All I Want for Christmas Is to Get out of Immigration Detention

By The Children of Berks

Families are not supposed to be in immigration detention at all — and certainly not for more than a few days — but these children have been locked up with their mothers for more than a year. They are fleeing violence in Central America and asked for asylum in the United States. They got caught in legal limbo while their lawyers press for the Supreme Court to hear their case.

The youngest have spent almost half their lives locked up and don’t have a single  memory formed outside the confines of the Berks County detention facility. But they do believe in Santa and wrote letters to him saying what they want for Christmas. Even the youngest kids ask Santa, more than anything else, to give them their freedom.

Carla, Age 14
13 months in detention

“Dear Santa Claus, I am a girl with my whole life ahead of me and I want freedom like any other girl. The only thing I ask on this day is an opportunity to be with the person who’s waiting for me outside [my little sister]. This person has a little heart very [strong] but little.”

Carla letter

Samuel, Age 6
15 months in detention

“Dear Santa, I like computers, PlayStation, going to the beach, and video games, but here I can’t do those things. That’s why I want my freedom.”

Samuel and his mom fled El Salvador after his mother witnessed a gang crime and their lives were threatened. He has been diagnosed with PTSD and is at risk of harming himself. He has serious dental problems and went more than six months in detention without treatment.

Samuel Card

Daniel, Age 3
13 months in detention

“Dear Santa! First of all I would like you to help me get my freedom. I have been imprisoned for 416 days. For Christmas I want a remote control car and a toy cell phone. Thank you very much.”

Daniel just turned 3. He has been detained for as long as he can remember and learned to talk in detention. He and his mother fled kidnapping threats and gender-based violence in Honduras. His mom has been diagnosed with PTSD.

Daniel Card

Joaquin, Age 7
13 months in detention

“Dear Santa. First, what I would like to ask from you this Christmas is my freedom. I’ve already spent two Christmases here. And also I want a remote control car. Thank you very much. Joaquin, 7 years old.”

Joaquin is underweight, at about 1 to 3 percent of the normal body weight for a child of his age, and he is behaviorally challenged. He has been diagnosed with PTSD and sometimes expresses his frustration and hopelessness in suicidal gestures.

Joaquin Card

Juan, Age 7
15 months in detention

“Dear Santa I am Juan, 7 years old. I want freedom to be able to be with my aunt and uncle. I don’t want to return to my country. And I also want a remote control airplane.”

Juan and his mother fled El Salvador because a gang threatened to kidnap Juan and hurt his mother. Since they came to this country seeking refuge, this will be their second Christmas in detention.

Juan Card

Beatrice, Age 6
15 months in detention

“Dear Santa, for this Christmas I want: ‘Frozen’ headphones, shoes, an iPad, candy, a skateboard, and to leave here with my mom. I am 6 years old.”

Beatrice has been locked up for more than 15 months. During that time, she’s been very sick from a recurring untreated bacterial infection. She and her mom fled Honduras because they feared for their lives because of gender-based violence.

Beatrice Card

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Tia Will

    I feel so much safer knowing that these “bad hombres” are locked up. Shame on anyone involved in maintaining this travesty of unnecessary imprisonment. Ourselves included if we do not speak out against it.

  2. Tia Will


    What a shame. I would truly appreciate hearing how anyone, especially anyone who claims to be a “conservative” and “honors family values” would go about explaining how we are made safer by keeping children incarcerated for the bulk of their lives. And takers who would like to explain this to me ….. as though I were a five year old ?

    1. Jaroslaw Waszczuk


      Why do you want hear from conservatives about .  This is the  “Obamolandia ” with  the concentration camps , interment camps or what ever  you want to name these Obama’s and Napolitano’s  “sanctuaries ” for families and children  in the United States of America . Write to Napolitano . She is responsible for these camps You know where to find her?

       ‏@Vashchook1980  Dec 9

      @Rendon63rd@AssemblyDems@CASenateDems@IanCalderon Napolitano should be expelled from UC if Dems believes that deportation is Human tragedy.



