Perhaps nothing illustrates the cruelty of immigration detention more clearly than the widespread use of solitary confinement as a tool to punish and control. A person held in solitary confinement is locked in a cell for 23 hours a day. Many facilities impose this extreme form of punishment on detained immigrants for wholly arbitrary reasons or for perceived offenses as minor as having apple sauce in your cell.
"I love this country as much as anyone who was born here, I’m just as American as the next American. I don’t call any other country my home. I just never thought something like this would happen to me.” - Astrid Morataya
Astrid Morataya is a green card holder who came to the United States when she was eight years old, fleeing the civil war in Guatemala. A survivor of horrifying domestic abuse, she worked hard as a single mother to build a life for herself and her three U.S. citizen children.
In immigration detention, Astrid experienced just how arbitrary and punitive solitary confinement was. She was twice placed in solitary confinement. Her offenses? Having a sugar packet in her pocket that she forgot to dispose of at mealtime, and lagging behind her cellmates as they left the cell because she had begun menstruating and was trying to secure menstrual pads.
During the two and a half years she was detained, Astrid did the best she could to continue to support her children, but it was difficult. They had to relocate to live with family in Iowa, a six-hour drive away. She saw them just three times in the years she was detained, and was helpless as her youngest child became the subject of a traumatic custody battle due to Astrid's detention.
Astrid was ultimately granted a "U Visa" based on her cooperation with law enforcement in testifying against her abuser in court, and is now back together with her children. But the two and a half years she missed of their childhood - including her youngest daughter’s first day of kindergarten and her son’s high school graduation - she will never get back.