Why One Former Immigrant Detainee Says Detention Centers Should be Called Prisons

Carlos Hidalgo displayed a batch of handwritten letters he’s received from people held inside California’s largest immigrant detention center.

“A lot of friends that I’ve made here have asked to be deported because of the conditions we live in, (it’s) not human like,” one person wrote.

Another said of being inside the center after serving time in jail: “It’s like paying for the same crime twice.”

Hidalgo — who was detained inside the Adelanto Detention Facility for about a year but is free on bond — is now on a mission to improve conditions at the facility, a former city-owned jail that now houses immigrants in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as they await deportation or decisions in their immigration cases.

One way to do so, he believes, is by changing the way people speak about it.

With the nonprofit Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, or CIVIC, Hidalgo helped launch an online petition in late 2017 that urges media and the government to “begin calling detention centers what they really are — prisons.”

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