      1. Tia Will


        All I asked for was someone to explain how this policy made us safe. You did not even attempt to do that. All you did was to ignore the question and do finger pointing. I await an explanation from anyone who understands the policy.

        1. Jaroslaw Waszczuk


          I respect you and your  effort. However ,  I know you your language quite well . What policy you are talking about? Conservatives have nothing to do with Obama’s children  detention policies . Trump is in not office yet to be blamed for the  Obama’s detention centers and children incarceration . History will judge him and his administration  for  violation of Human Rights of others . If Trump will do the same that he will be judged as well .

  3. Howard P

    Two views…

    This is not Auschwitz.

    It is not Tanforan, nor China Lake… I grew up with kids whose parents met in one of the Japenese detention centers in CA.

    Not sure it is easy to drill into why these folk are in the Berks Co. facility, as opposed to just being ‘processed’ where they previously lived.  Also not clear how prevalent this is, nationally and/or in CA.

    1. Jaroslaw Waszczuk


      Auschwitz was a Death Camp.  Detention Centers are concentration camps or interments camps or  what ever you want to name it. Obama’s Nation Mr. Howard


      1. Howard P

        That’s why I also cited Tanforan and China Lake… detention centers (for those of Japanese ancestry, even tho’ they were citizens) during WWII.  They were not concentration camps, but folk died in both, due to harsh conditions, lack of adequate medical care.

        Cool your jets a bit, Jerry…  your reference to the Prez was a bit gratuitous… I only tried to point out that there are more than one views…


        1. Jaroslaw Waszczuk


          Once,  I was locked up  in the detention center just before Christmas in 1982. When I was  thrown in  my pajama at 2:00 am into the police car and car was driving heading West than I  thanked   God that the  police car is not heading East . At that time I was living 3 miles from the Soviet Union border .  I landed in interment camp instead of Soviet’s  gulag.  Locking up kids for over year is the violation of human rights. And it was done by your beloved President of the United States Barak Obama .

          My daugther  was 9 yeras old when I was locked up by communists in 1982  and she wrote short essay  when she was in college .
          Joanna Waszczuk
          Essay  1993
          One of my most vividly remembered experiences which has also affected me greatly is when my father went to prison.
          I was nine years old, living in Poland which was undergoing political upheaval struggling for democracy   I knew that my father was involved with some sort of underground and that he was being followed as well.  One night, a man came to our home at two o’clock in the morning and just took my father away, only allowing him to put on his boots and jacket over his pajamas.
          Two weeks after that night, my family learned that my father was taken by a secret government agent to a prison for political activism trying to overthrow communism. 
          After a few more weeks, my father was allowed to write letters, but they were censored to the point that half the words were cut out with a razor or completely blacked out.
           After five months, as I later found out, of being guarded by attack dogs, guards armed with machine guns, being brainwashed, having been fed rotten food and having had no rights, my father was released on the condition that he either leave the country quickly or go back to prison risking never being able to get a good job again.  So, within two weeks my parents, brother and I received passports, sold or gave away everything and came to the United States.
          Although I was angry with my father for bringing our family into this country and severing ties with the only type of life I had known, coming here has also taught me that with hard work, challenges can be overcome, and that being able to express oneself is very important.  I especially had the latter instilled in me, because for the first six months in the United States, due to a language barrier, I could barely express myself or not at  I am now inspired by my father’s standing up for his cause as I am by Freud, Darwin and   Pasteur, because despite challenges, hardships and the opposition of society, they all struggled for their causes and beliefs for the benefit of humanity.

        2. Howard P

          The facility in Leesport appears to be not anything like what you described… note how many kids want remote control cars, other “toys”… don’t think that indicates they are under heavy hardship, except maybe lack of liberty.  If they were wishing for food, clothing, etc., I’d feel differently…

          That said, what you and your family experienced, as you described it, was just morally WRONG.  34 years later, I have seen no evidence that your experience is duplicated in the US.


