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A Shocking Glimpse Inside America's Privatized Detention Facilities for Immigrants
"The opening of Maribel Zelaya’s letter was bleak.

'I cannot bear this punishment any longer,' she began. 'I’m dying of desperation, of this injustice, of this cruelty. We are immigrants, not criminals. To treat us like this, it’s as if they must not have hearts, as if we weren’t human. They treat us like dogs.'

Zelaya was fed up. For more than six months, the 29-year-old asylum seeker had been locked inside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, an immigrant detention facility in rural Texas. The building, formerly a medium security prison, is a bleak concrete complex surrounded by a wall of chain link fence. Zelaya found the conditions inside the center disturbing; her health began to deteriorate and she fell into a deep depression. At the end of October, she released a searing letter in Spanish describing life inside Hutto, the nation’s only all-women’s detention center.

Like so many of the women at Hutto, Zelaya — whose attorney asked that her full name not be used to protect her safety — was fleeing abuse and a city held hostage by gang violence. But she soon became disillusioned with the grim reality of detention, and decided to stop eating in protest. 'I am glad to participate in this hunger strike,' she wrote. 'It’s an insult, I came here to find shelter but what I got instead is punishment.'”


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