In US Detention:

"That water had a strange smell" 

The United States maintains the largest immigration detention and deportation system in the world.  On any given day, over 40,000 people are held in a network of over 210 federal, local, and privately contracted detention facilities across the country, while over 400,000 people are deported each year. 

Although it is considered a "civil" form of confinement, immigration detention looks and functions like prison.  Human rights and due process are routinely denied in this system that operates largely in secret with little public accountability.  Learn more about the history of immigration detention at

"Exposed: The Injustice of Immigration Detention" by Freedom for Immigrants

One man's account of his experiences in immigration detention after Hurricane Irma

by Barbara Woshinsky


Ibrahim,* an African asylum seeker, has been held in ICE detention for 16 months,

partly at the Krome SPC near Miami, Florida, but also in regular prisons.  I have

translated his story as close to his own words as possible.

I was transferred from Krome to New Mexico. . . . In that prison the water was not

drinkable, nor the water we washed with; that water had a strange smell, when I

washed with it my body turned white and I itched all over.


From there I was transferred to BTC [Broward Detention Center] where I am now, but what happened during the transfer was horrible, we risked our lives during that transfer. We had taken off in a plane that didn’t have enough fuel and had mechanical problems, for the plane hadn’t yet reached normal altitude when there was a change in pressure that blocked everyone’s ears and a violent shaking, as if we were in a turbulent zone, but we had just taken off.  This went on for half an hour until we landed again and were told we would take off again in an hour.


That hour became 10 hours in the plane, shackled, and having had nothing to eat since morning.  We spent all day at the airport until around 6:30 PM, when they told us we couldn’t travel that day because the plan had problems and we had to go back to detention in New Mexico where another flight would be scheduled.  So we were taken back to detention in a minibus and finally transferred to BTC where I am now. . . .

All in all, the conditions we live under in detention are unacceptable. We live in hell

because we have no rights.  Everything that’s written down about detainees’ rights is

only words, because none of it is respected. . . . we are treated like criminals.

*A pseudonym has been used to protect Ibrahim's identity

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