        3. Jaroslaw Waszczuk


          If you wrap up  the concentration camps and detention centers for children and families  into  the communist ideology than these facilities will  became Hawaii’s resorts  paradise .   I would recommend  for you  to volunteer yourself to spend   6 month  with these children in the detention center than thereafter  write about. Otherwise you have no clue what are you taking about. The Berk is not only  one detention center in USA . This country is full of concentration camps with a  lot harsher conditions than  the Berk camp  and some are being maintained by private contractors in very  inhumane condition.  2,200,000 people  deported by Napolitano and there after another 800,000 is speaking and shows that the  Obama’s  administration learned   from the best how to efficiently operate and maintain Gulags in the  United States of America.

          A Mother and Child Trapped in Obama’s Brutal Family Deportation System
          Ryan Devereaux, Helena Borges
          Jayne Alves Vilas Novas and her 2-year-old daughter fled violence in Brazil only to become ensnared in an unforgiving system of detention for mothers and children seeking asylum.

  4. Tia Will


    I have no idea what you mean by ” I know you and your language quite well.” I would suggest that you know absolutely nothing about me and my language other than the words I actually post on the Vanguard.

    Because you repeatedly have stated the obvious truth that this is a policy that has occurred under President Obama ( as though I did not know that) it would seem that you think I am trying to blame it on someone else. Please note, I never said one word about the source of the policy. I asked for an explanation. Perhaps you were not reading the Vanguard at the time I had written specifically about unaccompanied minors arriving at our borders. At that time, it was almost universally the self identified ” conservative ” posters here that defended the policy of confinement and deportation of these children. Also please note that I requested a response from “anyone” who understood or themselves supported this policy, not just conservatives although those were the primary defenders in the past.

    I am still awaiting an explanation from anyone who believes that they understand the rational for what to me seems utterly inexplicable.

    1. Howard P

      Throttle back your jets, Tia… the policy occurred pre-current admin… the current admin followed it for awhile, then put it in abeyance… there was little about children in detention in previous threads…

      If there is an unaccompanied minor, whose care should they be under?  Are you just assuming someone legally here (or ‘established’, even if undocumented) are in a position to take care of them?

      The Leesport thing does not appear to be clear… or anywhere else that I’ve heard of.

      Your response to Jerry ’tis a bit ‘over the top’, it seems.

      1. Jaroslaw Waszczuk


        Nothing in abeyance in regards to detention centers with  lot of incarcerated  families and children  Where did you get information about abeyance ? Muslims Registration was placed in abeyance by Obama in 2011.

        1. Howard P

          Yes, Jerry…was talking about the registration thing… crossed my own wires… the detention facilities are a different matter… you were right to correct me…

          Apologies to Tia, as well,as I was mixing up the two issues…

    2. Jaroslaw Waszczuk

      I am not  looking into yours private life or anybody life.  I am talking about your specific  language you are using  to dilute quickly  everything what is inconvenient for you to read , what is against  your believes and against your mind setup.  In your post you did not ask for an explanation.  You know explanation without anybody’s explanation and you know who is responsible for building deportation machine and with lot of the detention centers wi incarcerated families and children as the residents of these centers.  This is your Dem President’ Barak Obama’s  policy for the  last  eight years and he is served  on the silver plate his inhumane policy with the deportation machine he build during his presidency to his successor Donald Trump.    I guess you are Democrat and Obama is your President you voted for  .Your statement:
      “I am still awaiting an explanation from anyone who believes that they understand the rational for what to me seems utterly inexplicable.
      is a joke ? Right Tia! Ask Napolitano or Feinstein or Garamendi about. They knows , they believes  and they understands what to you see utterly inexplicable. If even it was the Bush’s Policy than Dems controlled Senate and House with Pelosi in charge . Ask her . She has special communication channel you could use and you will get response. Nice one.
      If people are writing here with the  nicknames than you don’t know who they are. You don’t know if they are neo-nazis , communist , fascists  or just somebody who has few nicknames and is arguing with himself and he is good of having two three  styles and two  or three  nicknames identities. I don’t believe that you  are naive  person .

      1. Tia Will


        You know explanation without anybody’s explanation and you know who is responsible for building deportation machine and with lot of the detention centers wi incarcerated families and children as the residents of these centers”

        OK, this is exactly what I mean and what I object to. No, I do not know what the explanation would be for locking up children as though they were threats to the US or anyone.

