Locking Up the Valley: Interview with Jodi Goodwin

By Nick Braune
Special to the Texas Civil Rights Review

I attended the vigil at the Raymondville Immigration Detention Center on the 27th of October. About 2000 people are held there, behind razor wire in huge puffy tents.

Jay Johnson Castro had walked up to the concentration camp from Harlingen, twenty-some miles away, and several people walked with him or rode behind in cars with signs in their windows. Partially because of some other events going on in the Rio Grand Valley that weekend, the rally was smaller than two others earlier this year. Still there were about 30 people there and lots of spirit, with several organizations represented.

At the vigil I spoke with Jodi Goodwin, a board certified immigration lawyer in Harlingen who has been vocal about the detention centers. In August she spoke at a dramatic forum in the Valley sponsored by the Committee Against Immigrant Repression and People for Peace and Justice. I asked if I could email some quick follow-up questions to her and she agreed to this interview.

Author: I was pleased last weekend to see that you came out to support the walk by Jay Johnson Castro, and I was impressed by the way you told one of the children at the rally to be proud that we were exercising our freedom of assembly. One thing I heard at the rally was disturbing. I heard something about another ICE (Immigration police) raid in the Valley. Was something special happening?

Goodwin: I am aware of two search warrants being executed in Brownsville and South Padre Island which resulted in four arrests, including a woman who was in the end of her eighth month of pregnancy. The woman developed complications with her pregnancy as soon as she was examined at the US Marshall’s facility. She then delivered her baby at home at 35 weeks gestation (5 weeks premature) just shy of 24 hours after bonding out of the Marshall’s custody. The mom is fine and released from the hospital, the baby remains in the hospital.

Author: Are there other women whom you know of who have been in detention while pregnant? A pregnant mom can need a lot of help, and being in one of those detention camps can be stressful. Are they getting the medical help they need and are there visitors giving any pregnancy and parenting training? (Dietary and exercise advice come to my mind.)

Goodwin: ICE detains pregnant women in the same facilities where they house all adult detainees. As far as I am aware there are no special treatments, pre-natal care, training, birth classes, etc. for pregnant women. I am aware of at least four women who have miscarried at Port Isabel Detention Center since approximately January. I have asked ICE about this and they claim to be aware of only one miscarriage.

Author: With all the bad publicity for the Raymondville center this year, have there been any significant improvements put into place?

Goodwin: Conditions at Raymondville have not improved. I just met with a client who was transferred from Port Isabel Detention Center to Willacy [Raymondville] and he reports living with rats and complete disorganization at the facility. He also reports and shows weight loss. Given that so many problems have not been addressed, I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, particularly since they are expanding as we speak. [New construction, expansion of the center was clearly visible to all of us at the rally.]

Author: Thank you, counselor, for all your work on this.

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