http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAKL3Rl_Ihc&feature=youtu.be

My story begins at 15:50.(The detention and deportation of immigrants has reached an all-time high under the Obama administration. Fault Lines investigates the business of immigrant detention and finds out how a few companies are shaping US immigration laws.)

Edit: heading out of the house. Will answer more questions when I return. Thanks! Edit: added video summary. Edit: Heading to bed! Many of the questions being asked at this point are already answered in earlier posts. Please read those before and try not to duplicate, so I don't have to ignore your post. Thanks!!

Comments: 730 • Responses: 39  • Date: 

Redditron-2000-4224 karma

What were you accused of?

Where was the prison?

Link to the article?

UsedForProfit842 karma

I am an LPR (lawful permanent resident) aka "green card holder" who moved to the US from Singapore legally with my family at the age of 12. After being quite literally abandoned by my father at 8 years old, leaving behind my tight-knit community in Singapore and all my childhood friends to move to the US (with my mother and sisters), having a difficult time feeling like I "fit in" my new place of residence (a predominantly white, small country town), and then losing my beloved stepfather to cancer, I turned to alcohol to fill that void, which eventually led to a full-blown drug addiction in my twenties. At that self-destructive point in my life, I didn't comprehend how those actions could have an effect on my immigration status. I eventually landed myself in jail with several charges for drug possession. After my last arrest in 2005, I knew I needed help. My life was spiraling out of control. I completed 6 months of treatment at a faith-based rehab several hours from home. It changed my life. I've been "clean" since January of 2006. I eventually went to court for those charges in 2007 and signed a plea bargain and was sentenced to 10 years of probation. I graciously accepted that and have never violated my probation order. I moved up to eventually be on staff at that treatment center, and worked for that organization for 3 years. I completed college, spent my spare time volunteering and giving back to my community, met my amazing wife, married her, and bought a home together. I was a tax-paying, contributing member of society.

Then on March 30, 2011, my life came to a screeching halt. At 6:30am, 4 armed ICE agents (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) knocked on the front door of my home, asked for my green card, told me I was under an administrative arrest because my plea of guilty to felony drug possession violated my immigration status. They said they had to take me into custody and that I was being put into "removal proceedings." AKA- deportation. For 5 years I had not been a "threat" to society, but suddenly I was being held under Mandatory Detention laws without bond or bail. Laws that were written in 1996, draconian and outdated.

I lost my job, we nearly lost our home. My wife almost had to quit college at Baylor University. She was diagnosed with situational depression and prescribed medication- this woman who has never experienced depression in her life, despite a timultuous childhood. She fought for me. She hired an attorney and our community rallied around us. She got media attention and support from all over the country. My attorney applied for humanitarian parole right away so that I may be released until my final hearing and return home with my wife to work. It was denied. No reason was cited besides, "Mandatory detention." Long story short, I was detained without bail for 10 months without bond for no other reason that the profit that GEO group made in detaining me. Every day that I spent there used up [on average] $125 of tax payer's dollars, paid to a private corporation. These same powerful corporations use their tax dollars to lobby in Washington to make sure the immigration laws do not see reform, so that their business interest is protected.

I won my case. But I am part of a rare few. I am home with my wife, back to work, back to church, back to my community, but never the same. We have been changed. We have been given a passion to advocate on behalf of those who are caught up in a very broken immigration system and to shine light on the truth about corporate greed driving immigration policy. The private immigration detention industry is profiting off of other peoples' pain, and it's time that things change.

UsedForProfit147 karma

They arrested me at our home in Waco, TX. I was held at South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, TX for those 10 months.

mauxly31 karma

Your situation was shit. I mean, shit from Shitland. I'm so sorry this happened to you. And I'm so glad that you are free now, and in America.

And I hate the fuck out of the privatization of the prison industry. It's evil.

But I also hate how this story was written and produced. For the first half of the video the cynic in me just about puked all over the bias in this piece.

We have an immigration problem in the USA, but it isn't the problem the rightwing racists think it is. It's a labor issue, pure and simple. I could go on and on about the exploitation of labor both 'legal' and 'illegal'. Exploitation on all sides of the border, and how that's the root cause of all of this shit, and how we all take it in the ass because of it. And I'm all about the Dream Act and any legislation that eases the path to citizenship. So really, I'm on your side.

But as I watched that video, I imagined how a moderate or a rightwing person would view it, and I cringed. Nearly every country has an immigration policy, and most of them have way harsher ones than we do. The facility shown wasn't that bad, in fact, it was fucking fabulous compared to most other countries, and way better than prison.

