Pho to by Joe Her mosa for a church or advocacy group to put up bond. Another Proyecto staffer explains, “Everyone there has an indefinite prison term, and what matters in getting out is not the strength of the asylum claim but the ability to make bond.” Bonds for Salvadorans are set as high as $10,000; a lawyer usually can get the amount reduced to $3,000, for which the bonding company requires 25 percent, or $750. By the time they are apprehended, Salvadorans rarely have any money left; they may have spent up to $5,000 getting to the border and another $500 to get across the river. In El Salvador, where the per capita income is under $600 per year, such amounts usually constitute a life’s savings. Some Proyecto clients have stayed in el corralon as long as 12 to 15 months, waiting to bond out. The head of the Port Isabel center, John Luvender, reports that “the average stay” there is 14 days, but, says Patrick Hughes, “that just tells you how many get deported right away.” Among his clients, stays of six to eight months are not uncommon. Some clients can’t stand the wait; they sign for voluntary departure and go home. Refugee advocates say that’s the principal goal of detention: to demoralize the refugees so that they give up and ask to be sent home. “It’s so hard on them,” says Hughes. “Most of them are peasants, uneducated and apolitical; they’ve never committed a crime, never been locked up in their lives.” They don’t understand what’s happening, he says; they thought their troubles would be over once they crossed the river. They don’t trust anyone, not the guards who tell them they’ll “never get out” if they seek asylum, not even the lawyers. Jonathan Moore reports that, after a lengthy interview discussing the possibilities for asylum, new clients often ask him if he works for the INS. Many refugees have left relatives in El Salvador, planning to send them money to live on or to leave the country; they worry about who will support their families, worry about their safety. Lawyers in both the Valley and Los Angeles have reported stories of guards threatening to pass clients’ names and statements on to Salvadoran authorities. The INS denies that guards make threats of any kind. Hal Boldin calls such charges “almost obscene.” But the stories recur, and there is evidence that, in at least one case, the United States did turn over information about an asylum applicant to the Salvadoran government, trying to determine whether the woman was a guerrilla The yard at el corralan. Valley’s immigration judges have steadily refused to grant attorneys’ requests for the assurance of confidentiality regarding their clients’ cases. L CORRALON is a desolate place: a series of low metal buildings and wire fences spread across the flat coastal plains. Living conditions are poor. Inmates are housed in large dormitories; they must rise at 5 a.m., and, when the weather is clear, must stay outdoors most of the day in a fenced, unshaded “recreation” area, with little or nothing to do. In the summertime, temperatures outside often exceed 100 degrees; the coastal wind blows dust constantly. Inmates consistently complain of inadequate clothing, food, and medical attention and harrassment by guards. Some weeks ago, a Proyecto client gave Jonathan Moore a letter, signed by 61 male inmates, listing a number of complaints. The letter, translated into English by Moore, describes the food as “unnutritive and deficient and little,” and, “as to the deficiency of medical services,” the letter states that “the only drug which an ill-humored doctor prescribes is aspirin, and a similar class of salve.” Moore cites several instances in which Proyecto clients needed medical attention including a man with severe kidney damage and another with neurological problems and yet got no significant care until their lawyers threatened action. INS officials, on the other hand, assert that medical services are more than adequate. John Luvender states that detainees get “a thorough physical” when they arrive; the center has two staff nurses and two doctors available, and outside care is provided whenever necessary. Says Luvender, “I can show you the medical bills to prove it.” Inmates also assert that their mail is tampered with. The letter of complaint delivered to Moore cites “violations of our correspondence on the part of people in the INS, and describes an instance in which $600 was stolen from an inmate’s letter. According to another inmate, the amounts taken are usually smaller $30 or $40 at a time but for those working to accumulate bond money, every loss is a major one. Although physical abuse seems not to be a major problem, male inmates report that guards “abuse their authority,” especially in dealing with long-term detainees. They frequently insult, jostle, shove, or hit. trying to provoke a response; if they succeed, they may punish the inmate by sending him to La Loba, the segregation cell. According to John Luvender, segregation cells are used only for health reasons, or to protect the inmate’s own safety or that of others. An inmate may be held there up to 72 hours, but that happens “rarely”; the average holding period is two to three hours. Again, however, inmates report that La Loba is used for “punishment,” and one man I interviewed said he had been held in the segregation cell for five days. In California, detainees no longer can be put into a segregation cell without a hearing, but there is no such requirement here. Luvender states that an inmate can appeal any action by the guards and “call his witnesses,” but no one has done so in the 4 1/2 years since he’s been director. Inmates fear other reprisals. The inmates perceived as troublemakers, their attorneys say, are harassed most severely; it they respono to provocation, they can be charged with criminal conduct and moved to a county jail. The 16 AUGUST 17, 1984
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