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Brian Bukle: ‘I want to help the people that no one cares about.’

July 29, 2022 Perspective

In partnership with Survival Media Agency, the Home, Not Heartbreak photo series, captures the stories of Californians organizing to end the state’s prison-to-ICE pipeline that cruelly separates thousands of families. While these community members represent just a small example of the thousands of California families and residents harmed by ICE transfers each year, their stories and leadership are inspiring people across the state to urge their legislators and Gov. Newsom to pass and sign the VISION Act (AB 937) and reunite immigrant families and communities.

“My hope for the future is love. Love is important for me today because it’s everything. It’s to care for one another and to care for people,” says 63-year-old Brian Bukle outside his local community library in Riverside County. “To care for people that nobody is going to care about, to show them love.”

Brian immigrated to the U.S. with his family from the British Virgin Islands at age 2, and has been a U.S. citizen for more than 50 years. Still, when Brian was incarcerated in 2018, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation chose to report him to ICE for deportation and turned him over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s private contractors upon his release. He repeatedly told California state prison officers that he was a U.S. citizen, but he was ignored again and again.

Brain Bukle smiles while leaning against a tree in a community park. He wears a gray cap and a t-shirt with purple sleeves.

Brian Bukle on the outdoor grounds of the Perris Public Library. (Apollo Victoria | Survival Media Agency)

Brian says, “I’ve lived a life that was hard. I’ve been through a lot. I have lost a lot of friends in this life, so I want to help the unfortunate. I want to help the people that no one cares about.”

After CDCR ignored Brian’s and his family’s requests to confirm his citizenship, ICE also ignored their repeated efforts and detained him for 36 days at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield during a COVID-19 outbreak until an immigration attorney intervened.

Brian Bukle wears a gray beanie cap and a t-shirt with purple sleeves, and leans back against a black couch he is sitting on.

Brian Bukle having lunch at a local cafe in Perris, CA. (Apollo Victoria | Survival Media Agency)

ICE’s practices continue to amplify the racism already present in the legal system. Black immigrants are significantly more likely to be targeted for deportation and come in contact with the abusive agency: 7% of non-citizens in the U.S. are Black, and yet they are 20% of those facing deportation on criminal grounds, according to Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI).

Brian’s detention had a grave impact on him, his brother, and his son. “ICE and CDCR didn’t care about me or my life,” he shared when filing a lawsuit against ICE for false imprisonment and endangering his life. After I served my sentence I thought I would be going home to see my son for Father’s Day. Instead, I came this close to being deported and losing everything, a nightmare that has stayed with me to this day. CDCR and ICE continually harm Black and immigrant families whether or not we are U.S. citizens.”

Today, Brian is back home and able to be with his family and his son, something that could happen to more families if California ended the prison-to-ICE detention pipeline. “When my son comes home from school we are together and doing stuff, and I am happy.”

"The happiest moment of my life is waking up everyday to know that I’m still alive. To enjoy the sunshine. I pray early in the morning around 5 o’clock, and I do it on a regular basis because God has been good to me.”

Brian Bukle wears a gray beanie cap and a t-shirt with purple sleeves, and reads a book in the aisle of the public library.

Brian Bukle inside the Perris Public Library. (Apollo Victoria | Survival Media Agency)

You can take action by calling Governor Newsom and urging him to pass the VISION Act, which would allow more Californians like Brian a second chance and hope to rebuild their lives with their families and loved ones.

Photos by Apollo Victoria | Survival Media Agency