Three weeks after Democracy Now! first aired the voice of a nine-year-old Canadian boy named Kevin being held in a U.S. immigration prison, the Canadian government has taken steps to allow the boy and his Iranian parents back into Canada. We get an update on Kevin’s story. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: As we continue our coverage of immigration, we return to a story Democracy Now! covered three weeks ago. On February 23, we revealed a nine-year-old Canadian boy was being held in a U.S. immigration jail in Taylor, Texas, along with his Iranian-born parents. He was one of 200 immigrant children being detained at a jail called the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center, run by the private prison company Corrections Corporation of America. He spoke to us from the jail in what was his first broadcast interview.
AMY GOODMAN: Hi, Kevin. How are you?
KEVIN: Not good.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us the situation you’re in right now and what you want to happen right now?
KEVIN: Excuse me, I didn’t hear you.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe where you are right now?
KEVIN: I’m in U.S. jail right now.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Kevin, where are you staying at night? Are you with your parents, or are they locking you up separately?
KEVIN: I’m with my parents, but we’re in separate rooms.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In separate rooms?
JUAN GONZALEZ: And are they letting you — are you getting any kind of education, or are you just sitting in your cell all day?
KEVIN: We’re sitting in the cell all day.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you want to do now, Kevin?
KEVIN: I want to be free. I want to go outside, and I want to go to school. I want to be in my homeland: Canada.
AMY GOODMAN: You want to go home to Canada?
AMY GOODMAN: You want to go home to Canada?
KEVIN: Yeah. My home is in Canada.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you with your parents in Iran?
KEVIN: My parents — what?
AMY GOODMAN: Were you with your mother and father in Iran?
AMY GOODMAN: And you were coming on the plane?
AMY GOODMAN: What are the people telling you? Can you go to Canada?
AMY GOODMAN: What are the guards telling you? Will they release you?
KEVIN: I forgot what they were saying, but they told us some stuff. I forgot what they were saying to us.
JUAN GONZALEZ: How are the other children there? Are you spending time with any of the other children?
AMY GOODMAN: They don’t let you spend time with the other children?
KEVIN: No. I’m sleeping beside the washroom, and I can’t — and I’m upstairs. I can’t go to the washroom all the time. And there’s a lot of smell coming out from the washroom. And the food is garbage. And the school is very bad. I can’t learn anything good. And I have asthma, and I got sick in here. I can’t stay here anymore.
AMY GOODMAN: Kevin, you said you’re sleeping next to the bathroom?
KEVIN: Yeah. And it’s not a separate room. It’s right beside the bed. And I’m sleeping beside the wall, and my back gets sick and it hurts.
AMY GOODMAN: How is your mother?
KEVIN: My mother is sick.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Since Democracy Now! interviewed Kevin from the immigration jail three weeks ago, his case has become a symbol of the U.S. government’s mistreatment of immigrant children. Two weeks ago, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the U.S. government on behalf of Kevin and other children being held at the Hutto facility. But Kevin and his parents are still being held in jail.
AMY GOODMAN: However, a major new development has occurred in the case that will likely result in the family’s release from U.S. custody. The family’s attorney, Andrew Brouwer, joins us on the phone from Toronto. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Andrew. Tell us the latest development.
ANDREW BROUWER: Thanks. Well, we put in a request to the Canadian government to allow Kevin’s parents to come into Canada. Kevin, of course, as a Canadian citizen, has a right to come back here. The issue is with the parents. And on Monday, the minister of citizenship and immigration announced that she would give a permit for the parents to enter Canada on a temporary basis. Unfortunately, that’s, at this point, a promise, but nothing has been issued yet, and the family is still down there at the Hutto Detention Center.
AMY GOODMAN: This also is an amazing story of the difference between a victim’s perspective and those in power. In the United States, this story has hardly been touched outside of Democracy Now! In Canada, it is headline news across the country. Is that right, Andrew?
ANDREW BROUWER: That’s right. It’s been headline news almost daily for the past week and a half or so.
AMY GOODMAN: This family, Majid and his wife, applied for political asylum in Canada, said they would be tortured because he had — they believed that Majid had allowed his copying machine to be used for someone to copy the Satanic Verses, the book that became so famous by Salman Rushdie. And when they went back, they were picked up by authorities at the airport in Iran — husband and wife — and held in custody, they said, both tortured — she, sexually?
ANDREW BROUWER: That’s right. And, yeah, they were effectively transferred by the Canadian government directly into the hands of the Iranian Secret Service. Both of them — the whole family was initially detained right on the airplane. All the other passengers were allowed to disembark, and then the security agents came on, then removed Kevin and his parents. And Kevin’s dad Majid was detained and apparently tortured for about six months, and Masomeh, Kevin’s mom, for a month.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Andrew, given the role of the Canadian government in their initial transfer to Iran, have you found any indication that the Canadian government had any communication with U.S. authorities when that plane was down in San Juan? Because it does seem very strange that the United States would take them off the plane if they were bound for Canada.
AMY GOODMAN: We should explain, because we did it the first time, but they were not headed to Canada, right — they were not headed to the United States, but Canada, when they were trying to get back into Canada, and the plane went down in Puerto Rico, because a woman had died on the plane. And it was when they landed in Puerto Rico that they were taken off the set. We have five seconds for a response, Andrew.
ANDREW BROUWER: Yeah, well, that’s exactly right. They never had any intention of remaining in the U.S., of seeking asylum in the States. They always wanted to come to Canada.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Andrew Brouwer, I want to thank you for being with us, and we’ll continue to follow this story. They were then sent to the detention facility in Texas, where they are today.