And that stats:Approximately 100 people died while in custody over the course of 6 years. Christ really? How about giving us the 'people who died of unnatural or questionable causes' stat?

Really valid points in the video:

  • This shit shouldn't be private, period.

  • The reason this this shouldn't be private is that publicly owned companies are beholden to enrichment shareholders at any cost - including exploitation of labor and manipulation of legal code.

  • They use slave labor. I fully understand that some of the people being held would want to work, even at $1 a day. Some of us are built that way, we just need to stay busy. Inmates should be allowed to work while in (any) prison. But they need to be paid fair market value for their work, which could actually mean more than minimum wage. aif the job that they do would render a mean value in the market place, they should be paid at least the lower end of that value.

  • That mandatory detention, not allowing judges to bond people out or use their discretion is fucked.

Man, it's so important that we educate American voters, of all political persuasions about this stuff. But I guarantee you that anyone who is on the fence on these issues would be turned off by this video- or at least the first half of the video.

EDIT; Fixed the bullet points.

TLDR; Damn it. This issue is way to important for a 'news' story to be so obviously opinionized. This story speaks to those already convinced. The already convinced isn't exactly the target audience, is it?

UsedForProfit18 karma

My wife made the same comments about the story; she liked it and appreciated it, but said that she wished it was flipped where the hard-hitting stuff was in the beginning, the stuff that really clearly speaks "injustice" rather than the opinionated things.

[deleted]20 karma

Is the mandatory detention state law or national law?

UsedForProfit41 karma

federal immigration law

blossomteacher8 karma

I live in Waco, how have I never heard about this? Glad you are out, hope your story gets a lot more traction.

[deleted]48 karma

I don't mean to be rude, but it seems the system worked slowly but correctly. Can you elaborate on the flaws that need fixing? I mean other than the long wait to be detained (which worked in your favor) and the long detention before trial, what is it you hope to change?

cstrayer292 karma

The held without bail by a private corporation thing doesn't sit well with me. Private prisons shouldn't exist. End of story. No one should be permitted to make a profit on depriving someone else of liberty.

UsedForProfit111 karma

This is what I have a problem with. Just the fact that immigration law is decided on by politicians who are receiving hefty contributions from GEO and CCA- the two largest private detention corporations in the US. It's just unethical and a conflict of interest.

Trashcanman332 karma

Wait, was it the court denying bail or the Private jail, because the way you guys are wording it, makes it sound like the private jail is the one making the call.

UsedForProfit7 karma

GEO holds the ICE contract. They are in it together. One hand washes the other. But also, its a really confusing and arbitrary system anyway. For example, when I applied for humanitarian parole to be able to come home because of several of legitimate reasons, someone denied it who was not even the field officer for my area. He was the assistant, so my wife called the office and even drove 3 hours to GO there and talk to him herself to see why it was denied. They told her that the field officer retired and the "assistant" actually was only stepping in temporarily until they found someone. There was a new guy in charge but he "wasn't there at the moment." However, the paralegal on my case had some connections and called up there at the office and he WAS there, he just didn't want to deal with me. And also, the judge is stripped of the ability to use what's called "discretionary relief" when dealing with someone with an "Aggravated" felony so he didn't have the authority to allow me to stay, right? HOWEVER, the 2 ICE agents who were in the room during my interview with Al Jazeera were somehow able to make a few phone calls and I somehow, for whatever reason or motive, was allowed to go home shortly after and my final hearing was canceled. I am grateful, no doubt. But I just don't think it's fair to others who didn't have the same type of connections that I did (thanks to my amazing, networking wife!)

[deleted]24 karma

I think it is the long detention before deportation proceedings that he objected to. Presumably he would have preferred either a more timely trial, or to be released on bail.

UsedForProfit34 karma

Exactly. I understood why it was happening, theoretically, although "why NOW?" came into mind for sure. But then I wondered why I wasn't given a bond hearing and even when my attorney filed for humanitarian parole (when you have an emergency-type situation where you would need to be granted an exception to return home) it was denied, not for any specific reason. It didn't say b/c I was a flight risk or anything. Because clearly I wasn't. It just said, because of my specific drug charge, I was deemed "mandatory detention." So my point is this- there needs to be discretion in these types of cases when ICE decides to detain and deport someone years after they've "fell through the cracks" and consider the factors of 1)clear and obvious rehabilitation (with reputable witnesses and references), 2) US citizen wife or children being affected, 3)ties to the community 4) positive equities (college, home owner, tax payer, consistently, gainfully employed, etc) Judges are able to use "discretionary relief" when dealing with an undocumented immigrant or an LPR as long as they don't fall under the umbrella of "aggravated felony". THAT is where the problem began. As a temporary fix to expedite certain types of immigrants, this law came into play in 1996 that deemed people with crimes like check fraud, domestic violence, or any crime of "moral turpitude" as Aggravated Felonies when in criminal court, they are not. But this way, a person could be more quickly deported without bail or bond or even a hearing. I am not saying that these crimes are not a big deal- I am just saying that they shouldn't be called aggravated felonies when they aren't. And no one is quick to change these laws because documented and undocumented immigrants with so-called Aggravated Felonies are making a lot of money for GEO and CCA because these people are being detained while waiting for a hearing when they have not been deemed a threat or flight risk. Edit: misspelling

