To note: Marvin Reyes Ventura has been in immigration and customs custody since 2019, most of that time being spent in Essex County Jail in New Jersey. In December 2020, he was transferred to the Krome Detention Center in Miami-Dade County, Florida, hundreds of miles from his family and support system.
On Tuesday, June 29, 2021, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action lawsuit against the Biden administration after dozens of people similarly detained were transferred from Essex County Jail and other facilities to other establishments, far from their families and relatives. . Many of those transferred are longtime New Jersey residents with deep family roots in the state.
By Marvin Reyes Ventura, with Marlene Ramos and Jay Donahue
Since July 11, I have reached day 127 of my hunger strike from the Krome Immigration and Customs Detention Center in Miami-Dade County. I have been held indefinitely by ICE since November 2019. I want you to understand why I would go against all instinct to feed your own body for months.
My siblings and I were raised in El Salvador by two loving parents who ensured that we were well taken care of and educated despite the social and political instability in our country caused by outside forces. I was forced to come to this country after witnessing the horrific murders of my father and older brother and almost got killed myself.
Adjusting to life after the tragic murders of my father and brother was not easy. I struggled to receive the mental health care I needed as I worked to rebuild my life in New Jersey. Unfortunately, I slipped into alcohol abuse and had contact with law enforcement which led to several rapid deportations. I was unaware of my right to claim refugee status and was quickly expelled by ICE on several occasions without having the opportunity to seek protection.
I deeply regret my past mistakes and have since taken all possible steps to rehabilitate myself and heal from the trauma and guilt of the survivor I still struggle with today. I am committed to staying sober to continue supporting my family, as I had previously done with stable employment, and now have access to the treatment options necessary to avoid further run-in with the forces of order or immigration.
However, the government is determined to keep me behind bars and move me from a caging facility to a caging facility due to my previous convictions. The U.S. immigration system is rooted in the criminal justice system, which disproportionately targets black, brown, native, or working-class immigrants. This common system is ruthless.
Although I take responsibility for my actions, I did not properly understand how to treat my underlying mental illnesses that triggered my addiction to alcohol. If I had encountered Resources before, or even during my first alcohol-related arrest, my recovery and now the situation now would have been very different.
As I and so many of my immigrant brothers and sisters languish in dangerous prisons, many of us are forced to go to the breaking point so that we choose to “self-deport”, leaving our families and communities to the very end. United States.
Many say the US immigration system is broken. In my opinion, it works exactly as expected. This system is designed to get people like me to ditch our stuff and keep detention beds full for the benefit of cash-strapped counties, rural prison towns, and private prison contractors.
My application for the Convention against Torture is currently being examined in the Federal Court of the Third Circuit. However, it can take up to a year for a judge to review my application. Earlier this year, an immigration judge granted me a stay of deportation, which bars ICE from deporting me. However, it also means that I have to stay locked up indefinitely. The ICE is the only authority that can set me free.
In May, a Florida Federal District Court ruled that my detention was unconstitutionally extended and ordered a bail hearing. At the hearing, the judge refused my release, claiming that I am a “risk of flight” and “a danger to society” based on a past that I cannot change, instead of focusing on my efforts. rehabilitation plans and my full release plan. The judge also cited my constitutional right to protest my detention on a hunger strike as lacking in common sense.
There is no way out.
The state of New Jersey is taking a further step towards a total ban on ICE detention contracts through Bill A5207 / S3361, which was recently passed by the entire legislature. Other states have passed similar bills. It is time for federal action and for the Biden-Harris administration to significantly overhaul this system. Until he does, I and others will continue to be forced to put our bodies in danger. We are fighting against a system designed to dispose of immigrants like me.
Marlene Ramos and Jay Donahue are members of Critical Resistance NYC Chapter and Abolish ICE NY-NJ Coalition. Marvin is represented by lawyers from Rutgers Law, which is part of the Defense against Detention and Deportation Initiative.
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