Cover Story

In the Field: The Detention Facility

Alex Stambuk ’24

When we visited Torrance detention facility owned by CoreCivic, I got to meet Zoe, Dan, and Michelle from Las Americas. They are such a lovely group, and I am excited to work with them more in the future.

When we walked in, I immediately started to panic internally. I was entering a literal prison, and I had never been to a prison before. Julia and my other group members could tell that I was not okay mentally. I felt that my soul left my body. I didn’t want to see people like me, a brown, Latino, individual, locked up like animals in cages with their Due Process and human rights being violated every day by government officials. However, as we walked into the visiting room, I started to no longer feel anxious. I started to feel anger and sympathy for the immigrants locked up in Torrance. I started to remember immigration stories from my friends and family. And I started to think about how the government always has surveillance and continues to harm black and brown individuals. I felt empowered to try and help these people that are from my Latino community, and I wanted to do anything I could to help my community that is being attacked by the federal government.

I got a call from a Colombian asylum-seeker in Cibola. He wanted to know the status of his case. Sophia (an attorney with New Mexico Immigrant Law Center) and I sent a complaint to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stating that Torrance violated his Due Process rights, and he should get his negative Credible Fear Interview and his Immigration Judge review appealed. Unfortunately, USCIS rejected our complaint, and there wasn’t anything else we could do. I had to tell him that he was most likely going to be deported and Sophia did everything she could to keep him here.

When I applied to this internship, the one thing I wanted to do was to listen to people’s stories. I wanted them to know that there are individuals, like me, who want to listen and help in any capacity.”

Alex Stambuk ’24

I was very anxious at what he was going to say. I didn’t know if he was going to be angry, sad, etc. His feelings are totally valid, but I just didn’t know if I would be mentally prepared for how he was going to handle the situation. However, the first thing he did was thank me. He kept telling me that even though he is sad and scared to return, he was happy and grateful that he got to talk to me, and he appreciated that I listened to his entire asylum claim story. He told me that no one in Torrance or the government attempted even for a second to listen to his story, and I was the only one willing and wanting to listen. When he said that, I began to cry. I didn’t feel like I did much to help him, but he said that he was happy and grateful that I could be with him and really listen to his complex asylum story and history. When I applied to this internship, the one thing I wanted to do was to listen to people’s stories. I wanted them to know that there are individuals, like me, who want to listen and help in any capacity. Even though I didn’t want to tell him that he was getting deported, the phone call really did have an impact on my life. I was happy that the people in my Latino community who are being detained by the government know that there are Latinos fighting for them on the outside.

About a week later, my group and I were in a café when Sophia sent us a message. She said she sent a complaint to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the White House about the human rights and Due Process violations at Torrance. She used many of the cases I worked on as examples and she said, “the White House knows about the people you worked with.” I felt immense joy when she said that because I know that Sophia had tried every single legal avenue to bring justice towards the people being detained. Even if the Executive Branch or the federal government doesn’t read or acknowledge the Due Process and human rights violations going on at Torrance, I am grateful that Sophia did everything she could to expose these atrocities, and now they are formally documented. I hope that the work I did, and Sophia’s complaint, becomes a catalyst for meaningful change within the asylum and immigration system. I hope that this complaint, among other things, becomes the first step of holding people in power and private corporations accountable for violating human rights and treating people like animals.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: