Hear From An Undocumented Immigrant Inside An ICE Detention Center

“My kids were screaming, ‘Don’t take us from our grandpa.’ They didn’t even give us a chance to brush our teeth.”

By Joy Diaz, Emily Donahue & Hady MawajdehJanuary 6, 2016 12:20 pm| ,

Perhaps for no one will 2016 be longer than for the hundreds in Texas who have been rounded up this week – in midnight raids, in raids in broad daylight, with family members and without – in a deportation sweep of Central Americans who flooded Texas back in 2014. These raids come as the state prepares space to accept, temporarily, thousands more fleeing violence there.

Mostly women and children are being taken into custody. But despite a decision late yesterday by an immigration appeals court to halt some deportations in Virginia, the stories of what’s happening in Texas are chilling. There are the stories like that of Martha Maria Hernandez, who came to the U.S. in 2014 from El Salvador.

The Standard spoke with Hernandez by cell phone from the Dilley, Texas, detention center where she is waiting for the plane that will take her and dozens of other women with their children back to El Salvador.

Translated from Spanish.

“It was tough,” Hernandez tells us. “Just picture this: They were armed in full gear, shouting orders pulling us out.”

“My kids are 6 and 9. They were asleep, shirtless. They would shake them in the beds until they woke up. My kids were screaming, ‘Don’t take us from our grandpa.’ They didn’t even give us a chance to brush our teeth.”

Were you taken by surprise that you were visited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents?

“I was very surprised. I had seen it in the news, but I never thought they would come to our house so abruptly. They took us, my husband.

“My husband is also undocumented but they’ve released him since.”

Have you been working with an attorney? If so, what did that attorney tell you?

“Yeah, I had an attorney, but I haven’t been allowed to speak to him. Here all the paperwork has been filled out. The decision is that they will fly us tomorrow morning.”

What happens when you go back? What do you face?

“It’ll be tough. I can not go back to what used to be my home. You know about the Mara gang – right? Well, they’ve threatened me. And in my country their threats are real – they are not playing games.

“I’m not going back to where I used to live, but I don’t know where I’ll end up.”