I sleep for 3.5 hours because I have to get ready for my release. The officer comes by at 5am to inform me that once the institutional count is cleared, I'll be leaving.
Due to yesterday's riot, the count is delayed. Someone says that my release throws off the balance of the order. During the wait, people keep coming by to check on me and say their last goodbye. They can't believe that I am actually leaving.
The count clears around 10 o'clock. A few minutes later a Lieutenant shows up to escort me to the releasing area. A few guys walk with me to the door and help carry my folders. As I walk across the dayroom people yell out my name and wish me luck. They are in a a half circle line waving and chanting my name. I wave back and keep on walking. I feel like I am walking on the red carpet going to a movie premiere.
The ICE agents wait for me. It takes an hour for the prison guards to process me and a Laotion prisoner. We are handcuffed to each other and put in the back of the ICE van. Finally, after 19 years, I am out of CDC custody.
We head to San Francisco on the freeway going 90mph.
It is a bumpy ride.
Once we get to San Francisco, I can't recognize the freeway exit. As the van moves toward Sansome Street, I am immediately captured by the streets. It's the first time in 19 years that I have seen so many free people on the street. It is lunch time so people are sitting on benches eating and overlooking the ocean. Everything I see is beautiful. People are walking, sitting, talking on cell phones, waiting for the bus, eating at outdoor restaurants, and driving. I am soaking in the scenery.
Afer I finish the process with the ICE agents, I am led to a visiting room. My friends are waiting to visit me. Victor, Reverend Fong, Anne, Momo, and Perry are in the room. I am happy to see them. We have to talk through the telephone because the plexiglass separates us. Everyone congratulates me for getting out of prison. Later on, Shelly, Alice, and my attorney Zach show up. It is awesome to see everyone. Anmol is on the phone checking in with everyone.
I don't know where I will go after I am processed. There is a 50/50 chance between Arizona and Yuba County. After some last minute manuver, it is decided that I will go to Yuba County Jail. I was extremely close to flying to Arizona.
The drive to Yuba County Jail is long, but it has its fine moments. Before I get on the van, I am able to stand on the streets of San Frnacisco for about 10 seconds. I am in handcuffs and shackles. The aroma of food from the nearby restaurants brings a huge smile to my face. I close my eyes and inhale deeply this brief moment of freedom.
There are 11 men and 4 women on the van. I am surprised to see the women there. The van is holding a mini-United Nations. There are people from CHina, Vietnam, Phillipines, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, Jordan, Ethiopia, and Mongolia.
There is traffic as we head toward the freeway. I have a window seat and my eyes are glued to the streets. It is around 6 o'clock. I see people waiting to go eat in a restaurant, women in jogging shorts, riding their bike, some guys skateboarding, and people walking. It's like I am watching a movie. I kick the van with my foot and wish that I was on the street with the people. The people in the van know that it is my first time in 19 years seeing the street scenery. They are all happy for me and tell me that I'll be out soon. I want a camera to record my emotions and what I see.
Being able to see the streets makes me cherish freedom even more. I'm determined to fight against my deportation.