We have just learned that Mark Farrales has been released from the Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, about a two-hour drive east of Santa Barbara. If you recall, Farrales, a Ph.D. candidate in poli sci at UCSD, was taken into ICE custody and faced deportation, though as he writes in a letter to his supporters, his legal battle is far from over. We’re posting his letter, below:
A Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season to you all.
As many of you know, I was recently detained at Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, California. I spent almost a month and a half in detention, but, with the grace of God, I am free today to spend Christmas with my family in San Fernando Valley. This could not have happened without the help of Congressman Brad Sherman and his wonderful and hardworking staff. I would like to thank him and his staff for their kindness and support. I would like to thank my lawyer, Leon Hazany, for his dedication and commitment to my case. I would also like to thank Stephen Ceasar of the Los Angeles Times for the role that he played in getting the word out about my situation. Most of all, however, I would like to thank those of you who wrote letters of support, who made phone calls on my behalf, who signed petitions, and who offered support in many other ways. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me the greatest Christmas gift I could think of – the gift of your love and goodwill.
My time at Mira Loma was not easy. My nights were often visited by bad dreams, nightmares and long-suppressed memories of traumatic childhood experiences. My days were a constant battle against sadness and desperation. My future was far from certain: I did not know when I would leave, and for what destination. I and nearly all of the other inmates I knew were heartbroken that we could not be with, and could not provide for our families. I witnessed many men cry, and I witnessed many men break down. I am fortunate in that I never came close to the breaking point, but Mira Loma nevertheless took its toll: I lost more than twenty-five pounds during my stay there, and my hair is now streaked with noticeably more white hair. But for all that I lost, I gained much more.
My experience at Mira Loma taught me about the value of true friendship. Many of you reached out to my family and offered much needed support. Thank you. Many of you drove many miles to come and see me on the weekends. Thank you. Although our meetings were often brief, and although we had to talk through wire and glass, your presence kept me going strong while I was in jail. Many others were not aware of my detention until recently, yet you immediately reached out to my family and asked how you could write to me or visit me in person. I thank you for your kind intentions. I promise that I will come and see you as soon as I can.
Mira Loma also renewed my faith in the fundamental goodness of life, and in the fundamental decency of people. Behind barbed wire fences, I took comfort in the beauty of the surrounding hills. I marveled at the brilliance of Venus just before daybreak. I stood in awe and watched as thousands of migrating swallows flew south towards warmer climates. For the first time in my life I fed pigeons, sparrows and seagulls on a regular basis. I was thankful that I was alive and that I was healthy. In Mira Loma I also witnessed random acts of kindness on a daily basis. Inmates helped each other out everyday, offering words of support to those who were lonely, sharing food with those who were hungry, giving to those in need. I remember being sick one day, for example, and the heat in the barracks stopped working. I was feverish and shivering in the cold, and another inmate by the name of Elias literally took off his thermal shirt and handed it to me. I will never forget that moment as long as I live.
I have always loved this country and thought of it as my home, but after Mira Loma I am even more grateful that I live in the United States of America. While I was detained I spoke to many different people from all over the world. While for some the American dream was coming to an end, for others it was just beginning. I met men from Central and South America who simply wanted to provide a better life for their children. I also met men from more remote regions like Nepal, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, even Iraq, all eager to have the opportunity to live in this land of opportunity. For a chance at the American dream, many of them traveled great distances and passed through many countries. Some of the men from Africa, for example, traveled to Dubai, then to Moscow, then to Peru, just to get to America. From Peru they would take buses or trucks to get to Ecuador, and from there they would embark on foot and travel for months through the jungles and mountains of Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and then Mexico. They are convinced that life here is better, and I am thankful that I have never lived through war, famine or terrible disaster. This country has been very good to me, and I have always been thankful for the opportunities that I have been given. I am even more thankful today, and I am resolved to give back as much as I can.
Since coming home I have learned that hundreds and hundreds of people have reached out and offered their support in various ways. There are various Facebook pages, email threads, blogs and message boards. There’s a petition out there that has more than 1,700 signatures thus far from family members, friends, friends of friends, colleagues, professors, mentors, peers, students, and mentees.
I am absolutely shocked and dumbfounded by this level of support. I cannot find the words to express just how I feel. It’s an overwhelming feeling, a transcendental feeling, a transformative feeling. For those of you who have seen Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” you may remember the ending scene, when Jimmy Stewart’s character realizes just how much he is loved, and by how many people. I guess you can say that for the past two days I have lived a George Bailey type of experience. I am humbled beyond belief, and I am reduced to tears each time I think about it.
From a purely legal standpoint, my journey is far from over. My release from detention – as wonderful as it is – is but the first step. I face many months, probably years, of legal struggle. But at least I am out. And I am with my family on Christmas Day. And I have your love and support…
I truly feel blessed. I wish you all the best and hope that this Holiday Season you feel the love of your friends and family.
In faith, hope, and love,