American Gulag: Inside U.S. Immigration Prisons

American Gulag: Inside U.S. Immigration Prisons

American Gulag: Inside U.S. Immigration Prisons

American Gulag: Inside U.S. Immigration Prisons

Synopsis

American Gulag is an unprecendented look inside the secret and repressive world of U.S. immigration prisons.

Excerpt

“She tells it so much better than I do, ” says the director of a human rights organization, introducing the woman with her on the church podium. the audience consists mostly of immigration advocates, along with a few journalists. “She's asked me to interview her rather than just tell her story. ”

The first question is about the young woman's reasons for leaving her country. the speaker explains quickly that the military kidnapped her older sister, then came looking for her brother and her. the narrative is so rote it sounds as if she were reading from a script. the interviewer asks about entering the United States. “I didn't know about the word 'asylum,'” she says. At the airport an ins official told her, “You African monkeys should go back to your country. ” She was taken to an ins detention center, where all the inmates were asylum seekers, and made to “bend down and cough” three times. She was menstruating at the time.

As she speaks, her long braids occasionally slip forward and she brushes them back from the microphone on the lectern. Sometimes the incidental details seem less about explaining anything to us than about orienting herself. On that first day in detention, for example, she was shackled to a Spanish-speaking detainee “at around twelve in the afternoon. ” She has said it all before, to me among many others, although earlier in the day we cut short an interview in her hotel room after several monosyllabic answers and long silences.

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