Stories of immigrants detained in Aurora told in ‘The Facility’

Documentary directed by activist Jeremy Flood premieres Dec. 18

By: - December 18, 2020 6:00 am

Raul Medina Perez, an immigration advocate with Colorado People’s Alliance, is pictured at an encampment outside the Aurora Contract Detention Facility in a still from the documentary “The Facility.” (Courtesy Jeremy Flood)

Raul Medina Perez still has nightmares about his 11-month stay at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility, where he was detained by private prison corporation GEO Group on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“I’ve been doing therapy,” Perez said in an interview with Newsline. “It’s a traumatizing experience, you know, I hope that nobody else has to go through, and it’s just been a slow recovery.”

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Perez, 29, has lived in Colorado since the age of 5, when he was brought to the United States without documentation. He was detained for ICE after missing a hearing, he said, because a letter notifying him of the court date got lost in the mail.

Despite his psychological scars, Perez — along with several other formerly detained people and their family members — chose to share his experiences in an upcoming documentary, titled “The Facility.”

The 45-minute film is directed by progressive activist Jeremy Flood and sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, and Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. “The Facility” premieres at 7 p.m. on Dec. 18 with a virtual screening. Attendees must register in advance on the ACLU of Colorado’s website.

“It’s clear throughout the film that GEO does not see these people as human beings,” Flood said. “I think this film will highlight how adding the profit motive into this system necessarily prevents it from acting in a logical, rational and compassionate way.”

In an emailed statement, ICE spokesperson Alethea Smock said the agency “enforces the nation’s immigration laws in a fair and effective manner and holds our employees to the highest standards of professional responsibility.”

“As we carry out our mission, the safety of our staff and those in our custody is our highest priority,” Smock wrote. “ICE is firmly committed to carrying out the agency’s sworn duty to enforce federal law as passed by Congress professionally, consistently, and in full compliance with agency policies.”

“ICE was not approached by the director of the documentary and has not confirmed any of the allegations made by the people interviewed,” she continued. “Unsubstantiated allegations are irresponsible and should be treated with the greatest of skepticism.”

A collaboration is born

Flood remembers being moved by an experience he had filming a protest outside the facility in June of last year. It was “harrowing,” he said, “seeing the people in that facility waving through the bars.”

He later created a short film about an encampment outside the facility where people lived for months starting in May 2020 to protest the conditions inside. Then, he met an ACLU staff member who came by the encampment one day in June, and a collaboration was born.

“The Facility” tells the stories of people including Kesha Davalos Grijalva, an immigrant rights advocate whose husband was detained at the facility; Keinada Andereas, a Colorado student who was detained on her way to college orientation; and Kamyar Samimi, who died of cardiac arrest after a doctor allegedly refused to prescribe him methadone, which he had been taking for decades.

The Aurora Contract Detention Facility is pictured in a still from “The Facility.” (Courtesy Jeremy Flood)

Interviews with former detainees and their family members are interspersed with statements from lawyers and medical experts, and a short clip from “The Trial,” the 1962 film based on Franz Kafka’s novel.

Flood hopes the documentary will help raise awareness about the misdeeds of for-profit corporations who run detention facilities and the lack of legal protections for undocumented immigrants. While people with legal status have the right to a public defender when they are charged with a crime, undocumented people — many without criminal convictions — can face months of detention before being released or deported, and have no right to legal representation.

“When I see facilities like these where people are basically worked in the facility for a dollar a day so that it’s technically not slavery … from a racial justice perspective, it really speaks to me,” Flood said, referring to the minimum wages detainees are paid through a voluntary work program under ICE guidelines.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but there are an incredible amount of Black people, Black immigrants that are detained there,” Flood continued, reflecting on his own identity as a Black person. “It’s sort of a microcosm of the way that Black and Brown people have been used by our system for a very long time in order to make a product at the expense of our communities.”

Flood said he hopes the film will force viewers to ask, “What is the purpose of for-profit immigrant detention?”

“We, I think, all need to look deep into ourselves and ask ourselves why we let a system like this continue to function and continue to thrive, and why it’s received so little attention in the past,” Flood said.

Perez was released from detention on a $8,500 bond several months ago, he said. He’s still fighting his immigration case.

Perez feels confident he’ll win, but he believes that speaking out against ICE — both in the documentary and in his advocacy work with Colorado People’s Alliance — could endanger his immigration case. It’s a risk he’s willing to take, he said.

“I am sick and tired of living the way that I’ve been living — with fear, being afraid of everything — being afraid of this deportation machine,” he said. “Our communities need to see someone who is directly impacted, somebody who’s been through it, up and strong and ready to fight.”

“The Facility” premieres Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. with a virtual screening via Zoom. Attendees must register in advance on the ACLU of Colorado’s website.

The director, legal experts, and individuals featured in the film will take part in a live Q&A session following the screening.

Panelists include:

• Jeremy Flood, “The Facility” director
• Raul Medina Perez, a community organizer with Colorado People’s Alliance who was formerly detained at the GEO facility
• Kesha Davalos Grijalva, an immigrant rights advocate whose husband is detained
• Keinada Andereas, a Colorado student who was formerly detained
• Hans Meyer, lead attorney at The Meyer Law Office
• Denise Maes, public policy director for ACLU of Colorado

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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Reporter Faith Miller covers the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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