SOA Watch Workshops: Pedro’s Story

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November 28, 2012 by

Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

After the gathering at the gates of Fort Benning we headed to a conference center for various workshops. The first workshop I attended was Life As an Immigrant Inside and Outside of a For-Profit Detention Center. Pedro and Emily Guzman shared their story on Pedro’s experience being detained at the for-profit Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin,  Georgia, known as one of the worst detention centers in the country.

Pedro Guzman was brought to the U.S. from Guatemala when he was only eight years old. He and his mother entered the country illegally but were able to stay as long as they attended annual permanent residency interviews. However, in 2008 when Pedro’s mother went for her interview she made a mistake, denying her and Pedro residency in the country since he had entered as a child and was still listed under her name. She complied, going back to Guatemala to live with friends, but Pedro was now married to his wife, Emily Guzman, a white, American-born woman whom he has a child with named Logan. 

On September 28, 2009 at 8 a.m. Pedro and his family were leaving their house when an SUV pulled up and two men from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jumped out, grabbed Pedro and handcuffed him.

After being taken to various detention centers for short-term stays Pedro ended up in Stewart Detention Center, nine hours from his home in North Carolina. For months his court dates were continuously deferred, halting any progress of him coming back home to his wife and son. His time in the detention center was barely tolerable. He said the cells were too small for the amount of people in them and always dirty. The food was so vile that he would get sick afterward and had to pay to buy Ramen or go hungry.

After months of no progress Emily was frustrated and began reaching out to whatever media sources she could find to share Pedro’s story and bring an end to the injustice in the immigration system. She started a blog,, to share her story. Eventually it was picked up by the L.A. Times who published her blogs and followed their story. Finally, with help from the community and media Pedro became closer to getting home!

On May 17, 2011 Pedro was released from the detention center and was finally reunited with his family. He received a temporary green card and after 5 years he will be able to apply for U.S. citizenship. Since his release the Guzman’s have welcomed a baby girl into the family and continue to fight the injustices in the U.S. immigration system. To read their story visit .


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