VOICES FROM DETENTION: Armando’s Story Part II – My New World…

By Guest Columnist May 01, 2008

by Raha Jorjani Last month, we heard Armando’s story directly from detention as he was preparing for his actual deportation to Honduras. Just a few days after he wrote what it felt like to be that close to deportation to a country you left as a baby, he was called for the actual removal. In the following story Armando recounts the process of his deportation from U.S. detention to Honduras. Armando entered and resided in the United States legally for over 25 years, from the age of 9 months old but was subject to one of the many grounds of removal that even Lawful Permanent Residents who have their entire lives in the United States can face. Armando’s story is an opportunity for us to get a close look at the actual process of removal, and the affect it has on the lives of the people who survive such a process. I wasn’t expecting to be told to get ready for my actual deportation for at least another week, and was shooting hoops at about 9:30 PM when it finally happened. I felt a sudden rush of emotion. I felt nervous, as well as anxious, as well as joyous all at once! A rare combination of emotions. In what really felt like seconds, I packed all of my belongings in the detention center, mostly legal paperwork, and I was on a bus being transferred to a nearby facility, the Florence Service Processing Center to be shipped out. As we got off the bus at the processing center, I noticed the look of monotony on the officer’s faces, probably from doing the same thing every night. About fifty of us were put in a holding cell that had a sign on the door that read, "maximum capacity= 20". Some of us, including myself, had our feet and hands shackled which had nothing to do with our classification levels. We were commanded to strip down to our underwear, and it was not until about thirty minutes later that we were brought a change of clothes. . We stayed in the overcrowded holding cell for 5 hours while we were processed out. At about 4:30 AM, still not having had a chance to sleep, we were put back on a bus and taken to the airport in Phoenix. Still in chains, we waited for hours to be boarded onto the aircraft. We never entered the actual airport terminal and saw no civilians, nor did they see us. There were approximately 100 detainees being boarded with me, and at this point ICE agents turned us over to the ´j-pats´ which was the flight crew. There was no way to sleep in the small holding cell, particularly while shackled. This glorified flight crew barked orders in such a manner that really irritated me. We had been treated like scum of the earth the entire time we were in custody, and even now on our way out it gets worse! The flight was extremely uncomfortable for those of us who were shackled. We had to eat and even use the restroom on a plane in cuffs. I also couldn’t help asking myself questions like: Are these j-pats guys the last Americans I will see for a while? Will I even like my country of birth? Will I hate it? Will I be labeled a deportee, or looked at as american trash? Am I going to have to go through some kind of interrogation? I prepared answers to the possible questions I would be asked, and after about a dozen horrible pseudo-naps we finally landed. Our shackles were finally removed after about 9 hours of restraint, and we were ordered to remain seated and to shut the window shades for some reason. Over the speaker came a female voice welcoming us to our country and she called us off the plane one by one. After I had received my property and been interviewed by Honduran immigration officials, I was let out the front door. I called my uncle from a corner internet shop to pick me up. On the way to his home we chatted about my trip, local life, and the fact that the majority of the population lives in poverty in Honduras. In the first hour of sight seeing, I was visually intoxicated after such dullness and misery for so long. At my uncle´s home, I was warmly greeted by some of my extended family. Soon after, I called my family in the states. My mother was elated to hear that I arrived safely and that I was no longer a prisoner, but she told me I seemed like I didn’t want to talk. I explained that it all hadn’t really sunk in yet. I’ve been here a little while now and I am finally starting to come out of what seemed like a trance. The difficult part won‘t be finding an occupation or fitting in socially though…it´s gonna be living my life in a new world without what life is really all about… my family. I have extended family in Honduras who have really been generous But try losing your entire immediate family all at once – not too easy. I am a firm believer in the saying, "all we have in this world is each other,“ and I feel like the people in this world that I would refer to as “all I have“, I don’t really have anymore. I’m also a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason and is part of God´s plan. For now, I guess I have to just keep my faith and wait for this plan to unfold while I hustle to make a living and make the very best of what I have been given.