The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation of California does not pay gate money to deportees or anyone subject to extradition to another state or to federal custody.
Statewide, persons of Hispanic origin comprise the largest ethnic group of the incarcerated population. Some 40-44% of them count as undocumented. Upon release, they will face extradition to a federal institution for possible removal from the U.S.
Data from the Strategic Offenders Management System say that as of last month, 930 of San Quentin’s incarcerated population of 3,803 identify as Hispanics, a percentage of more than 24%.
Former San Quentin News staffer Juan Espinosa, now a resident of Mexico, said in a telephone interview that he had come to the U.S. at the age of 11.
After deportation, he needed plane fare from his Mexican point of entry to his family’s home in Mexico City. A friend paid for the ticket. Not everyone has this kind of support.
“First of all, you don’t get any gate money and you have to manage on your own to find food, in a land where you don’t know anyone else. Where are you going to stay?” said Espinosa, who spent 29 years behind bars.
“If they would have given me the $200 gate money after being deported, it would have helped me in renting a place to stay or to buy clothes. Sometimes we get deported in paper jumpsuits and need to buy clothes.”
The California Code of Regulations provides that, “A release allowance shall not be provided to an inmate released to the custody of the federal government or another state unless the inmate is released from custody and available for parole supervision in California or a state under the interstate compact. Inmates released to the custody and supervision of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and awaiting a deportation hearing date are not entitled to receive a release allowance.”
In short, deported non-citizens receive nothing. For decades, the state has denied returning non-citizens the basic financial aid that could make a critical difference to them.
Mr. Eduardo Sosa, currently incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan State Prison, has expressed his concerns as a non-citizen facing deportation to his homeland. “Well, here at Donovan, we feel discriminated because once we are released we won’t be receiving the $200 gate money. I believe we should be able to receive this financial help like everybody else,” said Sosa.
“In other words, if you are a U.S. citizen you’d get the $200. Just because you are about to be deported does not mean that we don’t need the help for reentry into our communities.”
Gonzalo Gonzalez is a resident of San Quentin, “I wouldn’t have the funds to get on the bus to go back to my ranch in Mexico, said Gonzalez.” “It is important to be able to have this $200 gate money so that I can buy a bar of soap or even food in any part of the world.”
Vicente Gomez, found suitable for parole after serving 23 years of a life sentence, also faces deportation to Mexico.
“I feel that it is my right to receive the $200 gate money,” said Gomez. “I’ve been incarcerated for many years and I don’t even know how things are out there in the community.”
Huan H. Nguyen, will have to deal with deportation to Vietnam after serving 22 years of a life sentence, “I am afraid because I don’t have anyone out there in Vietnam. We are refugees, my dad was soldier,” said Nguyen. “All my family is here in the U.S. If I was to get the $200 it would help me to at least buy some food or to rent a place to stay for a couple of days.”
U.S. citizen and San Quentin resident Michael Moore understands the importance of the release allowance. He feels that release aid should go to everyone upon release.
“This is another example where the old way of looking at incarcerated persons is not in touch with the reality of what’s right and just in the here and now,” said Moore.
“Not giving assistance to all is revealing the lack of insight and awareness that is a result of fixed mindsets.”
Moore added, “Two hundred dollars can be the difference between a stepping stone to freedom and a stepping stone to reoffending. Everyone should be given a chance.”