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Detained and Deported

Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire

Author: Margaret Regan

An intimate look at the people ensnared by the US detention and deportation system, the largest in the world
On a bright Phoenix morning, Elena Santiago opened her door to find her house surrounded by a platoon of federal immigration agents. Her children screamed as the officers handcuffed her and drove her away. Within hours, she was deported to the rough border town of Nogales, Sonora, with nothing but the clothes on her back. Her two-year-old daughter and fifteen-year-old son, both American citizens, were taken by the state of Arizona and consigned to foster care. Their mother’s only offense: living undocumented in the United States.

Immigrants like Elena, who’ve lived in the United States for years, are being detained and deported at unprecedented rates. Thousands languish in detention centers—often torn from their families—for months or even years. Deportees are returned to violent Central American nations or unceremoniously dropped off in dangerous Mexican border towns. Despite the dangers of the desert crossing, many immigrants will slip across the border again, stopping at nothing to get home to their children.

Drawing on years of reporting in the Arizona-Mexico borderlands, journalist Margaret Regan tells their poignant stories. Inside the massive Eloy Detention Center, a for-profit private prison in Arizona, she meets detainee Yolanda Fontes, a mother separated from her three small children. In a Nogales soup kitchen, deportee Gustavo Sanchez, a young father who’d lived in Phoenix since the age of eight, agonizes about the risks of the journey back.

Regan demonstrates how increasingly draconian detention and deportation policies have broadened police powers, while enriching a private prison industry whose profits are derived from human suffering. She also documents the rise of resistance, profiling activists and young immigrant “Dreamers” who are fighting for the rights of the undocumented.

Compelling and heart-wrenching, Detained and Deported offers a rare glimpse into the lives of people ensnared in America’s immigration dragnet.
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Praise for Detained and Deported

“Intimate and heartbreaking… For those who have been searching for an authentic look at people caught between borders, this is it.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Heartbreaking, thorough, and insightful. Regan’s work gives readers an important view into the challenges faced by undocumented immigrants.” 
Library Journal

“A timely look at the inhumane effects of immigration policies in the United States… Regan's books bring into focus the fates of undocumented people fighting against the odds to make it into America and then, if they get here, struggling, and often failing, to build a life.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Margaret Regan has done it again. With beautiful, absorbing prose, and meticulous research, she captures the intense and intimate stories of those detained, deported, and forcibly separated from their families by the most massive detention and deportation system we’ve ever had in the United States. A powerful and deeply moving book.”
—Todd Miller author of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Homeland Security

“This important work should be read together with Regan’s previous exposé, The Death of Josseline (2010).” 

From the Introduction

Yolanda Fontes sat in her prison scrubs and watched the families gathered all around her. Husbands were reconnecting with wives, sisters with sisters, mothers with children. It was a sunny Sunday in April, and the families had flocked to the Eloy Detention Center, a dreary for-profit immigration prison in rural Arizona, to visit their detained loved ones. A female prisoner sat with her small son on her lap, her arms wrapped tightly around him, as if she were imagining never letting him go. The aunt who had brought the little boy spoke sorrowfully to her sister as the child snuggled in his mother’s embrace. Nearby, an imprisoned father sat across a table from his wife, clutching her hand. They were trying to talk, but their four-year-old daughter, hungry and tired, fussed on the floor below.

None of the families in the packed room had any privacy. An impassive guard presided over their melancholy reunions, keeping a close watch on the mothers and fathers dressed in jailbird scrubs. The visiting room was bleak and windowless, lit by glaring prison lights. It was a beautiful spring day outside, but no rays of sunlight pierced its cinder block walls.

Alone among the detainees in this stark space, Yolanda had no family visiting, just me, a writer who had come to hear her story. She was glad to be out of her prison unit, and she was full of smiles, determined to be cheerful. Yet her tale was grim, and she looked at the other detainees’ kids wistfully as she recounted it. During the two years she’d spent locked up in Eloy, she’d seen her two little girls and her little boy only sporadically. The children, all American citizens, lived in a distant suburb northwest of Phoenix. They came to visit their mom only when a relative or friend could spare the time to drive the two-hundred-mile round trip to Eloy. The last time Yolanda had seen them was two months before.

Yolanda was thirty-two. She’d slipped into Arizona from Mexico seventeen years before, when she was just fifteen. She spoke flawless English and, even though she had no papers, she’d almost never had any difficulty finding a job. And until two years ago, she’d never had trouble with immigration. But the father of her two younger children regularly beat her, and one attack triggered a series of disasters that eventually landed her in jail and now detention.

The abusive ex had the two kids and Yolanda was facing deportation. She could have accepted “removal” to Mexico right away—and gotten out of Eloy—but if she were deported she would lose the children. So she stayed in the prison month after month, fighting her case, hoping to persuade
a judge to overturn the deportation order, praying to get back to her daughters and her son.

Yolanda’s spirits flagged just once during the two hours we talked. The last time the kids came to see her, she said, her five-year-old, Little V, had looked at her suspiciously. “He told me I didn’t look like his mother,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. Her own child was starting to forget her.

Down in Nogales, on the Mexican side of the border, Gustavo Sanchez Perez was just as worried about his kids. He was a twenty-five-year-old landscaper from Phoenix; I met him early one hot July morning at a Catholic comedor just steps from the international line. He was one of sixty
deportees eating a hearty breakfast of beans and rice in a humble dining hall run by an order of Mexican nuns. Like Yolanda, Gustavo had moved with his family from Mexico to the United States as a child. Born in Veracruz, he’d come to Phoenix at the age of eight and lived there ever since. He spoke perfect English. He and his wife had two small children, a boy of four and a baby girl, both of them US citizens.