[deleted]2 karma

Are you going to attempt to become a citizen so this can't happen again?

UsedForProfit6 karma

Yes. My original felony conviction was actually dropped throughout this whole ordeal (a miracle!) so I have a better chance of being granted citizenship, but I don't want to even attempt it yet until I can have my record expunged so that there will be no snares or anything that trip up the process. And for that, I will need an attorney and some money, both of which I currently don't have. But it's a priority and something I hope to do as soon as we are financially able to do so.

[deleted]3 karma

I agree 10 months is a long time to wait in incarceration, but I do think that bail for deportation proceedings has a potential for a crapton of people skipping bail (you are about to lose everything anyway) In an ideal world you would be processed very quickly, but I think that would lesson the legal process.

Melnorme28 karma

That's why it should be up to a judge. The OP's issue is more than privatization.

Mandatory detention/sentencing etc is part of the power struggle between the legislative and judicial branches of government. IMO legislatures have no business passing mandatory sentencing and detention law as they encroach upon the separation of powers.

UsedForProfit10 karma

Exactly!! Great explanation!

Suppafly10 karma

I wonder if his lawyer fought for him to have a speedy trial or instead used the time he was locked up to try and keep him from being deported? I'm sure ICE would have rather just deported him.

UsedForProfit18 karma

Honestly, without a lawyer I wouldn't have stood a chance anyway. That's sad to me, that only 16% of immigrants that go through the deportation system have legal representation. But anyhow, my lawyer did always push for the soonest court date (there were over 10 of them, between preliminary "master" hearings and my final hearing (which never actually happened. You can check out my website for the details on that! Freenaz.com) Simply having an attorney makes your process faster. Although, I will admit, at one point my case was stalled b/c we were waiting to hear back from the DA of the county where my charges occurred, but it was a combination of both. I just don't think I should've been detained the whole time. Bail/bond really was the best answer, with consideration to the cost of detaining me and the lack of any type of flight risk. Others who were there in detention with me who didn't have attorneys almost always lost their case, even when they could've won with an attorney. They're just very confused and frightened and overwhelmed. (Many were there who applied for asylum or refugee status and after hearing their stories I just wished each one of them had an attorney like I did).

James__Smith21 karma

"I mean other than .. the long detention before trial"

THAT is the problem. Do you think it's fair that he was detained for 10 months, when he actually won his court case? I mean, think about it. let's say the police suspects you of murder. you're arrested and denied bail. it takes 10 months for the trial to happen, at which point you're found innocent, but you've lost almost one year of your life.

Except OP wasn't even being arrested for murder, he was arrested for getting a felony conviction as a greencard holder. If i understood OP correctly, one of the things he's advocating for is getting rid of the "mandatory detention" part of his arrest (among other things).

UsedForProfit5 karma

You got it!

ilikesushi10 karma

"Slowly but correctly" is not correctly at all. This kind of shit can ruin people's lives, and there's always the risk that things won't work out.

UsedForProfit11 karma

Very true. I can personally say that I saw this prolonged detention ruining marriages and tearing apart families of the men around me. It was heartbreaking. Some men cried the entire day. One man allowed his wife to date someone else simply so that man could provide for her and his kids. Another man was detained so long without any clue of when he would be released that he and some others from his native country went on a hunger strike. It definitely has the potential to damage, if not ruin someone's life.

nulled-luser11 karma

Any chance you could clean up the formatting on this a bit? It's a pretty big wall of text without paragraphs. A smattering of double line breaks will split it up and make it easier to read :)

UsedForProfit2 karma

This is my first time using reddit so I'm not sure how to do that. Advice?

full_of_stars3 karma

So this had nothing to do with them incarcerating you for profit and only to do with how long it took ICE to catch up on their paperwork?

