Prisoner Undocumented Immigrants…The Nightmare of the American Dream

This letter was received, typed and emailed to CaliforniaPrisonWatch.org amongst its recipients, and is being posted here and possibly elsewhere:

By Juan Carlos Molina
CSP-Corcoran-SHU

I would like to take this moment to possibly enlighten you to a situation we as Hispanic Mexican Nationals would like to share with all of you. Our hope is to create discussion and ultimately change this sad reality. Due to being such a small population in California prisons, the majority do not understand or even realize (much less consider). Hopefully with this essay I’m able to express correctly, sufficiently, and effectively these little known conditions and bring attention to this issue. We suffer and struggle daily in a foreign land, where many of us do not even write, understand, or speak English.

This struggle not only involves Mexican Nationals in California, but also all undocumented immigrants in prison around this nation. Some of us are here doing life terms with no family or friends support (mentally, emotionally, economically, physically, etc.), the most basic of human conditions to be social. Think about this for a minute. For family members to visit us from Mexico requires an incredible amount of patience and hard work, and huge obstacles at the US-MEXICO border. 

For example, on my situation I haven’t seen my father, brothers, and some of my sisters since 1996. Why??-because my family couldn’t process the visas for them and couldn’t afford to pay the expenses to travel. In the past, I used to see my mother once a year. My family had to work and save money for my elderly mother to be able to come visit me just one time every year. Unfortunately, since 2007, my family couldn’t afford it anymore. So I haven’t seen the rest of my family since 1996, which is 14 years total and counting. 

This is just my example. Many more undocumented immigrants/Hispanics in prison suffer the same fate. Under life terms and some of us validated in the Security Housing Units (SHU), we may very well never see or hug our immediate family and friends. Imagine the suffering and heartache we endure??? Living life sentences inside ‘the grey box’ (SHU), under this daily struggle, under this psychological and physical torture 23 hours a day we wait to hear and receive news from our family back home.

Many of us came to the U.S. from very rural towns with little or no education and severely economically challenged areas in Mexico. As we can agree, many who come to the U.S. do so for the ‘American Dream’: Land of opportunity and a better way of life. A sacrifice for ourselves and our families back home. 

Due to having to put education on hold early in our youth to work and contribute to our family’s welfare, ultimately basic reading and writing much time is lost and thousands of us risk our lives and cross the border (breaking U.S. laws) and some of those thousands end up in prisons, detention centers, and jails across the nation. Fewer still get life terms that cuts off communication with family and limits it to phone calls (when rare monetary ability allows a phone call home) and letters (for those who can read and write).

This is some of what we endure and struggle with, maintaining communication: hope of seeing, speaking to, hearing the familiar voices, or hugging a family member one more time. Whatever the reason or situation, we as prisoners got caught up in the huge justice system of this mighty and powerful nation. Illiteracy, sadly, caused some to sing plea agreements for life terms unknowingly and unintelligibly and so, here we are, for life we exist… in prisons far away from family and friends back home in our country of origin. Not knowing how their lives are going (basic social interaction in an advanced, immediate access, social technical world) for years on end sometimes, is an exhausting struggle we endure. 
Not knowing English accentuates this lonely existence. We suffer alone, unable to afford even toothpaste or deodorant, indigent with no outside support.

Accordingly, I’ll now share the heavier and further sad facts affecting us undocumented immigrants (Mexican national prisoner class) in California prisons. Prison officials incorrectly clam us as gang-related, even though we (historically) no not involve ourselves with any gangs. 

Because we socialize with other Hispanics who speak our own language, we are now getting validated and segregated as participants or associating with prison gangs incorrectly by CDCR. As we all know, this is an extremely difficult and complicated situation as there is an already limited ability to challenge the validation and segregation or understand the already poorly worded rules and regulations.

Because we are only a few of the thousands validated and segregated we are still subject to these torture chambers, anti-social conditions, indeterminately housed in the SHU. As gang associates (incorrectly by CDCR), our already poor communication abilities with family and friends in our country is made worse by constant IGI interference and delays in mail distribution. These are the facts and the issues. We Hispanic Mexican nationals doing life terms seek your support and assistance along with and in solidarity with the prisoner’s peaceful Hunger Strike and the Core Demands.

