Help My Mom Transition Back to Freedom from ICE

My mother, Alma Bowman, has been fighting a legal (not to mention mental and emotional) battle to remain in the United States for the past 3 and a half years after being detained by ICE in August 2017. 

At the age of ten Alma was legally brought to America and raised by a US Navy veteran. She grew up in America, worked jobs, paid taxes, and built a family. She’s been married twice to American Citizens and her only family, her children, are both American Citizens. Unfortunately, her husband abandoned her when she was detained by ICE.

Throughout her life she has done everything in her power to help those around her. Growing up there were times where family-friends would be without a home, and she made sure they had a roof over their heads and a warm meal.

Alma was detained at the Irwin County Detention Center for over 3 years, dealing with their inhumane practices- lacking basic needs such as sanitation and medical care. She has been very vocal, communicating the conditions that the women in the facility face every day, while also doing what she can to foster a positive environment despite the situation. She is truly a representation of how kind-hearted a person can be. Due to her vigilance, and despite not having any funds, she has been able to resource herself by continually reaching out to human rights groups. She has brought attention to the inhumane conditions of ICE facilities and practices, fighting for her own freedom as well as showing solidarity with all other women in ICE detention. She has done this all while struggling with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, degenerative disk disorder, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, mental health and more. 

Alma is now out of ICE detention, but still at risk for deportation. The fear of deportation and exhaustion of having to navigate a confusing and broken system can feel insurmountable. Alma is in need of support as she transitions back into this so-called American life. ICE has lost her medical documents, so it is going to be a long road for her to receive resources and reach optimal health, getting the physical and mental/emotional support she needs and deserves. Any support you can provide will help with any legal fees, medical fees, and general survival needs such as food, shelter, and medication. If you can, please help my mom. She has made sure I have a good life, and I want to try and do the same for her.

Thank you for all the support. You can read my mom’s full story below, directly from her, as a testament to all she has seen and been through.

Alma Bowman Testimonial

My name is Alma Bella Bowman-Sorrells. I am 54 years old and have been in the United States since August 4, 1977. I came to the United States at 10 years of age with a permanent resident status. I have been in the United States since. I’ve been married twice to an American Citizen and I have two wonderful children who are both American Citizens.

I had made bad choices in my life which led to a criminal record. I’ve paid in full my debt to society, twice counting the time I've spent in detention with Immigration Customs Enforcement.

February 2016, I renewed my green card with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services so that I can get my drivers license reinstated. Biometrics was done for criminal background checks. Even though with forgery and possession of meth in my record...USCIS renewed my green card. In August 2017, I was detained by ICE and was ordered deported in April 2018 by Immigration Judge Cassidy based on my criminal record. Without lawyers, I appealed the Judges decision to the Bureau of Immigration Appeals. My appeal was dismissed. I then appealed again to the 11th circuit board of appeals and that too was dismissed. After reading all the reasons for the dismissal….I found out that I was being charged for something I never did….forging passports and visa. I wrote to the 11th circuit and asked to have my case reevaluated and my request was granted, The 11th circuit remanded my case back to the BIA and the BIA then remanded my case back to court. I still could not afford a lawyer and not knowing what to do I applied for any relief that I thought that I may be eligible for such as asylum and cancellation of deportation. In June 2020 all my requests were denied and I was ordered deportation again. This time I was tired of fighting and decided not to appeal. I had written a letter to someone who works with Human Rights about the conditions at the Irwin County Detention Center which led to me meeting wonderful people like Priyank, Kevin, Van, and Christine Tibbitts. They all helped me get legal help and helped me in making my stay at the ICDC more bearable. There were many people who not only helped me but all the detainees needing help. The Chaplain, Don Gillis, and his wife helped me keep my sanity and there were officers who are kind to us such as Major Battle, Mrs. Ingram and T. Smith to name a few. They were always there to help and comfort. Also I've met several people from the local church who gave love and support to everyone detained. There were a lot of Latina women detained and at one time there was another Filipina there with me but most of the time I was the only Filipina detained there. After my initial letter about the conditions at the facility, people like congress started investigating. One of the problems that women face at ICDC, especially the one who does not speak English, is with medical. Which led into cases brought against the OBGYN Doctor for taking female reproductive organs without consent. I too had a problem with Dr. Amin, he refused to remove a rectocele. He told me that It was all in my head although I had several doctors diagnosed me with the cyst before him. At one time he did say I had the rectocele and still he refused to do surgery. The rectocele is blocking the opening to my vagina so I had asked Dr. Amin, since he refused to do surgery, what should I do when I get home and my husband and I want to have sex...He said “push it down”. I had asked for a 2nd opinion and was told that I had 2nd to 3rd stage of the rectocele. I was told to take medicines for constipation for a month and if the rectocele still bothers me that he will have it removed. After 30 days I came back for a follow up and was told that I do not have a rectocele. Other things that we as detainees have to deal with is late medication. Refills are not done like they should. I myself was under chronic care for High Blood Pressure, Hypothyroid, and Diabetes and had gone days and sometimes a week without medication. The facility itself needs major repairs and cleaning problems such as leaking roof, heating and air, rust and molds to name a few.