        Yes, I guess I could address my question to any of the individuals that you name, but I sincerely doubt that any of them would respond to me personally with specifics rather than the “party line” which yes, both parties use, whereas many people who were in favor of detention when I wrote my 2013 article were still posting until yesterday.

        If you feel that you do know the answer, why not just answer my question instead of telling me whose fault it is, or who I should ask , or what I do or do not know, or whether or not you perceive me to be naive ?



        1. Jaroslaw Waszczuk


          Detention Centers are not the refugee camps . This is the US policy . Your President has executive power to change the families and children status  from illegals detainees to temporary or permanent residents . This is the policy . You President and your party has  very brutal  approach toward “undocumented’


  5. wdf1

    What El Paso children are asking about Trump


    While many Americans living in Texas and across the country have concerns about the agenda of the incoming Trump administration, children living in El Paso and along the U.S.-Mexico border have perhaps the most pressing and heartbreaking questions one could imagine.

    El Paso is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s safest cities and is a place where children typically are not fearful of the future, but on Nov. 9, thousands of children woke up to a different El Paso after finding out from their parents, siblings or social media that Donald Trump was elected president.

    In talking with teachers and principals from the region this past week, I’ve learned about the difficult questions children posed.

    Some asked their teachers about the electoral college and why Donald Trump was elected president despite receiving fewer votes nationwide. This was perhaps the easiest and most straightforward question of the day.

    Teachers also reported that children asked questions about what Trump’s election meant in relation to particular family members who are recent immigrants or refugees having fled from violence in Mexico. Will my father, mother, grandparents or cousin be deported? If they move back to Mexico, could they be killed?

  6. Tia Will

    Howard P

    I don’t know if you are new to either reading or commenting on the Vanguard. Your post is a bit more explicable to me if you are new. If you have followed my pattern of posting, you will know that one thing that really does bother me is when someone asserts that they know what I think. It was Jerry’s assertion that he “knew me and my language” that framed the tone in which I responded. I am not sure what you saw as “over the top”.

    Also, and again, I made no “assumption” whatsoever. I asked for an explanation or justification of the policy without regard to who authored it or who perpetuated it. Pretty direct and straightforward from my point of view, and I still do not have an answer.  Yes, I know I can Google it and learn the history, but that was not what I was asking for. I was asking for opinions about why it should exist if any supports it.

    Now since you did ask, I will opine about what “should happen”. Children who are here with a parent should be released with that parent as long as there is no indication of a terror threat from the parent with appropriate help as needed to integrate into the community. Children who have a responsible family member in the country should be immediately released to the care of that adult if the adult is willing and able to assume their care. Children who have no identified individual to assume their care should be placed in the care of foster families or children’s group homes rather than in a “detention center”.

    I welcome all thoughts regarding what I believe would be more appropriate for children.

    1. Howard P

      Fully agree with your third paragraph, assuming an appropriate foster home or childrens’ group home could be found [last resort].  The implication is that you are OK with dumping unaccompanied children in the US, at taxpayers’ expense… kinda’ a UBI thing (?)…

      If the parent(s) is/are the one(s) in detention, do you feel the same?  That the child be separated from the parent(s)?

      You also said/implied, that you already “knew” that the current administration was responsible for the policy…

      Because you repeatedly have stated the obvious truth that this is a policy that has occurred under President Obama ( as though I did not know that) i

      Guess you “knew” a falsehood. A faux fact.


      1. Jaroslaw Waszczuk


        If millions of undocumented families  are living and working  in the United States than four or five years old kids with mothers incarcerated in the detention centers for over one year is quite Un-American.   You have to understand that the refugee camps and detention centers are two different things.  The United States has no refugee camps because of the US immigration policy . US  don’t house refugees . In the  detention center you don’t have refugee status. You are basically being  process for the  deportation . Very small percentage of detainees  are lucky to be permitted to stay in the United States after they found out themselves in the detention centers. I guess this the policy which Tia is asking for.

