One night I was walking into the Borderlinks office and I overheard Derik Alvarez telling his story to a group of volunteers on his migration journey, walking through the desert and being detained in America.
Derik is a member of the Garifuna Tribe in Honduras, which is a tribe of Africans that had escaped slavery in Spain on boats and arrived in Honduras. He was in the Honduran Military for four years of his life; being a part of the military in Honduras is very risky because the gangs will come for you. The gangs had threatened his life and so he fled Honduras in search of a more secure life.
His journey through Mexico was a rough one because of the color of his skin. He was targeted by Mexican immigration as well as the police. He would hide in underpopulated areas and only come out when he needed food and to ask people for money. He rode the “Bestia” to go north. He was robbed on this train by gangs as well. To be taken into America, he had to smuggle drugs into the country because the gangs would kill him otherwise. You have to remember that if there was no market for illegal drugs in America, people like Derik wouldn’t be smuggling them across the border. We, as Americans, create the market for these drug smugglers.
Anyway, he crossed the borders with these smugglers and managed to get away from them but had no idea which way to go. He got lost in the desert and he came across a lovely woman who put him in touch with a group called “No Más Muertes,” the humanitarian aid organization, basically saving his life. No Más Muertes gave him a place to stay and tended to his wounds. Shortly after he continued his journey through the desert, he was caught by the border patrol at one of their checkpoints.
He was placed in a detention center. These detention centers are worse than the actual prison systems because the people in them aren’t American citizens. In this detention center he wasn’t allowed to make a single call for three months, and once he could finally call someone, he called one of the volunteers with “No Más Muertes” to see how they could help him. The volunteer he called worked on letters of sponsorship to send to Derik’s judge to be granted bond. To be detained in Arizona, you have to go through a process called Operation Streamline, which is the legal process all migrants go through to get their due process in court. Operation Streamline dehumanizes people and doesn’t take into consideration everyone’s personal experiences. Each person is just another number and another paper to fill out for these judges. After six months in a detention center he was granted a bond set at $12,000. Derik was working in the detention center but only making $1 an hour. If he didn’t have help, it would have taken Derik 32 years to pay off his bond.
When he was released he had to go through the only bond company in Arizona that allows migrants to get bonds and to be released from detention. Most people have to wait in prison until they can pay off their bonds. His bond company granted him a bond but with high stipulations attached. The bond was originally $12,000, but each month he had to pay an additional $420 as a fee for the ankle monitor he was wearing. He now has to live with an ankle monitor, charging it for two hours a day, and basically still being in prison in his own house. But if this ankle bracelet is removed he will no longer have to pay the fee. He is undocumented; it is very hard for undocumented people in Arizona to find work. A recent community member just donated $4,600 to Derik’s cause so now all they need is $5,000 to remove his bracelet. Derik is currently asking for asylum as a political refugee in America.
I honestly can’t do Derik’s story any justice; hearing it from his mouth was a privilege because he is such an animated, optimistic and funny guy. I think it’s important that his story is heard and if you want to help Derik in his journey, this is his gofundme page. Please go and donate to him and support him.
Make a difference in combating the human rights crisis happening on American soil!
Emily Rodden is a second-year student majoring in anthropology. ✉ ER861398@wcupa.edu.