Pedro Guzman Recounts 19 Harrowing Months in Detention

Elise Foley at the Huffington Post talked to Guzman devastating reality faced by thousands of immigrants.

By Thoai Lu May 20, 2011

Pedro Guzman was finally able to leave the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia this week after nineteen months behind bars. The Huffington Post reported that the privately run facility is one of many that work under Corrections Corporation of America.

"There’s so much money they make from us, but they’re not investing any money in detainees," Guzman told Elise Foley. "The treatment you get is like you’re an animal. I have two dogs, and I treat my dogs much better than the detainees are treated in there."

Guzman moved to the U.S. from Guatemala when he was 8 years old and is married to an American, Emily Guzman. He was granted a green card on Monday, and will be permitted to stay in the U.S. But he says he’s still healing from the dire conditions of the detention system.

He and other detainees in the Stewart Detention Center stayed in pods where 62 men sleep in bunk beds about two feet apart. Guzman also noted that there are only about six tables in the center of the room that the men use to eat food.

As if the cramped conditions weren’t dire enough, detainees suffered both physical and verbal abuse from guards. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials discouraged detainees from pushing for an individual response to their case, because the high amount of deportations requires detainees to go through courts where a judge rules on several cases at a time.

Guzman’s reunion with his family back to North Carolina is that much more meaningful because calls within the U.S. were expensive, and phone cards only allowed him to talk for about 11 minutes. When his family did get a chance to visit at the Center, they were only allowed to speak with Guzman through a glass barrier.

This story is not unique to the threat that migrants face, but what is frightening is that CCA was in the same room when SB 1070 author Russell Pearce drafted the bill that has stirred great controversy and inspired many copycats. Julianne Hing reported last week that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed HB 87, an immigration enforcement bill that modeled Arizona’s model.

Immigrant Advocacy group Cuentame recently shared a video that maps out how CCA is one of 3 three corporations that pocket more than $5 billion a year from detaining migrants.   Georgia will very likely be the next frontier to gain profits for CCA, at the expense of mistreating detainees and separating them from their families.