are different kinds of angry. Jay Johnson-Castro has tears in his eyes
when he thinks about Suzi Hazahza at the immigration prison of
But he's not going to cry without doing
something, so next week, Johnson-Castro will walk sixty miles from
Abilene to Haskell and hold a vigil for the release of Suzi Hazahza
and "anyone else" being mistreated for their desire to be American.
"I'm almost in tears trying to tell you how angry I feel," says
Johnson-Castro via cell phone as he drives home to Del Rio, Texas on
Tuesday evening following three weeks of border protests.
He's talking now about 20-year-old Suzi Hazahza and how she was
subjected to body searches so humiliating that she has refused all
visitors since early December. In a federal habeas corpus brief that
will be filed Wednesday in Dallas, lawyers allege that both Suzi and
her 23-year-old sister Mirvat have been subjected to repeated
humiliations at the hands of prison guards. And according to Suzi's
fiancé, the searches got even worse after his fifth visit when Suzi
called begging not to be visited again.
"I can't believe a fellow American would do that to anybody," says
Johnson-Castro. "But I'm afraid that's the policy not the exception."
Dallas real-estate developer Ralph Isenberg has seen the pattern
before. It happened to his wife in Haskell under similar
circumstances. She was imprisoned for immigration violations stemming
from "bad lawyering" and once Isenberg started making noise about
things he didn't like at Haskell, his wife, too, was subjected to a
full body-cavity search. To this day, he recalls the sound of the
scream that the search provoked.
In protest of Suzi Hazahza's treatment and confinement, Johnson-Castro
will begin his freedom walk in Abilene on Wednesday, Feb. 28, arriving
at the Rolling Plains prison in Haskell for a vigil on Texas
Independence Day, March 3.
Ralph Isenberg says he'll host Johnson-Castro in Dallas prior to the
walk and introduce him to some people he has helped to free. During
the walk, Isenberg pledges to join Johnson-Castro for a time, and if
he can get enough people together, Isenberg plans to meet
Johnson-Castro at the Haskell prison on Texas Independence Day with a
bus full of people from Dallas.
"The good people of Haskell have no cognizance of what's happening to
sweet innocents such as Suzi Hazahza," says Johnson-Castro. "And when
they find out, they will rise up like the people of Williamson County
did against the Hutto jail."
Outrage at the jailing of children at the T. Don Hutto immigration
jail keeps growing, joined this week by Dallas Congresswoman Eddie
Bernice Johnson and the chair of the House subcommittee on immigration
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). Both of them told WFAA reporter Brett Shipp that
child imprisonment is flat wrong, period.
And grassroots distaste for immigrant jailings sparked a new protest
Tuesday from honor students of Fort Worth's Tarrant County Community
College who are angry that a wonderful fellow student has also been
tossed into Haskell jail for "bad lawyering."
The Fort Worth protest for 19-year-old immigration prisoner Samantha
Windschitt was covered by two Metroplex television networks, which is
a story in itself.
"The good news is that all the insane things that have been happening
in a disconnected way are finally being connected," says long-time
immigration activist Isenberg, reflecting on the protest and news
"I honest to gosh believe that everything we have done up to now is
adding up to something bigger," says Johnson-Castro, who helped ignite
protest in mid-December with a walk from Austin to the Hutto prison.
In Haskell, he plans to make the most of the date and place.
"It's Texas Independence Day and it's the Governor's home town," he
says. "We're going to be looking for freedom for people who are trying
to be Americans. And we are going to Gov. Rick Perry's hometown and
free the people that need to be freed, and not incarcerate them so
that someone can make a profit."
The Rolling Plains immigration jail in Haskell is managed by the
Emerald Companies of Louisiana (see:
Meanwhile, New York attorneys Joshua Bardavid and Ted Cox are
scheduled to arrive in Dallas Wednesday morning to file federal habeas
corpus motions in behalf of Suzi, Mirvat, their father, and two
brothers, who have all been held at Haskell since "armed and armored
officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted a middle
of the night 'raid' " of their home on November 2.
