ADELANTO DETENTION CENTER–PART II

Visiting Despair at Adelanto

by Rosemary Jenkins     LA Progressive     March 1, 2018

ADELANTO DETENTION CENTER–PART II

Unlike my experience about which I wrote last year, my visit to Adelanto Detention Center this time was very “pleasant” (if that can be considered an appropriate description).

Several of us drove together by car (not the chartered buses to the men’s facility which shares the same campus when we were unceremoniously and heartlessly blocked from entering last year) and, despite encountering cold weather and a little snow, we were welcomed to the women’s section by friendly staff.

Having earlier been provided a list of names, country of origin, and ID numbers for the detainees, we registered at the front desk, requesting a visit with one of the women on our list. To our surprise, many of the listed inmates had been released–hopefully finding asylum in this country rather than deportations to the menacing nations from which they had escaped in the first place.

We then sat in the waiting room until our client’s name was called. While there, we had the opportunity to interact with others and observe. There were families with children, spouses or friends, community leaders, and attorneys. So many have children from whom they have been separated for years (and still cannot see them).

So why do they find themselves in such a position, you may ask? Idealistically, many came here for a better life for themselves and, thus, for their children; yet these women now find themselves incarcerated often without access to the children they were making every conceivable effort to help. Many came from countries where boys are taken from homes to be impressed into armies of rebellion; where girls are stolen from homes to be raped and often left pregnant with no means of support; where husbands are taken and tortured to death; where wives become indentured servants and raped and tortured as well; where grandparents and infants are left to fend for themselves. These women came with a sense of hope and naïveté. America, the nation of immigrants (a phrase whose use is now forbidden by the Trump administration at the highest levels) is supposed to welcome such immigrants who come here for a better life and with the goal of being contributors to our diverse society but that is not what these immigrants are finding to be the case.

Finally as we were called up, we traded our drivers’ licenses for a visitor’s badge and a key to a locker where everything had to be stored. That included paperwork and notepads, photos that could not be shared of family and friends who could not make the often arduous trip, or money we would have liked to pass on for detainees’ use in the “commissary.”

When called again, we went through a metal detector and were also wanned. Our pockets were turned inside out to prevent any contraband from getting through.

At length, we were led to a medium-sized room where several detainees were eagerly awaiting their visitors. Some rarely get visitors so they are grateful and appreciative and even touched by anyone who takes the time to come by. Some get more frequent visitors while others get none.

Adelanto (as is the case with other similar facilities–private, for-profit institutions) is in the middle of nowhere (icy-cold in the winter, murderously hot in the summer). Its location, therefore, makes it difficult, costly, and time-consuming for people to make the trip. Many are in no position to do make that journey.

When visitors look at the faces of the detainees, they recognize immediately a certain sadness. Many are depressed (even suicidal) and are on medications.

When visitors look at the faces of the detainees, they recognize immediately a certain sadness. Many are depressed (even suicidal) and are on medications. These women (and men in their separate section–many of whom have been beaten mercilessly, so much so that some have committed suicide while others have gone on a hunger strike for better conditions)–these women are not animals (PETA would never allow such treatment) and yet we treat them as sub-humans. Some have been in legal limbo for months or even years. Such a process is long, drawn-out, tedious, overwhelming, and too often unsuccessful.

The woman whom I visited had been repeatedly abused in the past–psychologically and physically–by her then boyfriend and when she tried to defend herself, he called the police and she went to prison on trumped-up charges (nothing happened to him–a real #MeToo abomination). Her country of origin is a murderous one–hence her coming to this country in the first place. If she is not granted asylum here, she will be deported and almost certainly sent to her death. She is such a sweet, gentle soul. Surely, she deserves better than the life she has experienced so far. She is waiting for her asylum hearing later this week after almost a year of waiting. Many of us are seeking justice and mercy for her; let’s hope she gets it.

During our visit of an hour, we could look around the room and notice uniforms in different colors: Blue is for detainees whose only “fault” was coming here as an undocumented individual. Orange is for those who have already successfully served their prison time and are now waiting to learn of the outcome of their plea to remain in America. Finally, there are a few red uniforms which indicate a higher risk for certain specific individuals and, yet, when engaging them, they display a warmth not unlike that of any family member or friend and so it is left to wonder why they are wearing red.

Ultimately, it was time to leave behind this facility and the wonderful women we met. It was depressing for all of us. We held out hope for their futures and yet reality may dictate that what lay before them might be a burden too heavy. Many of us will visit again or write to them or send them money to help out. Many of us will continue to work with organizations and attorneys who are working, often pro bono, to represent them and help them obtain the justice they deserve.

All of us must keep ourselves up to date on what transpires at these facilities, the conditions under which detainees live, and more about the stories of their lives. It is incumbent upon is to do what we can to seek justice for each of them and to support such efforts. Remember, there but for the grace of God could go any one of us (or our predecessors or even our progeny).

Adat Shalom—The Peaceful Community? by Rosemary Jenkins

Adat Shalom—The Peaceful Community?

by Rosemary Jenkins     January 16, 2018     LA Progressive

In many languages (Hebrew, Arabic, Indonesian, Tagalog), the word adat has the same meanings—the community that promotes values of just and respectful treatment of all who live within its boundaries. “Shalom” means peace (among other meanings). Together, the two words, adat shalom, combine to mean “the peaceful community” or “the people of peace.”

