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The Associated Press introduces us to Derrick Cotterel. His story is wrenching — and says so much about the failings of the immigration detention system in the U.S.:
Derrick Cotterel was a farmworker who came to the United States from Jamaica, picking citrus in Florida and apples in West Virginia for 10 years, before a pay dispute with a landscaping employer led to his arrest last year on robbery charges.
Given his long-expired visa, the arrest landed Cotterel in immigration custody in York, Pa. But judges there struggled for nearly a year to understand his request for political asylum.
Cotterel, 42, speaks a Jamaican patois, or Creole, that might alone be difficult for Americans to grasp. But his speech is further compromised by a severe stutter that makes him nearly impossible to understand.
Nor can he read or write. So many of his thoughts remain trapped inside of him.
The full article warrants a read to get a better understanding of how broken the immigration detention system is. Cotterel’s case provides a glimpse.
Cotterel fears death if he’s returned to Jamaica–he was injured and scarred in a 1998 machete attack. But, so far, deportation is his fate. An appeal is underway:
York immigration lawyer Craig R. Shagin is frequently asked to take cases pro bono, but can only take a few, and chooses those he thinks have merit. He recently agreed to help Cotterel — who lost his asylum bid — with his appeal. He believes his client could be killed if he returns to Jamaica.
“These types of cases, you basically have death-penalty consequences while employing traffic-court procedures. It’s very frightening,” Shagin said.
Very frightening, indeed.