Monday, April 16, 2018

'Cruel System': Jailed Journalist Describes Life in Detention

Posted By on Mon, Apr 16, 2018 at 3:50 PM

click to enlarge Manuel Duran - MEMPHIS NOTACIAS
  • Memphis Notacias
  • Manuel Duran
Manuel Duran misses his life before he was arrested and detained on April 3rd.

It's an obvious but poignant portion of a statement from the Memphis journalist who was arrested on that date.

While his charges were dismissed, Duran was taken from the Shelby County Jail by officers with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. He now awaits a hearing before an immigration judge and faces deportation back to El Salvador.

During a news conference here Monday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said their attorneys were trying to get Duran released. During that news conference, a statement from Duran was read aloud.

In it, he describes his routines inside the detention facility in Louisiana, his frustrations, and more. He said he misses his old life as owner of and reporter for his newspaper, Memphis Noticias.

Having witnessed everything from within, Duran called it a "cruel system."

Below is his full statement (in English on top and in Spanish below):  

"I cannot thank you enough for the support I have received since the moment of my arrest and subsequent transfer and incarceration in Louisiana.

This episode in my life has not been easy, but I have taken it as an opportunity to learn first hand the drama and reality that our families are living when they are arrested by immigration and then deported.

Families like Jorge’s, who is in detention with me. He has been in jail for 3 months; he has three very young children, 4, 5, and 10. One of them has a heart problem. But Jorge will be deported as soon as his trip is allowed by his country’s consulate. He could not fight his case because he could not afford an immigration attorney.

Or Fernando’s, who is 64 years old and has three U.S. citizen children, but has been in detention for the past seven months and is now about to be deported back to his country, away from his family and everything he knows, after his attorney couldn’t win his case.

Once you’re inside the detention facility it is extremely hard to get the phone number of a private attorney and if you are lucky enough to find one, the attorney is costs thousands of dollars.

No one should be deprived of their freedoms just for wanting a better future for their children. This is a cruel system that criminalizes people who pose no danger to this country.

My greatest challenge will be to continue working for my people, no matter where I’m at.

I could say that my destiny lies now in the hands of an immigration judge in Atlanta. Someone I have never met and someone who does not know my story and I may never be granted the opportunity to tell my story. But my destiny lies in the hands of the judge of judges, and I’m willing to accept His decision.

Through this experience I have learned first-hand details about the treatment our immigrants receive before they are deported. How they keep the lights on day and night and you have to sleep with a towel over your eyes. How they make you lie in bed for 45 minutes, in what seems to be at random, after roll calling and you cannot use the phone or the bathroom during that time.

How they would not let you know your attorney is on the phone. How you get paid dimes for work and you are on your own if you have no one outside adding funds to your commissary. How the visitation hours and your recreation hours happen at the same time so you have to choose between seeing your family and getting some air.

How the phones in the visitation room do not work and you have to scream through the soundproof windows. I will keep taking notes about my experience and I will keep on collecting my cellmates’ stories while I’m here.

I am so fortunate that my family has the ability to travel to Jena, Louisiana to see me. Many families, families like Jose’s, cannot travel to see him because they cannot afford the trip. Many of my cellmates' families cannot come to Louisiana because they cannot pay for it, or are too afraid to make the trip, or cannot come inside the facility because they are undocumented themselves.
As for me, I miss my home. I miss everything I left behind. I miss my life before April 3, I miss being in touch with my people and reading their messages. It is extremely difficult being cut off from everyone back home, uninformed, and alone. I try to stay positive as much as I can, but it’s not easy being isolated, and sometimes I just fail.

Thank you all of you who have shown solidarity with my story. Nonprofits, the press, who have given me their support. Thanks to my family. Thanks to all the people who have not abandoned me in this test. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. And finally, thanks to the team of lawyers who work to free me from this prison.


Here it is again, in Spanish.

"No me alcanzan las palabras para agradecerles el apoyo que he recibido desde el momento de mi arresto y posterior traslado y encarcelamiento en Louisiana.

Este episodio de mi vida no ha sido fácil, pero lo he tomado como una oportunidad para conocer de primera mano el drama y la realidad que viven nuestras familias cuando son arrestadas por inmigración para luego ser deportadas.

Familias como la de Jorge, que está siendo detenido conmigo. El ha estado encarcelado por 3 meses, tiene tres hijos pequeños, 4, 5, y 10 y uno de ellos tiene un problema en el corazón. Pero Jorge va a ser deportado en cuanto el consulado de su país autorice el viaje. No pudo pelear su caso porque no puedo pagar por un abogado de inmigración.

O familias como la de Fernando, que tiene 64 años y tres hijos ciudadanos estadounidenses, pero ha estado encarcelado por los últimos 7 meses y ahora va a ser deportado de vuelta a su país, lejos de su familia y todo lo que conoce, porque su abogado no pudo ganar su caso.

Una vez en detención, es extremadamente difícil conseguir el numero de telefono de un abogado privado y si uno tiene suficiente suerte como para encontrar uno, el abogado vale miles de dólares. Creo que nadie debería ser privado de libertad por el simple hecho de querer un mejor futuro para sus hijos. Este es un sistema cruel que criminaliza a personas que no son un peligro para este país.

Mi mayor desafío será continuar trabajando por mi gente, sin importar donde me encuentre. Podría decir que mi destino está en las manos de un juez de inmigracion en Atlanta. Alguien a quien nunca he conocido, que no conoce mi historia y al que puede que nunca pueda presentarle mi historia. Pero mi destino está en las manos del juez de jueces, y estoy dispuesto a aceptar Su decisión.

En esta experiencia he conocido detalles de primera mano sobre el trato que reciben nuestros inmigrantes previo a ser deportados. Cómo mantienen las luces prendidas día y noche y tienes que dormir con una toalla sobre los ojos. Como hacen quedarte en cama por 45 minutos después de pasar lista en lo que parece ser al azar y no puedes usar el baño o hacer una llamada telefónica durante ese tiempo.

Como no te dejan saber que tu abogado está en el teléfono. Como te pagan centavos por trabajo y estás completamente solo si alguien de afuera no pone dinero en tu libro. Como el horario de visita y el horario recreativo suceden al mismo tiempo para que tengas que elegir entre ver a tu familia o tomar aire. Como los teléfonos en el cuarto de visita no funcionan y tienes que gritar a través de las ventanas a prueba de sonido.

Voy a seguir tomando notas sobre mi experiencia y voy a seguir coleccionando las historias de mis compañeros de celda mientras este aqui.

Soy tan afortunado de que mi familia pueda viajar a Jena, LA para verme. Muchas familias, familias como las de José, no pueden viajar a verlo porque no cuentan con los fondos para hacerlo.

Muchas de las familias de mis compañeros de celda no pueden venir a Louisiana porque no pueden pagar el viaje, tienen miedo de hacer el viaje, o simplemente no pueden entrar al edificio porque ellos también son indocumentados.

En lo que a mi respecta, extraño mi casa. Extraño todo lo que dejé. Extraño mi vida antes del 3 de Abril, extraño estar en contacto con todos, poder leer sus mensajes. Es extremadamente difícil estar alejado de todos en casa, desinformado, y solo. Trato demantener una actitud positiva tanto como puedo, no es fácil estar aislado, pero a veces no puedo.

Gracias a todos los que se han solidarizado con mi historia. A las organizaciones y a la prensa que me han brindado su apoyo. Gracias a mi familia. Gracias a las personas que han sido fundamentales y no me han abandonado durante esta prueba. Gracias por sus oraciones. Por último, gracias al equipo de abogados que trabajan para liberarme de esta prisión.


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