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This week, The Takeaway is exploring how immigration detention went from a concept that was scoffed at for much of the 20th century, to what now constitutes a shadow prison system with hundreds of federal and private facilities throughout the country.
Today, we go inside these facilities, and hear from two detainees who has been caught up in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers.
Ralph Alhassani is a detainee at the Bergen County Jail in New Jersey. A member of the LGBT community from Ghana, he felt persecuted and sought asylum in the U.S. in September 2015. He entered from Mexico, and quickly encountered ICE. He was initially held in California for eight months, and has been held in New Jersey for the last nine months.
Yanet Candelario Salazar is a 39-year-old with dual Canadian-Cuban citizenship. She was stopped by ICE, and was initially held in the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey, which is now part of the Orange County Correctional Facility in New York, where she is with a mixed inmate population, even though she has a green card pending.
The Takeaway spoke to Alhassani and Candelario Salazar from inside the detention center. Inmates are not allowed to receive calls, so they dial out at a certain designated times that come with strict time limits, often at very high price per minute. We connected with him through Sally Pillay, the director of First Friends, which sets up a free hotline for people in immigration detention to call and seek support. She discusses the program, and the stories she's heard from other detainees.