UsedForProfit1 karma

No, not actually. I don't see how you gathered that? I posted several times in the comments about how I don't agree with corporations profiting off of immigrant detention and that it's a huge conflict of interest. I know it's the same for the private prison industry also but what gets me is that immigrants are being detained on civil rather than criminal offenses, which is what ICE and DHS will say. ICE also says that its responsibility is not to punish people but only to hold them while they wait for the results of their case, but anyone who knows what these places are like will see that it's identical (and sometimes MORE restrictive) than a prison. So it IS punishment. Unless we don't think prison is? My problem is with the corruption with the profits being used to lobby for harsh immigration laws, and the law specifically that I hope will change are the ones regarding so-called Aggravated Felonies (that really aren't) and the Mandatory Detention laws (which scream PROFIT!)

damcgra95 karma

I love al jazeera. As an American, I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of their news reporting when I started watching it. I think after 9/11 it was very much touted as a mouthpiece for terrorism, but it is far from it.

Question: What can you tell us about your experiences working with the people there?

UsedForProfit43 karma

We do appreciate Al Jazeera. We hadn't even watched it before, and my wife had only heard it being talked about years ago when people were saying it was connected with terrorists or whatever, like you said.

UsedForProfit42 karma

We do appreciate Al Jazeera. We hadn't even watched it before, and my wife had only heard it being talked about years ago when people were saying it was connected with terrorists or whatever, like you said. Oh, and to answer your question- what do you mean by "working with the people there?" Like, just dealing with the people who worked there, or actually when I was working in the kitchen and stuff?

LawyersRock80 karma

Immigration lawyer here.
1. What was the basis for winning your removal proceedings? 2. Did your criminal lawyer not tell you the trouble you'd be in for pleading? 3. Congratulations. Love to hear success stories.

UsedForProfit44 karma

We went back to my original case and filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus citing Supreme Court ruling Padilla vs Kentucky. My case was reopened since I was not properly informed of how my plea bargain would affect my immigration status. When the case was reopened, no evidence could be found and my felony was dismissed. Truly a miracle. Therefore, DHS could not deport me based on that felony but could still possibly deport me for an even older misdemeanor drug charge but that would've just been ridiculous considering my LPR status and my positive "equities." Throughout all this, our faith has just been increased and we have become advocates for reform. Good luck with your cases!

WaterbottleDrownedMe3 karma

The immigration status warning is part of the plea process in GA at least.

LawyersRock10 karma

It is a nationwide after the Supreme Court's decision in Padilla v. Kentucky in 2010. I guess what I was trying to figure out is if that played a role in OP's release (which is how i'm guessing he got out of the AF issue) as it appears he was convicted in 2005 and released this year and says he won his immigration case.

UsedForProfit4 karma

correct!

moronic_semicolonic17 karma

Have you approached other news sources about your detention? If so, what was their response? Has your detention changed your perspective on policing, detention, incarceration, etc and the profits and costs (46K+) of keeping humans in cages? What do you hope to learn by doing this AMA? Thanks!

UsedForProfit40 karma

Check out the site my wife created to document the whole ordeal. Under the media tab you'll see the other news sources that covered our story.
www.freenaz.com/ My detention experience definitely opened our eyes to the corporate greed that drives our immigration policy, and I'm sure the same applies to criminal law too. I don't think anyone should profit off of the detention/incarceration of humans, because once it becomes about profit, those in power no longer see those in the system as human- they see them as walking dollar signs.

jtseun17 karma

What do you do now?

UsedForProfit49 karma

Thankfully, my employer hired me back the week after I returned home after 10 months away. I have strong work ethic though, and it pays off. They hired me with same pay even though they'd already filled my supervisory pay. I am sad to not be in a position of authority, but hey, less responsibility and for the same pay, I can't complain!

FancyMonocle7 karma

What is your occupation?

UsedForProfit6 karma

I do IT/Tech support for several products ranging from internet/web filters for schools to supporting the charging dock for the Nissan leaf. I basically work at a call center. When I was just getting out of rehab, I was so grateful to even be given this job opportunity. I later left to work for the organization where I completed rehab, but after some budget cuts affected my pay, I returned back to this same company 3 years later. THEN, 2 months later I was arrested by ICE and detained. I am so grateful for this company. It is not my life-long career path, but until my wife finishes college and we can reevaluate what we're doing with our lives, this will do just fine!

bombsonwalls414 karma

Where you ever "interrogated" while you were detained?

UsedForProfit24 karma

No, but a guy from Jordan that was in there with me was.

cycle_of_fists15 karma

What happened to him? (Thanks a tonne for this AMA)

UsedForProfit19 karma

Don't know. He was still there when I left. I'll try to see what I can find out. But basically, he came over with 2 friends illegally and the feds were interrogating all 3 of them separately and told the others that if they threw any of their other pals "under the bus" so to speak, they'd be allowed to stay, just as long as they gave them some dirt. So from what I know, his friends painted him to be a pretty bad guy to the Feds and things aren't looking so good for him. They told him that his friends were giving them all kind of dirt on him and that if he wanted to stay he'd have to do the same but he refused. He wouldn't fall for it. Honestly, it sounds like they're trying to recruit some informants.