Gustavo had been arrested in Phoenix for riding his bicycle at night without a light and then detained by ICE. He’d rotated through several detention centers, in Arizona and in Colorado, before being tossed back over the border into Nogales. He’d always worked hard to support his children. What was their mother doing now, he wondered, without his wages coming in?

He was staying in a shelter, but he would have to leave soon. Nogales was reeling under a deluge of deportees from the United States, and the town’s shelters didn’t have the resources to house los deportados longer than three days. Gustavo would have to move on. His mother in Phoenix had advised him to go back to Veracruz, but he had no intention of returning to a place where everyone was a stranger. He knew where he needed to be: with his children, at home, in Phoenix. The way to get back to them lay over the border and through the Arizona desert, but the journey would be perilous in more ways than one. He could die out there in the heat, as so many had done before him. And if he made it through, he ran the risk of arrest. “If they catch me,” he said, “I get ten years in jail.”

Part One: Detention
Chapter One Yolanda in Limbo 
Chapter Two Suicide
Chapter Three Purgatorio Arpaio 
Chapter Four A Tale of Two Towns 
Chapter Five Greyhound 

Part Two: Deportation
Chapter Six Woman Without a Country 
Chapter Seven In the City of the Deported 
Chapter Eight Albergue Evening 

Part Three: Resistance
Chapter Nine Showdown on Tenth Avenue 
Chapter Ten Streamline 
Chapter Eleven Dreaming 


Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire by Margaret Regan

Readers’ Guide Questions

Download the readers’ guide.

  1. The old US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11. How do you think this reorganization impacted public perceptions and treatment of immigrant families? Why has this move been characterized as part of the militarization of the border policies? (Introduction, p. XX.)
  2. The United States annually detains some 400,000 undocumented immigrants, at a cost of $2 billion a year. Of the nation’s 250 detention centers, only 11 are run by the federal government, through ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Many of the others are operated by for-profit private prison corporations; conditions are harsher in these private detention centers and family visits are more restricted. What is your view of the private prisons? Should the US own and operate its own facilities? Or do the private prisons perform a needed service? Does the use of these private companies act as a deterrent to immigration reform? (Introduction p. XVI; Chapter One, p. 7-9; Chapter Two, p. 29-44; Chapter Four, p. 69-71.)
  3. Yolanda Fontes was incarcerated in the Eloy Detention Center, run by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America, for two years. During that time, she saw her three young children only rarely. Immigration advocates argue that it would be cheaper and more humane to release detainees to their families and to monitor them via ankle bracelets. What is your view? Do you see a role for detention or would you favor monitored release? What, if any, alternatives might you propose? (Introduction, p. XIII- XIV; Chapter One, p. 14-15.)
  4. Gustavo Sánchez was separated from his young family when he was detained and then deported to Mexico, where he had not lived since he was 8 years old. What would you do if you were Gustavo? Would you attempt the dangerous desert crossing in order to get back to your family? Should parents of US citizen children be treated differently than other undocumented immigrants? (Introduction, p. XV.)
  5. Mariana Rodríguez pleaded guilty to felony identity theft so that she could escape the horrific conditions in a criminal prison in Phoenix. ICE ultimately closed her immigration case, while reserving the right to re-open it at any time. But her felony conviction prevents her from taking advantage of DACA, which allows young people brought to the US as children to stay legally, provided they have committed no crimes. What solutions could there be to the problems of someone in Mariana’s situation? Should she have been deported? (Chapter Three, p. 45-66.)
  6. Some critics argue that the US should deport all undocumented immigrants currently living in the country, estimated at 11 million people. Elena’s story illustrates what a raid on a family home looks like and examines the family separation that follows. What resources would the US have to deploy to find and deport millions of people? Would police powers be expanded? What would be the impact of mass deportations on families, particularly “mixed status” families in which parents are undocumented and the children are US citizens? (Chapter Six, p. 112-115.)
  7. Driven by what economists call debt migration, three members of the Solana family, deported from Las Vegas back to Mexico, made a failed attempt to get back across the border. They fell further into debt paying fees to the drug cartels who demand payment for traveling over territory they control. The militarization of the US-Mexico border seems to have enhanced rather than diminished the power of the cartels. Why? What is the financial impact of deportation and migration on already impoverished families? (Chapter Eight, p. 162 to 168.)
  8. In Tucson, dozens of US citizens tried to prevent a possible deportation by surrounding a Border Patrol vehicle on a city street. According to eyewitness accounts and television footage, a squadron of agents pushed and shoved their way into the crowd without warning, knocking over several elderly protesters, including a cancer patient. How could this incident have been handled differently? Should the Tucson Police Department have played a role? Should the Border Patrol have the authority to deal with a protest by US citizens in an American city far from the border? (Chapter Nine, p. 175 to 196.)
  9. Two young sisters in Arizona, one an undocumented immigrant, one an American citizen, saw their opportunities vary widely as they grew up. Silvia earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona and began a professional career; her older sister, Arely, restricted by laws requiring undocumented immigrants to pay out-of-state tuition, went to community college and became a waitress. Their mother was stricken with guilt. Discuss the tensions within mixed-status families. What solutions would you propose? (Chapter Eleven, p. 214 to 219.)
  10. This book ends with the “surge” of Central American mothers and children fleeing to the United States in the summer of 2014. The influx of many thousands of migrants led to the opening of new family detention centers that house women and children, some of them quite young. Many of the new detainees, fearful of gang violence at home, seek asylum. Should these migrants be recognized as refugees, subject to the protections of international law? Are the detention centers the best alternative for managing the humanitarian needs of these people? (Epilogue, p. 229 to 234.)

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Detained and Deported

ISBN: 978-080707983-6
Publication Date: 5/3/2016
Size:5.5 x 8.5 Inches (US)
Price:  $18.00
Format: Paperback
Availability: In stock.
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