We are as one within this struggle and in unity we ask all to include our one demand in solidarity with us….Which is a call for CDCR to simply comply with and for us to be identified under the international Treaty of Vienna Convention. The treaty was adopted by the United Nations conference held at Vienna on the twenty-fourth day of April in one thousand nine hundred and sixty three (April 24, 1963). Agreements that both the U.S. and Mexico signed. We also want to be included in the U.S./Mexico prisoner exchange program (currently as lifers, we are ineligible). We are a prisoner class that is in need of the humane and just treaty.

We Mexican nationals, seek this demand in solidarity with California prisoners: For lifers to be included in the prisoner exchange treaty and for CDCR to comply with the Vienna Convention international law. And our rights to be free from torture of indefinite solitary confinement (in the SHU).

Lastly, the California Prison Reduction and Cost Saving bill past recently and federal courts are mandating CDCR comply with it. We want included as a key issue, Mexican nationals and all undocumented immigrants be returned to their own country to do their time. Yet again, lifers are surely excluded , and not only that, but also CDCR will exclude us in segregated housing under erroneous gang labels.

The conditions and practices that imprisoned man, women, and children experience are in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

U.S. prison practices also violate dozens of other international treaties and fit the United Nations definitions of genocide.

See this article of the US Human Rights Network for the following citation:

Article 1 of the U.N. Convention Against Torture prohibits policies and practices that “constitute cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment”. The history of international attention to this issue is compelling.

In 1995, the U.N Human Rights Committee stated that conditions in certain U.S. maximum security prisons were incompatible with international standards. 

In 1996, the HRW special reporter on violence against women took testimony in California on the ill treatment of women in U.S. prisons

In 2000, the United Nations Committee against Torture roundly condemned the U.S. for its treatment of prisoners, citing super-max prisons and the use of torture devices, as well as the practice of jailing youth with adults. The use of stun belts and the restraint chair was also cited as violating the U.N. convention against torture. 

In May 2006, the same committee concluded that the U.S. should “review the regimen imposed on detainees in super-maximum prisons. In particular, the practice of prolonged isolation”.


                                                          Respectfully
                                                        In Solidarity,
Juan Carlos Molina #K30854
C.S.P. COR-SHU 4B-2L-47
P.O. Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212

Mexican Denied Consular Rights Faces Texas Execution Tonight Despite White House Opposition

Sadly, another human being was executed. The following discusses why foreign nationals should get their lawful contact with their representatives according to international law. By violating this law, Texas has openly broken international law and has even made mockery of this. With the death penalty, an irreversable punishment, this is even more apparent and could harm others too. In fact, there are many foreign nationals in prison in the USA who have not had the chance to inform their consulate within 48 hours, and who therefore suffer more than US nationals, because there is no domestic politician who stands up for a foreign national. Among them are people wrongfully convicted, who may never get the chance to be released because of the casual and nonchalant way in which governments work with international law.

From: DemocracyNow:
July 7th 2011

The Obama administration has urged Texas to delay tonight’s execution of a Mexican national, saying it would put the U.S. in breach of international obligations. Humberto Leal Garcia is set to be executed for the 1994 kidnapping, rape and murder of Adria Sauceda, a 16-year-old girl.

After his arrest, Leal was provided with court-appointed lawyers but never informed he could have access to Mexican consular officials, as is required under the United Nations’ Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Leal’s family still maintains he is innocent and defense attorney says his case was also hurt by inadequate counsel by his court-appointed attorney.

Barring a last minute stay by Texas Governor Rick Perry or the U.S. Supreme Court, Leal is set to be executed at 6pm. We speak with Humberto Leal’s attorney, Sandra Babcock.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The state of Texas is under international pressure to delay the execution of a Mexican citizen scheduled for 6:00 p.m. tonight. Humberto Leal was sentenced to die for his role in the 1994 rape and murder of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda, but the Obama administration has joined with the Mexican government to raise concerns that after Leal was arrested, he was never informed of his right to request help from Mexican consular officials. This right is guaranteed under the United Nations’ Vienna Convention on consular relations. Leal’s attorney says legal aid from the Mexican government may not have stopped his conviction, but it probably would have kept him off of death row. In the request for a stay of execution, they point to a pending request to reexamine DNA evidence in the case. Members of Leal’s family insist that he is innocent. This is Leal’s uncle, Alberto Rodriguez.

