CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Mon. Aug. 3, 2009: A 44-year-old Trinidad-born, mother of four, still remembers the torrid times she spent in several Florida detention facilities.
Marlene Jaggernauth, 44, is among the detainees whose rights immigrant advocates say the U.S. federal government is violating.
Jaggernauth was deemed deportable in 2003 and was picked up and torn away from her four children for two old shoplifting convictions. And while she represented herself in immigration court she had limited access to legal materials or even writing paper.
She said she had to beg guards for outdoor recreation time and to see a doctor, and her requests weren`t always honored during her 11-month stint in four Florida detention facilities in 2003.
`It was just a nightmare, and I could not believe it,` said Jaggernauth, who was allowed to return to the country after she won a federal court challenge. `I never thought people`s rights could be so violated in the United States.`
She also remembers seeing mentally ill women denied medicine for weeks and mocked by guards; women routinely denied basic supplies like sanitary pads and medical service for seriously ill prisoners maliciously denied.
A report released Tuesday says detainees face limited access to phones, mail and law libraries in violation of federal standards. The authors based their findings on more than 18,000 pages of documents that showed facilities across the country limited detainees` access to legal materials and transferred them without proper notice.
`Our concern is we have this deep belief in the American justice system that the truth will eventually come out and those individuals who have meritorious cases will be granted relief,` said Karen Tumlin, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center who co-authored the report. `We can`t have any faith that that proposition will actually hold true in this monstrous immigration system.`
The study was based on inspection reports of dozens of facilities by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the American Bar Association and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees between 2001 and 2005.
Among those who died in a Miami detention facility was the uncle of Edwidge Danticat, the Haitian born author of `Brother I`m Dying,` a National Book Prize finalist last year.
Her 81-year-old uncle Joseph, a pastor and throat cancer survivor, fled political violence in Haiti in 2004 for Miami. When he landed at MIA, he told ICE officials that he planned to seek asylum. They arrested him and placed him in the Krome Detention Facility, where he was accused of faking his illnesses and denied his daily medications. He died five days later at a Miami hospital.