VOICES FROM DETENTION: Armando’s Story Part I: “Anxious at the Gates”

By Guest Columnist Mar 19, 2008

by Raha Jorjani Every year in the United States, approximately 280,000 people are detained in federal detention centers, private prisons, and county jails, and face deportation to their countries of origin. It is their very detention and deportation that makes it harder for us on the outside to truly hear their voices and engage in their stories. The following is the voice of Armando, directly from detention, where he has spent the last 10 months of his life. Armando is 26 years old. He has lived legally in the United States since he arrived here at the age of 9 months old from Honduras. In March 2008, after a long fight to remain in the United States, Armando’s removal order became final. The last time I saw him, he remained detained awaiting the next part of his already frightening journey. Luckily he was able to get his letter out to me before the actual removal took place. He wanted people to know what it’s like knowing you are days away from forced return to a country you left before you turned one years old. I have been “detained” by the Department of Homeland Security for over ten months now, as I had been fighting my deportation case and hoping for a second chance. I really don’t like the word detained because I feel it is a word used by “them” in an attempt to lessen the truth; that I am their prisoner. It seems all I have been doing in my life is adapting to major changes, one after the other. From the loss of my father at seventeen, to adapting to military life, to getting used to a 6×9 cell. I have had to make some major adjustments and I have come to learn that change is inevitable. tHowever, I never would have guessed that I would now be getting ready to be deported to a country I know nothing about. I never thought I would be preparing to be banished from the only country I have known, the country I volunteered to fight for, and not to mention the country that my family lives in. tI thought I had fully prepared myself for this but, I can’t escape the incredible feeling of uncertainty throughout my body. Something I can’t stop thinking about is the flight I will be placed on to Honduras; the country my family and I immigrated from when I was only nine months old. I think of the cold shackles I will be wearing and how nervous I will be. I’m gonna be surrounded by so many fellow deportees with whom I have only one thing in common; where we were born. I wonder how many of them will have spent their entire lives in the U.S. before being deported? How many of them have served in the U.S. Armed forces? But it really doesn’t matter. We are all leaving our lives behind. We are all being torn from what means most to human beings no matter what your birth certificate says…our families! tI like to think of myself as a pretty strong minded person and I can say that I have taken all that has happened recently considerably well, but the one thing that I will never forget, the one thing that really hurt me was having to tell my family of my fate. I had never felt as helpless and deeply saddened as the day I heard my mother weep on the phone after I told her I was being deported. I tried to prepare them for my possible deportation, but it was not enough. Her heart was broken. My whole family feels wronged. tThey (my family) tell me to be strong and faithful and I do have faith. Any day now I will be told to get my stuff together by an officer, and told to get on that plane. What is meant to happen from there, I will soon find out. When Armando wrote this letter around March 10th, while he was still detained in the United States. Since then we learned that Armando’s deportation was actually carried out days after he wrote this letter. Look for Part II of Armando’s story when he tells us about his actual journey, his entry into Honduras as a U.S. deportee, and his first 48 hours in Honduras. Armando’s story provides us with a rare inside look at the actual removal of a US detainee, from detention to actual deportation. Raha Jorjani is a Staff Attorney at the UC Davis School of Law’s Immigration Law Clinic where she supervises students in providing legal assistance and representation to detained immigrants facing deportation.