ALBERTO RODRIGUEZ: He has witnesses who saw the real killer who is walking free. He also lives in San Antonio, but he is American. We will wait for him here because they’ve stripped him of his U.S. citizenship. From the moment of his sentence, he was stripped of his papers. They destroyed them. He is another Mexican over there who is paying for something he did not do. We will wait for him here with open arms.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Leal’s defense team says his case was also hurt by inadequate counsel, by his court-appointed attorney. Meanwhile, legislation now pending in Congress would ensure that states comply with the Vienna Convention on consular rights. More than 50 Mexican citizens are on death row throughout the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: This Tuesday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole denied a request to delay Humberto Leal’s execution. So barring a last-minute stay by Texas Governor Rick Perry or the U.S. Supreme Court, Leal is set to be executed tonight, 6:00 Texas time. We’re going now to Houston to be joined by Humberto Leal’s attorney, Sandra Babcock, she’s a clinical professor and clinical director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University. We welcome you to Democracy Now! Explain the significance of this case. A number of Bush administration officials have also weighed in saying that his rights were violated.

SANDRA BABCOCK: That’s right Amy. This is really a unique case because it is more than about just one person on death row in Texas. The effects of Humberto Leal’s execution would be felt around the world because if he is executed, it would be an irreparable breach of the country’s obligations under the Vienna Convention on consular relations, but also under the decision of the International Court of Justice in 2004, which held that he had the right to a hearing to show exactly how the violation of his consular rights affected the fairness of his trial.

JUAN GONZALEZ: What about Governor Rick Perry’s decision basically to thumb his nose at what the Obama administration and even some other Republicans in Texas could be the long-term impacts of this execution?

SANDRA BABCOCK: It seems really short-sighted because this is not a partisan issue. There is a bipartisan group of former military leaders, diplomats, Bush administration officials, Obama administration officials — all of whom have joined together to call on Rick Perry to stay this execution. It is not everyday that you get a group of people like that together weighing in on a Texas death-penalty case. The reason for that is that this is a case that literally could affect the well-being of countless Americans who find themselves detained in foreign countries at this moment because they relied, just as Mr. Leal was entitled to be informed of his rights, to consular assistance, they are entitled, under the Vienna Convention, if they find themselves in trouble, in a foreign country, to ask for the assistance of the U.S. consulate. That literally is their lifeline to their families, to adequate legal representation, and to protect them from harm.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the legislation that has been introduced in to Congress and what this means for Leal who could be executed tonight.

SANDRA BABCOCK: Well, Senator Patrick Leahy about three weeks ago now, introduced a bill that would fully implement the United States’ obligations under the decision of the International Court of Justice by providing access to Mr. Leal and other foreign nationals whose rights were similarly violated, to have a hearing. Really, this legislation simply provides that these nationals are entitled to have their day in court so that they have an opportunity to prove how the violation of their consular rights affected the fairness of their trials. It is very narrowly tailored, it would only affect a very limited group of foreign nationals who’ve been sentenced to death. Our position is, why rush to execution when this bill would apply directly to Mr. Leal’s case and Congress simply hasn’t had a chance to pass it?

JUAN GONZALEZ: We have about 30 seconds, if you could explain to us the appeal process, that he still has available to him before 6:00 tonight.

SANDRA BABCOCK: Well, right now we’re waiting for a decision from the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court now has received briefs from both sides as well as from the Obama administration and the government of Mexico. Of course, the government of Mexico and the Obama administration are both calling for a stay. We’re waiting for that decision really any moment, but it has to come before 6:00, which is the time Mr. Leal is scheduled to be executed.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Sandra Babcock, we want to thank you for being with us. Attorney for death row prisoner Humberto Leal, she is a clinical director at the Center of International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law.

Direct link to the program: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/7/7/mexican_denied_consular_rights_faces_texas