If that is the case, then how can a business, purportedly created to care for the elderly and disabled, function in a profane and immoral way? Adat Shalom (not to be confused with the synagogue in Los Angeles) is a board and care facility with six structures in the west San Fernando Valley. Its eponymous meaning is in direct contradiction to how it actually functions. The fact is that all of our elderly and disabled depend on the quality of care provided by staff at any such facility, so when staff is mistreated and abused in a variety of ways, the expected high level of treatment cannot help but be diminished. Unfortunately, such is the case with Adat Shalom Board and Care.

The numerous grievances filed by its staff (mostly Pilipinos, Latinos, and Blacks) contain charges which allege such outrageous violations, that they fly in the face of what a peaceful community is expected to be. The primary goal of a board and care facility must be promoting the welfare of the patients living there. The Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) asserts that “[T]he quality of care and consistency of care (are) impacted by working conditions.” Adat Shalom seems to ignore these edicts altogether.

The employees, in order to do their best work as care-givers, must be treated well themselves—with respect, dignity, fair pay, appropriate work hours, time allotted for meals, appropriate time off in accordance with law, consideration of safety, and so forth. As the PWC states: “All workers, regardless of their age, gender, race, or immigration status, deserve fair wages and fair working conditions.”

As background, you may remember that not that long ago, hundreds of people worked with a variety of organizations and Los Angeles City and County Boards to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, to advocate for health and safety issues, and to create an oversight bureau within the City and County to receive grievances in order to resolve problems brought to its attention and to penalize those employers who are found guilty of labor infractions. (I have written numerous articles on this subject. You may want to look them up.)

The California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was passed in 2013 (AB 241) and made permanent in 2016 (SB 1015). Before and since, there has been an ongoing wage enforcement campaign that is extending its work beyond the borders of California to every state in the union. In addition to the Pilipino Workers Center, which is working diligently on this issue, other groups are involved in a coalition to advance the protections afforded by the above-referenced laws: Caring Across America, LAANE (Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy), CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice), KIWA (Korean Immigrant Workers Association), SCOPE (Strategic Concepts in Organizing & Policy Education), the Californian Domestic Workers Coalition, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and more.

What we have at the Adat Shalom Board and Care facility is a deliberate policy to disregard the rights of its employees, often literally stealing from them to the detriment of quality care for the patients there.

What we have at the Adat Shalom Board and Care facility is a deliberate policy to disregard the rights of its employees, often literally stealing from them to the detriment of quality care for the patients there. Because of the various oversight departments handling these matters, Adat Shalom has already been assigned penalties for wage theft and other labor violations in the amount of over $7 million. Workers there (many of whom care for people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s) are on call 24 hours a day, six days a week, but are so severely underpaid that their average wage per hour amounts to $3. Clearly, these skilled employees not only do not receive the minimum (living wage) as designated by state and local law, but also do not get paid overtime (which is illegal), are not given time off for meals and rest breaks, and are not provided with pay stubs that include all the required information (including the actual hours worked and the overtime accrued).

Because Baby Boomers are approaching or have reached retirement, the need for board and care facilities and trained workers is ever increasing. Active oversight over the living conditions of these patients (whether in a residential care facility or in-home) must be a priority. Clearly, their care is tied directly to the way their caretakers are treated. By tradition, these workers for the most part have been and continue to be women of color (dating back to slave and Jim Crow days) and immigrant women, their work has not been recognized as “genuine work” that affords them the same rights and privileges due every other employee. Because these thought processes are being challenged now more than ever, we are beginning to witness increasing action to address these serious breaches of law.

It was the choice of those filing the current grievances to partner with the California State Labor Commissioner’s Office rather than file with local bureaus (more power is with the state). The State has prioritized the Adat Shalom case (Southern California’s largest wage theft case in the last three years) and since the owner of this facility is appealing the injunctions and penalties, the case will be heard in the near future, most likely in March or April.

It is incumbent upon us to contact the owner/operator, Angelica Reingold, as soon as possible to let her know the extent to which we oppose her actions toward her staff and, consequently, her patients and, therefore, support the lawsuit against her and her company. She can be contacted as follows:

Angelica Reingold, Owner/Operator, Adat Shalom Board and Care: (818) 704-9090

Furthermore, I encourage you to contact the following:

  • The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement of the Labor Relations Commissioner’s Office—a division within the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) can also be contacted: 844-LABOR-DIR or 844-522-6734
  • The Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California is one of the plaintiffs: Aquilina Soriano Versoza, Executive Director, 213-250-4353, aqui@pwcsc.org.

If domestic employees wish to file a complaint through this center, they can contact the following:

  • Lolit: 213-344-8370
  • Meds: 213-235-7886
  • EMPLEO PINOY Hotline: 877-885-6641; 877-TULONG1
  • Caring Across Generations: Janet Kim, Caring Across Generations Communications Directorjanet@caringacross.org, 917-596-5519

It is our turn to speak out about such injustice. Just as we have rallied in the past to create the current laws affecting nearly all employees in the state and just as we are getting involved with so many other worthwhile movements (Time’s Up, Me Too, DACA, and so forth), so must we act now regarding this pressing labor matter, the outcome of which will not only affect Adat Shalom employees (and their patients) but anyone (with few exceptions) who works for an employer in California.

NOTE: Rosemary Jenkin is the author of a new historical fiction novel, The Southern Phoenix https://www.amazon.com/dp/1544925743/ 344 pages.