• Jane Juffer

"I'm tired of keeping my mouth shut"

Note from Jane:

In this letter, Elisabeth begins to explain what over the ensuing months became a common theme: she is being bullied, made fun of, and provoked by other women in detention. In our messaging via the tablet system, she told me that sometimes this bullying is connected to her gender identity—that women says she looks and acts like a man. When she tells officials about the bullying, they tell her just to keep her head down. Her lawyer says the same, and warns her that “complaining” might prompt ICE to move her to another detention center or to a county jail where immigrants are held. Elisabeth tries to “keep her head down” but finds that at a certain point, she cannot just be quiet.

January 27, 2020

Hi!. I hope that I’m not bothering you with my letters. Today I want to talk a little about all that has been happening to me in recent days, here inside. Tuesday, I went to court and received a wonderful hug from you, my friend, thank you. I didn’t go to church because I was waiting for my commissary to arrive. I received shampoo, conditioner, soap, sweets, two Doritos, baby oil for the body, deodorant, and finally hair gel. This is all thanks to you, friend.

Friday, we changed the sheets and because the girls always hide the blankets and towels, the officials today searched everything really thoroughly and told us that our punishment would be no TV if this continued. I also finished making your bracelet. And at around 3:20, an official came and told me that my lawyer sent a letter telling them that I am afraid to be here because other detainees are bothering me. He asked me why I hadn’t told them about this, and I told him because I’m afraid, because here there is payback if you complain about anything. He told me to keep my head up and I told him that my head is up. Today Saturday I exercised and after I went to lunch, one of the girls who is trying to get me in trouble, again provoked me. I told the official Santo what had happened, and then she told me to talk to her, not him. I have tried talking to her, but she just keeps provoking me, and she is not the only one. Many of them are harassing me because I told the official the truth. I’m afraid that they are going to move me from here, and I don’t want to be moved. I didn’t say anything but I am so tired of being quiet.

I am trying to distract myself with a friend who likes to cook. We talk about our families, friends, where we have worked, and I told her about you. I told my friends that you are like my mother and that I like to call you “mama” even though we are not related by blood. Last names don’t mean anything. I’m happy calling you my adoptive mama! One friend told me that my problem is that I trust people too quickly and she said that at my age, I should be more mature, and I said, you’re right, and this is something about myself that I don’t like, that I act like a little girl. Jane, I believe that I’m not destined to be happy. I think that my life is destined to be alone and unhappy. I have never known the love of a father. All my life, I have been working to help my family get a little bit ahead. At least, I have my mama and my sisters. I feel that my heart is lacking something, but I don’t know what it is. I ask God every day to give me strength to keep struggling, that he protect me and stay by my side, giving me strength, words of comfort, advice, etc. Today, Sunday, the official spoke with me and I told him I don’t like being the one with problems, better that I just stay quiet, but I am also so tired of keeping my mouth shut. I don’t want to be quiet anymore about the bullying. Sometimes when they give me dirty looks, I hurt and I want to cry but I so long to not have any more trouble, that they stop telling me not to complain. For this reason, I say it is better that I don’t keep living like this, keep suffering, I can’t take this bullying any more, and if I was dead, they wouldn’t bother me anymore.

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