Central American Mom Shares Detention Nightmare Even After Her Release

Editor’s Note: This morning, Latino Rebels received the following bilingual email from Cristina, a mother from Central America who was detained at the Berks County, PA detention facility with her 12-year-old son for 14 months. Of note is that even though Cristina is no longer detained at Berks, she is still being monitored at home with an ankle bracelet. A few years back, we shared the story of how the ankle bracelet strategy is now being pushed by the very same private prison lobby that runs ICE detrention facilities. These alternative methods, which are being promoted by Wahington DC elected officials (both Republicans and Democrats), still need to be questioned. But don’t take our view on this: read what Cristina has to say.


I came to this county with my twelve-year-old son to escape a gang. I had a good job back home, but we had to leave because my son and I were in too much danger. We were detained crossing the Texas border and then taken to San Antonio. I was separated from my son for several days—they were holding him someplace else and I had no idea where. When we were transferred to Pennsylvania, I was shackled at my hands, ankles and waist. On the plane I was reunited with my son and he asked me, “Mom, what’s wrong, why do they have you in chains?” My son wanted to hug me, but a guard got in between us and wouldn’t let him near me.

We were locked up for almost 14 months. Inside my son couldn’t get the care he requires. My son is a special needs child, at his age he can’t read or write, but nobody would help him. His teacher would just yell, she had no patience for him, because he couldn’t understand what she was saying. He suffered a great deal in detention. The last 4 months we were there he didn’t even want to eat. He would cry all the time and tell me that he just wanted to get out of that place, but he doesn’t understand the serious danger we would face if we were sent back.

After being detained for so long we were finally released, but they put an ankle monitor on me. Now I can barely leave the house, I can’t go anywhere. I feel like I’m shackled again. Where do they think I’m going to flee to? I have nowhere to go. The ankle monitor hurts my foot so badly I can barely stand the pain. I don’t know what’s going to happen to us. They say this is a country of opportunities, but I’m not even allowed to work to provide for my son. They must think we can live on air.

ICE says that Berks isn’t a jail, just because it has a few more amenities, but its still a jail. When I would ask the officials about my case, they would never give me any information or say how long we might be there. I was so desperate during those 14 months, not knowing when we would get out. For the first six months my depression was so bad I cried all the time and they kept giving me anti-depressants. We suffered terribly. The children there are traumatized. Sometimes my son wakes up shaking from nightmares that he’s still inside. And he tells me that he never wants to go back there. No child deserves to go through that.

I’m trying to do things right here, go through the process to get asylum in this country. The guards offered that if I agreed to be deported they would release us immediately and send us home, but I couldn’t accept that because if we were sent back who knows what might happen to us. All I want is for my son’s and my asylum case to finally be approved. This is about saving our lives.


Yo vine a este país con mi hijo de doce años huyendo de una pandilla. Tenía un buen trabajo en mi país, pero tuvimos que venir por el peligro que enfrentábamos mi hijo y yo. Nos detuvieron cruzando la frontera en Texas y luego nos llevaron a San Antonio. Me separaron de mi hijo por muchos días—lo tenían en otro lugar y yo no sabía donde. Cuando nos trasladaron a Pennsylvania me llevaron esposada de las manos, los pies y la cintura. En el avión vi otra vez a mi hijo y me preguntó, “Mami, que pasa, porque te tienen encadenada?” Y mi hijo me quería abrazar pero una de las guardias lo separó de mí y no lo permitió acercarse.

Estuvimos encerrados casi 14 meses. Adentro no daban los cuidados que mi hijo necesitaba. Mi hijo necesita cuidados especiales, a su edad no puede leer ni escribir, pero nadie le ponía atención. La maestra sólo le gritaba, se desesperaba, no le tenia paciencia, porque él no entendía lo que ella decía. Mi hijo sufrió demasiado encerrado. En los últimos cuatro meses que estuvimos ahí no quería ni comer. Lloraba todo el tiempo y me decía que no mas quería salir de ahí, pero él no sabe el verdadero peligro que enfrentaríamos en mi país.

Después de tantos meses detenidos por fin nos soltaron, pero me pusieron un grillete. Ahora casi no puedo salir de la casa, no puedo ir a ningún lado. Siento que me tienen encadenada otra vez. ¿Adónde creen que voy a huir? No tengo adónde ir. Y no aguanto el dolor en mi pie porque me lastima demasiado el grillete. Yo ya no sé que va ser de mi vida. Se supone que éste es un país de oportunidades, pero yo ni siquiera puedo trabajar para mantener a mi hijo. Han de pensar que vamos a vivir del aire.

ICE dice que Berks no es una cárcel, solamente porque tiene un poco mas de comodidades, pero sigue siendo una cárcel. Cuando yo les preguntaba a los oficiales sobre mi caso, nunca me daban información ni fecha de salida. Fueron 14 meses donde yo estaba desesperada sin saber cuando íbamos a salir. Pase los primeros seis meses llorando de pura depresión y no más me daban antidepresivos todo el tiempo. Fue un sufrimiento horrible. Los niños ahí se ponen traumados. Mi hijo a veces cuando está dormido se despierta a brincos porque tiene pesadillas pensando que esta ahí adentro todavía. Y me dice que nunca mas quiere volver ahí. Ningún niño merece pasar por eso.

Yo quiero hacer las cosas bien, hacer el proceso de obtener el asilo en este país. Me ofrecían que si yo aceptaba la deportación me soltaban ya mismo y me deportaban pero yo no podía aceptar eso porque si regresáramos a mi país quien sabe que nos pasaría. Sólo les estoy pidiendo que por fin me aprueben el asilo para mi y para mi hijo. Esto se trata de la necesidad de salvar nuestras vidas.

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