During the covid pandemic… women who are elderly and with chronic care were exposed when new detainees are brought in if not by staff members. During all of these...I was waiting for my travel documents. Every 30 days I had to sign a new application for travel documents that are sent to the Philippine Embassy. At one point I was told by an officer to pack up. I was then moved to the isolation dorm where one is placed before leaving for deportation. I did not know what was going on since no one told me anything. I finally asked for an ICE officer. I was told that they had acquired my travel documents and that I will be leaving in a couple of days. After a couple of days I was transported along with other detainees to Columbus, Georgia where we all got on a plane. ICE officers were there to have us sign papers. One of the officers I've known since I was first detained in 2017. He told me that I do not have travel documents but they had hoped that I would get them in time to leave on a plane bound for the Philippines. The plane is to make several stops including Louisiana, Texas, and Arizona. The plane was full. AT the time there was a storm (hurricane) near Louisiana that prevented landing so we were grounded in Columbus for 5 hours. All; detainees sitting shackled for 5 hours without food or water and the air was limited (plane door remained open for air). They had to take the shackles off me because my ankles and legs were swollen so badly. I haven't taken my medication or ate breakfast before we left at 2:30am. We finally took off after 5 hours and was then served our pack out lunch that came with us from the detention center. Medications were finally passed out to those who needed them. The plane had a pilot and several stewardesses but everything else was done by ICE officers such as feeding us and loading and unloading luggage. Another disgusting problem is that the restrooms did not have running water. We couldn’t flush the toilet after each use. We were given a squirt of hand sanitizer after using the restroom.

I arrived in Arizona to the Processing center and was housed there for about a week and a half then I was transferred to Texas detention center in preparation for my trip back to Georgia. That is when I found out that my luggage containing all of my legal papers and medical record got lost and to this date It's still lost. I came back to ICDC just before Thanksgiving. I was so mad with all that moving round for nothing. During all this time I was talking with reporters and giving them my testimony.

Just before my 180 days after my order of deportation review was due I was called out by an ICE officer and was told that I was going home to my children here in the United States. Medical department gave me my medications but only a couple of weeks' supply. I’ve run out and cannot afford to go to the doctors to get prescriptions. I take medications that I have to take for the rest of my life and I've been going without so needless to say I don't feel well most of the days. I’m trying to take some herbal equivalents but they are not so good. These are the medications that I take: Metformin, Maxide, Levothyroxine, Spironolactone, Omeprasole, Gabapentin, Paxil, and Zyrtec. Plus a few others that are over the counter. I was told that I am not qualified for any disability, medicare/medicaid but I went ahead and put in an application. I also plan to go to one of those low income health centers with dental plans and hope that I get accepted. I was lucky to still have my drivers license valid when I was released well at least until the 24th of February. I did go to the DMV to renew my license but was told that I had no status so therefore my license cannot be renewed.

While detained, a few of us women wrote a letter to USCIS, ICE, and Congress about releasing us in the condition that we remain in the United States without committing any crimes for a year and then grant us Citizenship...especially to those who has been in this country for such a long time and have legal status during those times. It's so hard to get any help at least Government assistance when one doesn’t have any status.

I was told by my Lawyer that I can still be deported at any time...just waiting on travel documents. It has been 8 months since my order of deportation, I don't think that a travel document is going to be issued by the Philippines. But then again I'm not sure. All I know for a fact is that without the help and support that I've gotten from Malaya, Priyanka and Kevin, I would be so lost. There have been times that I just wish I was back in detention...not having to worry about money, food, clothing, and medication. Don't get me wrong...I love being with my children, I just don’t want to be a burden to them. They have their own live


Christian Mitchell
Macon, GA

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