      2. Tia Will


        “You also said/implied, that you already “knew” that the current administration was responsible for the policy”

        Let me clarify my statement. I did not say that the Obama administration originated it. I knew only that there were still some affected by it, at least going back to 2013 which was during the Obama administration.  I consider a person responsible for actions that occur under their purview whether or not they instituted the policy. Once they are aware that the policy exists, they need to own it and its consequences regardless of whether or not they initiated it. I am not familiar enough with the program to know its exact origin, initial intent, or justification. I do know that what I was seeking was not a boiler plate explanation of how it came to be or who did or did not perpetuate it, but rather posters opinions of its value.

        1. Howard P

          As I previously said, Jerry had it right when I said I was mixing up the Muslim registry issue and the detention issue.

          Gets us back to the question, if the parents/relatives are being detained, should the children remain with them, or displaced to strangers?

        2. Jaroslaw Waszczuk


          It does not matter who enacted the law or policy .  The enforcement of the policy and law is important.  This  important to change the policy or law or block the policy or law if the law or policy is  ill spirited and harmful.

        3. Jaroslaw Waszczuk

          Gets us back to the question, if the parents/relatives are being detained, should the children remain with them, or displaced to strangers?

          I like to answer this question . The detention center by law  is not the prison than obviously parents are not criminals and they  should not be kept incarcerated  in the detention center with their children. The decision should me make to give them temporary residence and they should be helped to find sponsor which will take care of them . Separation foreigners parents  from  their children would violate the international law . It would be akin closely what Nazis were doing during the WWII by forcibly taking kids away from their parents and Germanize them . Thousands of kids  were Germanized during WWII . Blond hair , blue eyes .

  7. Roberta Millstein

    Tia, this is most definitely not my view, but doesn’t the argument go something like the following?  If we treat the children well, then we just incentivise parents to bring them here to give them a better life.  We have to lock the children up to deter parents from bringing them here.  These parents are trying to “jump the line” for legal immigration.  Implicit in this “argument” is the assumption that the claims for asylum are bogus, or at least a deep skepticism about the claims for asylum.

    Again, I hasten to add, I don’t agree with any of the above.

  8. Tia Will

    Hi Roberta,

    That was one view that I heard expressed in 2013 at the time of my article on the subject of children fleeing to this country unaccompanied. We are now almost 4 years down the road and I have no idea whether anyone would believe that holding the children long term is an effective means of “deterring their parents”.

    I fully accept and agree with your comment that I would not accept this as justification. I also appreciate you actually addressing the issue in your post.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      Yeah, I agree that it is highly implausible that holding children acts a deterrent.  That’s the only argument I’ve ever heard, though.  If there is another, it’s escaped me.

  9. Tia Will


    if the parents/relatives are being detained, should the children remain with them, or displaced to strangers?”

    I would prioritize it this way ( obviously without having worked through the details)

    1. For a short stay – let’s say a few days to weeks, I would prefer that the children and parents not         be separated.

    2. For a longer stay – priority should be to have the child placed with a family member or acquaintance in the US while the parent is vetted.

    3. If the parent could not be granted asylum, the decision should be up to the parent about whether the child should be left behind rather than risk death upon return.

    I know that my opinion will be an outlier, but I do not believe that a child should have to pay for the actions of their parents, nor for the inability of their parent to keep them safe. Children should be the responsibility of all to protect.


    1. Howard P

      We have no disagreement, in concept…

      The “risk of death” concept is a bit rare, but in those cases where it truly might apply, it probably is not due “to the actions of the parents”, and unless the parents are  in fact, dangerous criminals, they should all be granted asylum…

      Don’t know if you bothered to read both my cites [will bet, @ a 90% confidence level, not.]… sounds from the latter cite that the children are protected, given medical care, and educational opportunities… remote control car toys are probably not a happening thing… nor i-pads, etc.  I will not grieve over that “deprivation”… I do not believe those kids wrote those messages except with adult influence/help.

      Still, have not seen data on # of detainees, location, etc.  Nation-wide or state-wide.


