticed in the first five days all these violations committed against us immigrants. We had no access to legal books, only pamphlets given, pamphlets being chosen by ICE. So immediately, I call a friend, an attorney from the outside. So he sent me all the forms to vacate a criminal case. I set up shop, and my way to keep busy during my own situation was helping everybody out, so I did that. So here we are vacating cases because we have no legal counsel that can give you any information.
They have groups that come and give you what’s called esperanza, “hope” in Spanish, and they give you a certain amount of information that you can take with you, but they don’t actually put a hands-on to recommend you to someone who’s going to represent you. There’s a list of attorneys that they give you that is … If I had it right now, I would read it to you. Of the attorneys on there, they’re not non-profit. Of course, you’ve got to pay, but it’s not the adequate information you would want to get immediate help to stop the deportation, and this is high end, the attorneys.
So in there, in order for you to defend yourself, to have some kind of information, you don’t have it. If anything, they make it difficult for you, because when they found out that I was doing what I was doing, they went into my dorm, to my cell and just took from me every document. Then to every other detainee that had it, they took every document that had to do with criminal courts. They sent me to isolation for a whole month, to solitary confinement, for having done that. When I came out, immediately I appealed it. I filed agreements. I had to discuss this with ICE and the warden of the detention center.
It took me three weeks to make the point that the laws of the United States do not stop at the walls of Adelanto. We have a right to at least protect ourselves and defend ourselves. They gave me the chance to get those papers back, but because I was given a chance to do so, does that mean that people were going to be asking about those documents and get cleared for any criminal conviction they had in the past? They had to figure out a way to stop us, so what did they do? They allowed us to have only three copies per page of every document that we had to do. So, the package is 12 pages to vacate your case back then. We could only get three per page, and they would only give you one hour at the library to do that.
Straight up they told me, “We don’t give you more than three pages because it costs us too much on paper.” Now, you have two, three, four convictions. How long is it going to take you to have this taken care of and sent to the criminal justice system to be vacated? It will take you weeks, days, weeks, months we cannot afford. Every day that goes by is a day that people that I’ve known, Peter, were sent out and deported, because of these people’s balls to say, “No, you cannot get another copy. No, you cannot send that out today. You have to wait for tomorrow because you’re only getting three copies for the day.”
[inaudible 00:37:24] after that to one piece of paper for you to get your freedom, and these people have the audacity to tell you, “No, you cannot do it.” It angers me because you know what? That’s too much power for someone to have to destroy your life. It brings to mind, I am barely picking up the pieces after four years of being in detention. I’m doing this, and I dedicated to this immigration war because there’s no other way for me to pay them back, to get back at them or to expose them for what they are. How can that right be taken away from us to be happy, to be free in this country? Since its birth, it’s been set up by immigrants, built by immigrants, and still run by immigrants.
People forget that. We are people that have rights to succeed in this life. We are people that have the right to grow old and have children and be happy, and we are treated like we’re less than human.
Peter B. Collins: Well Carlos, I really appreciate you sharing these experiences with our listeners. I think most people will be shocked to learn what is going on, and I hope that your work with the non-profit activist group CIVIC will help expose these series of dungeons. That’s, I think, the best way to describe what we have set up here. People lose a lot of their rights, and as you pointed out, are clearly treated as less than human. This is not only immoral and a violation of legal and constitutional rights, it’s just fundamentally un-American. I would like to apologize to you on behalf of thinking, feeling Americans who do not want to be associated with this really ugly, inhumane treatment of human beings.
Carlos Hidalgo: Peter, I thank you for the chance, and especially one more thing. I’m just a story, Peter. I’m one of the many thousands that have gone through, some probably worse, but you guys are the vessel, media and communication. I thank you for giving me the chance to put it out because people need to know that at this day and age, what is happening is unthinkable. This should not be happening. People’s lives should not be destroyed at the will of the government. It’d be much easier to have some kind of arrangement, amnesty, something that can work, that we can be productive and not be chased after.
As I said, you guys being the vessel on this, I thank you for allowing me to put it out there and making people aware about this, by opening somebody’s eyes that have contact with someone that can make an impact and make a change, a movement that can change this forever. Not just for now, but a permanent change.
Peter B. Collins: Yeah. Carlos Hidalgo, thank you very much sir.
Carlos Hidalgo: Thank you.
Peter B. Collins: Thanks for listening to this podcast from I always appreciate your feedback and comments. Drop me an email,, and if you’re in a position to do so, we’d appreciate your financial support here at WhoWhatWhy.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Carlos Hidalgo (CIVIC / YouTube) and wire (TLV and more / Flickr – CC BY 2.0).

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