Parigod14 karma

How much has this influenced your view of the country as a whole? Do you "like America less" after this experience?

UsedForProfit28 karma

I like America the same, still. I just have seen more how money influences the policy in this country and that's pretty disheartening. I was oblivious to it before, I guess. I liked to think the best about people, including our politicians, so I didn't sit around assuming that their motives were impure. Now, I wonder... lol.

hotcrossbunny13 karma

Worst part of the experience (being detained)? Best (if any)?

UsedForProfit38 karma

Worst: missing my wife Best: meeting people from different countries, all with a different story of why they came to America and how they ended up in detention. I developed more of a sense of compassion for undocumented immigrants and people in general, honestly.

CHNYC9 karma

Why were you detained?

GoodGuyAnusDestroyer7 karma

Are you going to answer any questions?

  • Did you get to have any social interactions with others will being detained? If so, did you make friends?
  • What was your favorite dish they served?

UsedForProfit17 karma

Sorry I was at work! I intend to answer as many questions as possible as soon as I can. But life happens sometimes so just bear with me :)

UsedForProfit16 karma

My favorite dish was served during the holidays- cheese and meat burritos. And yes, I made several friends, some that I am even in contact with still today. Thanks for asking!

eddee767 karma

What happened?

UsedForProfit14 karma

check out the site that my wife created and updated all along the way: http://www.freenaz.com/

cbong6 karma

[deleted]

UsedForProfit9 karma

I am grateful every day simply for my recovery, for my life, for my relationship with my God, and my marriage, among many other things. I think that things may have turned out very differently if I were Singapore, just by natural cause and effect, and also because illegal drugs are almost obsolete in Singapore because of its harsh laws. So I may not have ever even been around the stuff in Singapore but who knows! But yes, I am grateful, in general, for how my life has evolved. Edit: Just saw the above post after I'd already posted. But yes, you're absolutely right.

Blistero6 karma

I hope you are able to sue the perpetrators into oblivion.

UsedForProfit33 karma

I don't think I can, since it's the government, and they were following [outdated, draconian, flawed] laws.

Hawk_Irontusk5 karma

Proof this is you?

UsedForProfit3 karma

how would I prove that? My photos and videos and all this info is available on my website so honestly, anyone "could" be posing as me and even send you photos to act like they are me. Any ideas of how I can prove it?

tongatime5 karma

Not a question, but wanted to comment that I'm sort of excited to read this AMA as it develops. Thanks for posting this.

UsedForProfit10 karma

Thanks for your interest!

bob-leblaw3 karma

Mostly want stories of what goes on in the detention centers. Examples of what it was like. Good for you (and sorry to hear about) the rest. Now, stories please.

UsedForProfit5 karma

I am heading out of the house at this moment for a small group meeting but will answer your question as soon as I return! Thanks for your question!!

lazerbeem2 karma

What did you do to get 10 years probation, what kind of drugs where they and how much to get that much probation?

UsedForProfit2 karma

Meth. Original plea/conviction was for possession with intent but that felony was dismissed due to a lack of evidence. I'm grateful for my recovery and never forget what I came from. That was a miserable time and I tell other people, especially teens, you never know how long those consequences of your actions will affect your future. It broke my heart that my wife had to endure this because of my actions, but she just kept telling me, "you're not the same person. I can't be mad at you because that's not YOU." Love that woman.

sausagelady2 karma

Besides alcohol what drugs were you using/abusing?

Were you the only person from Singapore in the South Texas Detention Center? Was it mostly Hispanic/Mexican? What other nationalities were present?

Was deportation a question when you were first arrested in 2006?

UsedForProfit4 karma

Yes I was the only Singaporean I knew of. Employees there were really surprised by me. They always assumed I spoke Spanish and many probably didn't even know where S'pore is. It was mostly people from Mexico and the South American countries, but there were also people from India, Africa, Jordan, China, Russia, etc. But we were the minority. Wasn't a problem though, other than the language barrier. I will say that the lack of cultural sensitivity there is disturbing. There is one man from China who just "lost it" because he was fleeing his country for political reasons and already under a lot of stress, but the fact that no one could understand him (besides me, a little) and he was so confused and scared and had no help from family or friends, he just had a panic attack and ran for the door. They put him in "the hole". (isolation)