      1. Tia Will


        The “risk of death” concept is a bit rare, but in those cases where it truly might apply, it probably is not due “to the actions of the parents”, and unless the parents are  in fact, dangerous criminals, they should all be granted asylum…”

        I might have agreed with the idea that the “risk of death” was a rarity prior to having been in Honduras on a medical trip 5 years ago. That experience made me reconsider just how much direct risk from violence many people face as part of their daily lives. Many are at risk not because of what they have themselves done, but what they have witnessed happening to others.

    2. Jaroslaw Waszczuk

      3. If the parent could not be granted asylum, the decision should be up to the parent about whether the child should be left behind rather than risk death upon return.


      Your comment remains me  the “Voyage of the St. Louis”
      Sailing so close to Florida that they could see the lights of Miami, some passengers on the St. Louis cabled President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking for refuge. Roosevelt never responded. The State Department and the White House had decided not to take extraordinary measures to permit the refugees to enter the United States
      Of the 620 passengers who returned to continent, 87 (14%) managed to emigrate before the German invasion of Western Europe in May 1940. 532 St. Louis passengers were trapped when Germany conquered Western Europe. Just over half, 278 survived the Holocaust. 254 died: 84 who had been in Belgium; 84 who had found refuge in Holland, and 86 who had been admitted to France.

      Interesting response from the Professor Roberta Millstein

      1. Tia Will


        The refusal of refugees from Europe is in  my eyes one of the most indefensible acts of the United States government during that time. That is seen through a purely historical lens since I was not alive at the time although I do recall my mother’s accounts. Although clearly not identical, I see the current Syrian situation much the same, and our response ( or lack thereof ) as equally deplorable.

  10. Marina Kalugin

    as usual, this is not a black and white situation….

    if the parents are not criminals why are they in detention?

    if only because someone “found out” that they do not have docs, then so what…. they should be allowed wait their turn for a hearing where they would rather be…

    the whole premise of “finding out “the mother is in the USA is preposterous…. the Feds know the whereabouts of each person in this country whether “legal” or “illegal” whatever that means.

    If the mother and children were in a dangerous situation then perhaps being together in a detention center may be for their best…….  certainly way better than the CPS taking the children..

    truly what goes on now is horrific….

    the rules should be:

    1) keep families together at all costs

    2) if someone is gainfully employed and not causing any issues, they should be allowed to live and work and wait their turn for the hearing.

    3) after the Obamacare amnesty many criminals of MX and other descent were first in line to get new identities.. that was Jan 1, 2015…  google or rather duckduckgo.. LA times and illegal criminals getting new identities

    4) many of the newly minted  permanent residents were not MX and of other countries and races… in fact I know some criminal and illegal Slavs in the Bay Area, who were at their attorney office in the first week of Jan….

    5) many of the most hardworking family oriented MX workers didn’t even know about this… they were too busy working…

    6) anyone who missed the boat to get their NEW identities and new docs and work permits in the beginning of 2015 and have never been convicted of anything wrong should be released immediately as they are the honest ones and not criminals..

    Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah….. today is a very blessed day…

    Let the families enjoy the holiday season.




  11. Marina Kalugin

    TX is the land of undocumented workers and slave labor..

    many of the slaves have no where else to go and many are white..quite a few aussies who let their visas lapse and no money to renew…

    I cannot take on that “fight” yet and it is not my fight and heck I never lived in that rat hole of a place save El Paso for a week visiting my step son…and actually it was nice.. we walked across to Suidad Juarez  . . and had a lovely meal…

    but I got docs and witnesses and contact info of one who just escaped one of the worst white boys in that state…

    There is a reason many wealthy white folks live in TX.. .anything goes and the state and the Feds look the other way…

    Dallas/KnotsLanding/Orange is the new Black….and so many other shows are still alive and doing very well thank you on the backs and lives of the most hardworking.

    immigrants who take the jobs no white boy would do…..and get abused and taken advantage of 24/7…..

  12. Kropp1

    Just moved thru Immigration traveling Santiago (Chile) to Dallas. Not since i was a child were officers so friendly…very American! Their “Attitude” deserves Kudos.

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