I am a Huntington Beach resident, but the U.S. government is trying to deport me to Zambia, a country I have never really known.
I am of African British descent. I have been living in the United States for almost twenty years, and before that, England. I own a logistics and transportation business in Orange County and have been a member of the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce for five year. We do much for the community--providing transportation to Hoag Hospital, donating books and furniture to shelters and charities, and giving scholarships to high school and community college students.
But since September 2016, I have been in immigration detention at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange. I have spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and Easter without being able to hold or be with my loved ones.
I already lost everything once from being in immigration detention for more than one year beginning in 2013. When I was first detained, I was held at James Musick Facility in Irvine, then I was transferred to Theo Lacy, and then to the for-profit GEO Group detention center in Adelanto.
Volunteers from Friends of Orange County Detainees and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) visited me while I was detained. These organizations visit people in detention to end their isolation--to hear their stories, provide a link to families and friends, occasionally help them find legal counsel, or simply provide a sympathetic ear. They brought me hope in my darkest moments. They told Congresswoman Judy Chu about my case. She came to visit me, and told me not to give up. With their support, I was released from detention in 2014.
I have attended all of my check-ins with immigration in Los Angeles since then. Last September, the immigration officer decided to re-detain me. I was told at this regular check-in that my stay of removal had been denied four months earlier. I was told that immigration just might have forgotten to send me or my lawyer the notice. We never received it. Because we failed to appeal, I was taken into custody and have been detained here at Theo Lacy ever since.
I never thought I would be detained again or stay in this place so long. It’s been really hard for me in here. Thinking that the government wants me and my business to fall apart is heartbreaking. I really worked hard for my business. My girlfriend is a US citizen. We want to marry and put this nightmare behind us.
But every night, as I fall asleep in this jail where hundreds of other men are suffering a similar fate, my dreams are filled with the trauma from my days. Why is this happening to me? I know hard times are not forever. But I don’t understand Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). All they do is break families and hearts. ICE has all but destroyed us. How can human beings treat each other this way?
Do the ICE officers and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department see the toll this takes on my girlfriend, our families, and our friends?
After trying to hang on financially for months, I have lost my savings, my apartment, and all my belongings, for the second time. My girlfriend, who works full-time at a high school and visits me every day she can, has spent thousands of dollars on phone calls, commissary costs, and lawyer fees. Our love is strong, but our hearts are broken.
Last Monday, I was taken out of my bed at midnight and driven to Los Angeles, then to Santa Ana, then back to Los Angeles to be deported. The desperate phone calls I was allowed to make to my lawyer and girlfriend that day cost us $800. That night, an officer asked me where my suitcase was, and I told him I had been given no warning of my deportation. By some miracle, after being interviewed further I was not put on the plane to Africa. Instead, I was taken back to Theo Lacy. But the United States could try to deport me again at any minute.
I thought America was the land of the free. We are taken away from our homes and put into jail like livestock, while our government makes money on us. This is the shame of America. This is the shame of Orange County.
Casey Kapijimpanga has been detained at Theo Lacy Facility since September 20, 2016. He is a small business owner in Huntington Beach, CA. This piece was edited by Costa Mesa residents Tina Shull and Jan Meslin of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).
Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.
Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org