I come from a family of activists in Sudan, first my grandfather, then my father, then me. We have always tried to help the people in our country. Sudan is a very poor country and we have a small organization that collects money from wealthier people to distribute in the village to pay for food, medicine and education for people who can't afford it. My father, who was in the military (air force) got into trouble with the government.
They beat him on his spine. Now my father's in a wheelchair and will never walk again.
He was pushing people to strike against because the government wanted to build a dam. In 2004 National Security caught him and put him in prison for weeks. They beat him on his spine. Now my father's in a wheelchair and will never walk again.
Then the National Security came to me. They said they would kill me if I didn't stop my activities and wanted me to sign a paper saying I wouldn't work against the government anymore. They took to prison, kept me there or a week, and beat me. When I got out, I had to report to National Security every day. Finally, my father told me I had to leave because he was afraid I'd be killed.
Finally, my father told me I had to leave because he was afraid I'd be killed.
I didn't plan to come to the US. I had a friend help me get out of Sudan in January of 2019 and I went to Egypt. But after a couple months I heard the government was sending people back to Sudan, so I had to go somewhere else in order to be safe. I left for Ecuador because you don't need a visa to travel there. But I had a problem with the language there – no one spoke English, not even in the hotels and restaurants.
Then I met people from Cameroon who wanted to go to America, so we decided to go together. There were 3 men and 2 women. We left Ecuador and took a bus to Colombia, then walked eight days to Panama. There are three camps in Panama, and I walked to each of them.
I only had $60 in my pocket – no money for a hotel, food or anything.
I left Ecuador in April and reached Panama, where I stayed for about a month. Then I continued through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala to Mexico, sometimes by bus, sometimes on foot. When I went to the border crossing in Tijuana, the officers said I had to wait. I waited about two weeks. I only had $60 in my pocket – no money for a hotel, food or anything. I asked the immigration people if they could help, but they said there was nothing they could do for me.
Finally, I crossed into the US on (date) and was taken to Chula Vista. I stayed there for about 12 days, then I was transferred to Arizona. After only two days, on July 27th, I was transferred again, back to California. I was detained at Adelanto. A guy there came down with chicken pox, so we were all quarantined - no one could come in and no one could go in until August 20. I was finally released because I'd already had chicken pox. On August 22nd I was granted a bond for $28,000. At that point I'd spent 28 days in Adelanto, so it was basically $1,000 for every day I was there. I didn't have any money, of course. I met the judge on September 10, and he set bond at $9,000. I had a sponsor, but he didn't have $9,000 so he started looking for others who could help. He found a Sudanese community organization and they raised the bond amount on October 10th. I left Adelanto the next day.
Adelanto is more like a prison than a detention center.
Adelanto is more like a prison than a detention center. We have to stay in our rooms and can only leave at specific times. The food is not good and there's not enough of it. The medical care is also bad; to see the doctor you have to wait 10 days. It didn't seem any different than being detained in Sudan. Whether the food is good or bad, you're still in detention.
I was released with an ankle monitor. It's uncomfortable and it weighs about 2 kg so it's heavy. If I go to sleep at 10 the battery needs to be changed at 4am and then I'll get a call: "Muzamil, change your battery, change your battery..."
I have to check in with ICE every two weeks. You have to go through a metal detector, and when I go through, it goes "beep beep beep" because of the device. The security guard looks at me like I'm a criminal and searches me a lot, unlike other people.
I'm living at a community house in Los Angeles with other people from Sudan and I have to stay there every Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. because someone from immigration might come to check on me. No one has ever come, but I still have to stay home.
I don't have anything to do but wait.
My court date is February 4th. It feels like a long time from now. I don't have anything to do but wait. When I am granted asylum, I will begin to continue the work that I learned from my father and grandfather in Sudan with full force and love to help others to leave in a good world without any problems.
*Initials used to protect the author's privacy
Art credit: Anthony Miranda Sanchez, currently detained at Northwest Detention Center