LOS ANGELES — God is the bond that brought Jael Serrano Altamirano and her husband, Pastor Allan Altamirano, together.
“He supports me and our mission and what we want to accomplish and god’s work,” says Jael.
And so on their wedding anniversary, she sits alone in their Eastvale home looking at pictures and videos. He decorated the church himself, wanting to surprise her. But the real surprise for Jael has been that she is spending this anniversary by herself:
“We were talking let’s celebrate next year and this is how we’re celebrating, away from each other. . . It hurts because no wife or husband is supposed to be celebrating separated.”
That’s because two weeks after getting married, Allan was arrested by immigration officials.
“There are no words, it doesn’t have to be how it was, you know.”
Allan was brought to the US illegally when he was three. Then in 2004, at 19 years old, he traveled back to Mexico. Coming back, he told border patrol agents he had his residency, when he didn’t. The family says it was a misunderstanding. ICE says he lied and says he’s a serial immigration offender.
“He has no criminal record. He’s an amazing man. Father. Man of god. You know, not only me, our babies miss him but the whole congregation, the whole church,” says Jael.
But what worries Jael the most is that ever since he entered the detention center in Adelanto one year ago, his medical record has exploded in size:
“Front and back, you’re looking at like 300 and something pages. He was hospitalized for a week due to his heart, his blood pressure goes very low.”
Allan is 34, but Jael says his ailing health has visibly changed him:
“He looks like he is like 50 years old.”
She thinks he is in danger of contracting Covid-19 and speaks out about it through the church’s radio station.
“We just want him to be out so he can get the care and medical attention that he needs.”
Allan calls in at times:
“Normally my wife and my babies would come visit us, visit me today and Sunday, but unfortunately due to the quarantine they’re not.”
More than 86,600 imprisoned individuals in the US have tested positive for Covid-19 according to the Marshall Project. A 10 percent increase from last week. But it’s not just those behind bars that are at risk, on August 2nd an 8th correctional officer in California died from Covid-19. Among prison staff in our state, there have been more than 1,800 cases of the virus. And there are currently 917 active coronavirus cases in ICE facilities across the nation. ICE has released more than 500 detainees due to the pandemic but Allan was not one of them:
“We are officially on quarantine in this prison here. We have two sides that are on quarantine, so please keep praying for us.”
So pray she does. Multiple times a week, Jael goes to their church and asks that Allan may remain healthy.
I ask her, how she gets through the night.
“I put his clone on the pillow and I hug it with my bible. And that’s what gets me through the night.”
God and faith brought them together once, now she hopes it will bring them together again.
Allan’s legal team is appealing for his release.
We reached out to ICE for this story and they sent us a statement that reads in part: “ICE is committed to maintaining the highest facility standards of cleanliness and sanitation, safe work practices, and control of hazardous substances and equipment to ensure the environmental health and safety of detainees, staff, volunteers and contractors from injury and illness.”