Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire

Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire

by Margaret Regan


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An intimate look at the people ensnared by the US detention and deportation system, the largest in the world
On a bright Phoenix morning, Elena Santiago opened her door to find her house surrounded by a platoon of federal immigration agents. Her children screamed as the officers handcuffed her and drove her away. Within hours, she was deported to the rough border town of Nogales, Sonora, with nothing but the clothes on her back. Her two-year-old daughter and fifteen-year-old son, both American citizens, were taken by the state of Arizona and consigned to foster care. Their mother’s only offense: living undocumented in the United States.

Immigrants like Elena, who’ve lived in the United States for years, are being detained and deported at unprecedented rates. Thousands languish in detention centers—often torn from their families—for months or even years. Deportees are returned to violent Central American nations or unceremoniously dropped off in dangerous Mexican border towns. Despite the dangers of the desert crossing, many immigrants will slip across the border again, stopping at nothing to get home to their children.

Drawing on years of reporting in the Arizona-Mexico borderlands, journalist Margaret Regan tells their poignant stories. Inside the massive Eloy Detention Center, a for-profit private prison in Arizona, she meets detainee Yolanda Fontes, a mother separated from her three small children. In a Nogales soup kitchen, deportee Gustavo Sanchez, a young father who’d lived in Phoenix since the age of eight, agonizes about the risks of the journey back.

Regan demonstrates how increasingly draconian detention and deportation policies have broadened police powers, while enriching a private prison industry whose profits are derived from human suffering. She also documents the rise of resistance, profiling activists and young immigrant “Dreamers” who are fighting for the rights of the undocumented.

Compelling and heart-wrenching, Detained and Deported offers a rare glimpse into the lives of people ensnared in America’s immigration dragnet.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for Detained and Deported

“Intimate and heartbreaking… For those who have been searching for an authentic look at people caught between borders, this is it.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Heartbreaking, thorough, and insightful. Regan’s work gives readers an important view into the challenges faced by undocumented immigrants.” 
Library Journal

“A timely look at the inhumane effects of immigration policies in the United States… Regan's books bring into focus the fates of undocumented people fighting against the odds to make it into America and then, if they get here, struggling, and often failing, to build a life.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Margaret Regan has done it again. With beautiful, absorbing prose, and meticulous research, she captures the intense and intimate stories of those detained, deported, and forcibly separated from their families by the most massive detention and deportation system we’ve ever had in the United States. A powerful and deeply moving book.”
—Todd Miller, author of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Homeland Security

“This important work should be read together with Regan’s previous exposé, The Death of Josseline (2010).” 

Praise for The Death of Josseline
“This book should be required reading for everyone—from President Obama and the director of Homeland Security to the border patrol agents, the vigilantes, and migrant rights activists. If people on both sides of the immigration issue picked up this book instead of arms, we would come to a peaceful resolution; it gave me inspiration.”
—Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street
“Most border ‘experts’ and immigration writers are mere tourists. This writer is not one of them. In Margaret Regan’s The Death of Josseline, you have a writer who lives the story, reports from the heart of the killzone, and works the territory on a regular basis. The many admirers of Enrique’s Journey will find much to admire, and fear, in this powerful report.” 
—Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway
“There may be no better way to understand the muddle that is US immigration policy than by reading these portraits of people who cross the border in hopes of a better life.”
—Ted Robbins, National Public Radio

Publishers Weekly

★ 12/01/2014
Twenty million immigrants entered the United States, both legally and illegally, between 1990 and 2010. As Regan (The Death of Josseline) passionately and eloquently argues, the related increase in detainment and deportation has been treated as a business opportunity, leading to grievous mistreatment. In this well-documented study, Regan recounts the stories of undocumented immigrants, focusing on those in Arizona. According to the book, the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) has, in the course of deporting hundreds of thousands of people yearly, separated families and forced American-born children with loving parents into the foster system, charged immigrants with overly serious felonies, and allowed abusive conditions to fester in detainment centers. Moreover, deportees often wind up in unfamiliar, even dangerous circumstances when they leave the U.S. Regan is a skilled interviewer, making the stories included here intimate and heartbreaking. She critically examines the failure of U.S. immigration policies while also highlighting efforts to help, both from individuals and non-profit organizations. For those who have been searching for an authentic look at people caught between borders, this is it. (Mar.)

Library Journal

The issues surrounding immigration in the United States are current and contentious—thousands of undocumented immigrants live, work, and raise families here and hundreds of thousands are detained and deported annually. Focusing on the Sonora Borderlands near Tucson, AZ, Regan (editor & writer, Tucson Weekly; Death of Josseline) seeks to share these immigrants' narratives and raise awareness of topics such as poor detention-center conditions; the slow and complicated justice system many immigrants must navigate; and the corruption, neglect, and abuse present among some of the organizations and officials handling these dilemmas. Through multiple accounts, Regan also offers a sociological and humanitarian examination of the detainment and deportation of undocumented immigrants, discussing the hardships and dangers of border crossing, the difficulties facing immigrants in their home counties, and the realities of families torn apart. VERDICT Heartbreaking, thorough, and insightful, Regan's work gives readers an important view into the challenges faced by undocumented immigrants. Recommended for readers interested in sociology; immigrant studies; or the social, legal, and ethical subjects involving this country's current treatment of immigration.—Jennifer Harris, Southern New Hampshire Univ. Lib., Manchester

