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March 07, 2019

After five months locked away at Irwin County Detention Center, Alejandra Garcia Zamarron grew panicked when she saw a familiar face arrive at the immigrant prison. It was her sister, Maytee Garcia. And she, too, was now being held at Irwin.

Once the siblings locked eyes, Alejandra began to weep.

“I was shocked,” she said. “It was devastating, and I was devastated for my mother; both of her daughters were gone.”

February 28, 2019

As you walk past the four-layered, double-barbwire fence and security cameras that mark the entrance to Stewart Detention Center, your phone is locked in your car, along with your laptop. The security camera spots you as the first gate opens slowly. The only thing in your hand is your client file, a pen and an ID.

February 08, 2019

During a day of sightseeing in Mesa, Arizona, in December 2017, Nancy Gonzalez Hidalgo and her husband decided to grab a bite to eat before stopping at a flea market to shop for children’s clothes. They had come to the U.S. the previous month on a valid tourist visa.

While they were at the restaurant, two men they had never met before sat at a nearby table. The men kept their eyes glued to their phones and didn’t speak. It was odd, Hidalgo recalled.

January 18, 2019

Alberto was riding his motorcycle alone on an empty street in Honduras when he unexpectedly heard voices behind him.

He stopped his motorcycle and looked back, watching as four gunmen sprang from their hiding spot among the trees. He recognized their faces. They had threatened him before.

They ambushed Alberto and pointed their weapons at him. They ordered him off his motorcycle, took his phone, and stole his wallet before making him walk to a river.

January 09, 2019

The gang members took Marco by surprise, attacked him, and dragged him to a cemetery in Copán, Honduras.

They beat him repeatedly over the head with beer bottles. Then, they yanked his hair, pulling at it by the roots. When he tried to shield himself from the blows, shards of glass from the broken bottles cut his eye. Blood ran down his face.

Then they told him why they were beating him.

“This is what we do to gay people,” one of the men said. “You are disgusting and a bad influence.”

December 21, 2018

When P.L. traveled to the U.S. in 2007, his heart was full of hope.

His hope turned into reality as he made a home in North Carolina, where he and his wife of 12 years had three children, all of whom are U.S. citizens. The 34-year-old worked at a chicken processor. He was happy. He would have never had the chance for such a life in Mexico.

But in July 2018, the life he had created abruptly capsized when he was pulled over for a traffic stop. P.L. was detained over 500 miles away at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, where removal proceedings began against him.

November 16, 2018

After Mario José Perez-Suazo refused the Nicaraguan paramilitary’s request for him to murder civilian protesters, he was brutally beaten and labeled a terrorist. The government denounced him, and Mario decided to flee the town of Estelí and seek political asylum in the United States.

Desperate, he left his home in May 2018 for a 10-day journey by bus to the U.S. He crossed through Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala before reaching the border at Reynosa, Mexico.

November 06, 2018

Even though Sally Sylla was born in the West African nation of Guinea, she can’t locate it on a map. She’s lived in Atlanta since she was 5.

The country of her birth is completely foreign to her.

“I’ve been in Georgia forever,” she said. “I know nothing about [Guinea].”

Her parents, fearing political persecution, escaped with her to the United States on a visitor visa in 1993. Now 29, Sally remembers the scar carved on her father’s stomach. “He had political ties over there, and they came after my family,” she said. “Someone stabbed him.” 

September 30, 2018

Margarito Velázquez Galicia had called Phoenix, Arizona, home for 14 years when his life was turned upside down.

It began on a January night in 2018 as he pedaled home on his bicycle after a long shift as a chef at a restaurant two blocks from his home. It was after midnight when a siren cut through the silence and the lights of a police car illuminated the street.

July 20, 2018

Morena Vasquez called Georgia her home for 23 years after escaping the violence and murder in El Salvador.

A mother to six children, Morena, 38, held two jobs. She moved her family from a trailer into a five-bedroom rental home after her husband – a Mexico native – was deported.

Through it all, she remained happy, and was grateful that she no longer lived in fear.

One evening, though, the life she loved, the life she had so preciously crafted, irrevocably changed.

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