TUCSON, Ariz. — One of the first to be granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) landed in an Immigration and Custom's Enforcement detention center after crossing the border into Nogales, Sonora something DACA recipients are not allowed to do without the government’s permission.
Carlos Martinez has since been released and is now a permanent resident of the United States, but that didn’t come easy.
Martinez calls his 355 days in an ICE Detention Center, tough.
“I mean just seeing Tucson right? Just driving through Tucson to this house again. I honestly thought I was not gonna come back here again,” said Martinez.
The exciting feeling was mutual for his dad.
“My wife and I were here alone wondering what would be next -- in a split second your life changes. My son called me and said ‘ guess what? It’s over.” I said ‘oh my goodness. We couldn’t believe it. We were so excited,” said Salvador Martinez, Carlos' father.
Martinez said he spent his days in a place of immigrants from all walks of life -- some good and some with criminal backgrounds.
"There's tension, always, you know in there. You don't want to mess with the wrong people. And you want to always say like not get in trouble because again it's gonna mess up your case,” he explained.
Martinez left the Eloy Detention Center optimistic after nearly a year, but reflects on the experience he had inside battling the coronavirus.
"It got scary. With the pulses I got, I felt scared for my life. You know, in my whole life this the closest I got to, 'hey, I might not wake up the next day'” said Martinez.
Martinez claimed he was isolated and that medical staff would check on them every couple of days.
The company that runs the Eloy Detention Center, Core Civic, said there are 150 employees that have recovered from the virus and have been medically cleared to return to work. Facility leadership continues to receive lab results as they become available for the approximately 315 CoreCivic employees that work at EDC.
Core Civic added there have been no COVID-19 related detainee deaths.
In a statement to KGUN 9, they said in part, “COVID-19 has created extraordinary challenges for every corrections and detention system in America – public and private. At the same time, the state of Arizona on the whole is experiencing significant growth in COVID-19 cases. We have worked closely together with our government partners and state health officials to respond to this unprecedented situation appropriately, thoroughly and with care for the well-being of those entrusted to us and our communities.”
However, medical treatment is administered by ICE. KGUN 9 reached out in regards to how often are detainees with COVID-19 are treated by medical staff but have not heard back.
Martinez's lawyer explains how tough it is to win a case like his.
"Most of our defenses are cancellation of removal. But we have very minimum cases that we win and that's not only me and too many attorneys and he's because the law is decided that way, but Congress also passed the law that it's. They put extremely unusual hardship in the law, and is a very, very high burden of proof to show that they will really really suffer and the cases that we win are like Carlos as parents,” said Claudia Arevalo, attorney.
She can now close the file as Carlos moves forward hoping his story will serve as a lesson to other DACA recipients.
“Maybe by sharing the story, you know like, people don't make the mistake I made. And because I made this mistake-a dumb mistake to go to Nogales, other people can do all this stupid stuff, you know, and it might affect you the rest of your life,” said Martinez.