Kirkus Reviews

A timely look at the inhumane effects of immigration policies in the United States. Tucson Weekly columnist Regan, who told harrowing tales of immigrants trying to cross from Mexico into Arizona in her previous book, The Death of Josseline (2010), here turns to the treatment of undocumented immigrants who succeeded in making it across the border. As before, the author relates individuals' specific experiences while revealing the policies and the institutions that impact their lives and determine their fates. She is deeply sympathetic to the plight of undocumented workers caught in a system that profits from their incarceration and treats them with indifference at best and inhumanity at worst. The first portion of the book focuses on detention, the next on deportation and the last on resistance to the system. While the author writes of outrageous conditions, this book is not a rant. The facts she straightforwardly presents inform readers of the harsh, prisonlike conditions at detention centers operated by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America, specifically ones at Eloy and Florence, Arizona. It comes as no surprise to learn that the Eloy center has the nation's highest rate of inmate deaths due to suicide or medical neglect. Regan also reveals the anguish of parents abruptly separated from their children—legal citizens of the United States—and deported to Mexico, where they have not lived in years and have no ties. The book's few bright spots include accounts of pro bono lawyers trying to untangle the web of immigration laws and of volunteer groups like Casa Mariposa, which provides food and shelter to newly liberated detainees dumped by authorities at Tucson's isolated bus station. Together, Regan's books bring into focus the fates of undocumented people fighting against the odds to make it into America and then, if they get here, struggling, and often failing, to build a life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807079836
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication date: 05/03/2016
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 1,233,991
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

From the Introduction

Yolanda Fontes sat in her prison scrubs and watched the families gathered all around her. Husbands were reconnecting with wives, sisters with sisters, mothers with children. It was a sunny Sunday in April, and the families had flocked to the Eloy Detention Center, a dreary for-profit immigration prison in rural Arizona, to visit their detained loved ones. A female prisoner sat with her small son on her lap, her arms wrapped tightly around him, as if she were imagining never letting him go. The aunt who had brought the little boy spoke sorrowfully to her sister as the child snuggled in his mother’s embrace. Nearby, an imprisoned father sat across a table from his wife, clutching her hand. They were trying to talk, but their four-year-old daughter, hungry and tired, fussed on the floor below.

None of the families in the packed room had any privacy. An impassive guard presided over their melancholy reunions, keeping a close watch on the mothers and fathers dressed in jailbird scrubs. The visiting room was bleak and windowless, lit by glaring prison lights. It was a beautiful spring day outside, but no rays of sunlight pierced its cinder block walls.

Alone among the detainees in this stark space, Yolanda had no family visiting, just me, a writer who had come to hear her story. She was glad to be out of her prison unit, and she was full of smiles, determined to be cheerful. Yet her tale was grim, and she looked at the other detainees’ kids wistfully as she recounted it. During the two years she’d spent locked up in Eloy, she’d seen her two little girls and her little boy only sporadically. The children, all American citizens, lived in a distant suburb northwest of Phoenix. They came to visit their mom only when a relative or friend could spare the time to drive the two-hundred-mile round trip to Eloy. The last time Yolanda had seen them was two months before.

Yolanda was thirty-two. She’d slipped into Arizona from Mexico seventeen years before, when she was just fifteen. She spoke flawless English and, even though she had no papers, she’d almost never had any difficulty finding a job. And until two years ago, she’d never had trouble with immigration. But the father of her two younger children regularly beat her, and one attack triggered a series of disasters that eventually landed her in jail and now detention.

The abusive ex had the two kids and Yolanda was facing deportation. She could have accepted “removal” to Mexico right away—and gotten out of Eloy—but if she were deported she would lose the children. So she stayed in the prison month after month, fighting her case, hoping to persuade a judge to overturn the deportation order, praying to get back to her daughters and her son.

Yolanda’s spirits flagged just once during the two hours we talked. The last time the kids came to see her, she said, her five-year-old, Little V, had looked at her suspiciously. “He told me I didn’t look like his mother,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. Her own child was starting to forget her.

Down in Nogales, on the Mexican side of the border, Gustavo Sanchez Perez was just as worried about his kids. He was a twenty-five-year-old landscaper from Phoenix; I met him early one hot July morning at a Catholic comedor just steps from the international line. He was one of sixty deportees eating a hearty breakfast of beans and rice in a humble dining hall run by an order of Mexican nuns. Like Yolanda, Gustavo had moved with his family from Mexico to the United States as a child. Born in Veracruz, he’d come to Phoenix at the age of eight and lived there ever since. He spoke perfect English. He and his wife had two small children, a boy of four and a baby girl, both of them US citizens.

Gustavo had been arrested in Phoenix for riding his bicycle at night without a light and then detained by ICE. He’d rotated through several detention centers, in Arizona and in Colorado, before being tossed back over the border into Nogales. He’d always worked hard to support his children. What was their mother doing now, he wondered, without his wages coming in?

He was staying in a shelter, but he would have to leave soon. Nogales was reeling under a deluge of deportees from the United States, and the town’s shelters didn’t have the resources to house los deportados longer than three days. Gustavo would have to move on. His mother in Phoenix had advised him to go back to Veracruz, but he had no intention of returning to a place where everyone was a stranger. He knew where he needed to be: with his children, at home, in Phoenix. The way to get back to them lay over the border and through the Arizona desert, but the journey would be perilous in more ways than one. He could die out there in the heat, as so many had done before him. And if he made it through, he ran the risk of arrest. “If they catch me,” he said, “I get ten years in jail.”

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