According to the habeas writ that will be filed Wednesday, the Hazahza
family arrived in the USA with temporary visas from Jordan during the
summer of 2001, and they applied for political asylum. Once the
appeals for asylum had been exhausted, the family was placed under a
warrant of deportation in the summer of 2005, but the family was not
notified about the warrant until they were abducted during
pre-election immigration raids known as "Operation Return to Sender."
Suzi's mother Juma and youngest brother Mohammad were released Feb. 6
from the Hutto jail only days before a media tour of that facility.
But on Feb. 12 ICE filed notice that it intended to keep the rest of
the family imprisoned at Haskell as "flight risks." Where they would
flee to is a good question since Jordan refuses to take the family
back, while Palestine and Israel have declined to reply to requests
for deportation there.
At Haskell prison, lawyers say housing units meant to house eight
prisoners are frequently supplemented with sleeping bags or "boats"
that allow for ten to fourteen prisoners to spend the night. When
inspectors arrive, the "boats" are hidden from view.
When it comes to culturally appropriate food for Muslims, the prison
serves eggs for breakfast, lunch, and supper. At prayer, the Hazahzas
report they have been mocked by guards and threatened with suspension
of prayer privileges.
Lawyers are only allowed to visit with prisoners for thirty minutes at
a time, and only "within regular hearing distance of a stationed
guard." The three Hazahza men have never been allowed to live together
"despite written requests to be united in the same, or adjacent,
17-year-old Ahmad Hazahza was placed in solitary confinement for three
months because he was a minor at Haskell's adults-only facility. When
Ahmad began urinating blood shortly after his arrival, guards mocked
his medical condition and "told him that he was 'probably dying' of a
disease and that there was nothing that could be done to save him."
For ten days, his requests to see a doctor were denied.
Suzi and Mirvat spent the first 48 hours at Haskell sleeping on the
concrete floor of a drunk tank, because no beds were available. They
both ran high fevers for two weeks after that, and were also denied
requests to see a doctor.
The sisters were "strip searched" each time they met with an outside
visitor, including humiliating inspections that took place in full
view of male guards "on multiple occasions." When taken to the
recreation area, they were made to "walk the gauntlet" in front of
male prisoners who sexually harassed them with techniques that
included exhibition and public masturbation while guards laughed.
The prison population at Haskell is a mix of immigrant detainees from
Texas and felony convicts imported from Wyoming.
As with the attorneys' previous habeas corpus motion filed in behalf
of the Ibrahim family, Bardavid and Cox argue that ICE has had no
legal authority to arrest or detain the family; therefore, the five
Hazahzas should be immediately released.
Another family released from both Hutto and Haskell following the last
Texas visit by Bardavid and Cox have been spending time on Isenberg's
schedule these days. Isenberg says he's helping the Ibrahim family put
together their immigration petitions so that they can stay and work.
He says working with the family took several hours Tuesday. It's not
the first time he's said that. And the way things look, it won't be
the last time -- not for weeks to come.
Greg Moses is editor of the
Civil Rights Review and author of
Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy
He can be reached
Other Articles by Greg
* The Terror
of Suzi Hazahza: Why Her Family Must be Freed
Immigration Policy Crosses Line of Common Decency
* The Words
of Mohammad, 11-Year-Old Prisoner
* Faith of
Ibrahim Redeemed: Texas Family Released from Hutto Prison
Without a Country: Maryam Remains in Texas Jail
Responds to Family's Jailing Despite Media Silence
* Why This
War Cannot be a Failure: Dropping the F-word on the Endless War in
Gulag: Palestinian Refugees and Children Held at Hutto Jail
Confronting the Violence of Dollar Hegemony
Psycho-Management Reported at Maquiladoras
Elite Agenda for the Border: Security, Temp Workers, and Oil
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Movement Gathers Power on the Sorrow Plateau
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* Boot Up
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Faxes & A Whisper: Texas Election Scandal
Not Who Bankrolled Falluja
One-Two Punch of Racism: Whitewashing the Voter Fraud Issue