CIUDAD JUÁREZ — After two deportations and six failed attempts to reenter the U.S., Carlos, 56, has learned to survive in México by working harder and not despairing.
“What year is it, 2011? I was deported16 years ago, in ’95,” says Carlos, who now works for a Mexican company. His is one of the thousands of stories of deportation that remain lost like tiny parts of a mosaic in the big picture of illegal immigration.
More than a decade after Carlos was deported, the numbers continue to change. In 1995 the U.S. deported 853,365 Mexicans, however, in subsequent years the deportation of undocumented immigrants has been decreasing — 439,898 in 2010 and 66,000 in the first two months of 2011. At the rate of 33,000 per month, the number could reach 396,000 this year.
But these data from the National Migration Institute (INM in Spanish), don’t tell the thousands of different stories — unknown and untold, because of the dearth of first hand information about this topic.
Carlos was deported twice, the first time through El Paso, Texas. “They deported me the first time because I was with one of my brothers. I had my documents and everything but he had false documents. They found out and they also took mine away. They took our visas, they tore them up and they gave us a sheet that said we were deported for 10 years.”
“The lady lied, because she told me I had couldn’t do anything. She explained that my visa was going to be held for only one year and she gave me a signed paper that said that after a year I could ask for my visa again,” Carlos said.
He explains that the second time he was deported was 15 days after returning home. He found somebody to take him through Agua Prieta toward Arizona and attempted to cross to the “other side.”
“We were caught as we were going over there. The migra caught us. It was a lady, I asked what was going to happen to us because I had just been deported and she told me, no, we’re only going to the office, you’ll answer some questions and from there you’re going home.”
Deportation in your own language
Deportation is a legal procedure, like all legal procedures, each step must be explained so the person being processed understands what is happening. The non-English speaking immigrant has the right to receive competent interpretation. The Freedom of Information Act requires immigration officials to comply with language access.
Carlos had no language problems at his first deportation in El Paso, Texas, everything was explained in Spanish and in less than four hours he was back in México. The problems came in Arizona.
“When I went back, when we were caught again, the people that took my statement didn’t tell me anything in Spanish, and well, it’s exasperating to hear a language you don’t understand. Fortunately, I understood enough to get by.”
The deportation procedure ends with the judge’s signature accepting the agreement between the U.S. government and the deportee of the charges. Part of the agreement drawn up during the procedures has to do with the promises the immigration department officers themselves make in order to facilitate the cooperation of the deportees.
Because of these promises, a person has the right not to sign the notice until the promises made by the immigrations agents are kept. In Carlo’s case he was promised a return home the same day he was arrested.
“When they were taking my statement I was asked if an agent had promised me anything and told them yes, that the lady agent who arrested me had promised me I would be returned home that very same day.
“When I was given the paper to sign, they were in English and I asked if I could read them. He asked, you know how to read English?; well, if you can, read it. I looked for that question if I had been promised anything and it was blank. So, I told them I couldn’t sign it because an officer had promised me I would be returned that same day.
“I pointed out the lady who had promised me I would be returned that same day. The supervisor talked to her, everything in English, nobody explained anything to me. I was returned to a cell and they told me they would call me to sign the papers. When they called me again, the document was much longer. I read it; it was already signed by the lady agent where she said I would be sent home that same day.”
Each immigration case is different. Some processes take longer than others depending on the charges and the judges and immigration agents involved. Appeal and intervention by specialized immigration attorneys can cause delays. By law, the process should not take longer than 90 days, without counting the continuations authorized by the judge.
Carlos’ case didn’t take long; he was arrested at 11 a.m. and by 6 p.m. he was back in México. The immigration office was two blocks away from the border and they even let him cross back into México on his own.
“They let me cross alone, I even thought it was a trap because there are some stores along the way that you can duck into and everything, but I thought they wanted me to go into one so they could arrest me again, so, I behaved and returned on my own to México.”
“The following year I went again to get my papers. I even had the paper that said I could get my visa again in a year. I went in with my document and I told them I had already been deported and that I wanted my visa again. They young man told me I couldn’t return until after 90 years. Then I gave him the signed paper that said I could reapply after one year and the man said, well, look for the officer that signed that document. He told me that’s where visas are issued and I answered very well 90 years go by fast. I left the office, returned home, and that was the last time I tried to enter the U.S.”
Back in México
The lack of communications between the Mexican and U.S. governments has left deportees alone to figure out these proceedings. Because of the misinformation surrounding deportations, reliable data about Mexican deportees are difficult to find.
The National Migration Institute (INM in Spanish) only has data on people deported from México to other countries. Data on deportees arriving from the U.S. are gathered by the National Population Council (CONAPO) and other non-governmental organizations.
“The Gringos don’t worry if you have any money in your pocket to return; for them what is most important is that you leave their country without any concern for what happens to you after. When you cross the border they don’t care if you have anything to eat or where to stay. They don’t inform you, just send you to the other side and then you’re on your own.”
“The governments aren’t coordinated to receive the deportees well; you’d arrive and start hitchhiking or panhandle a few cents to call your family to pick you up. I don’t know how it’s now, but before they took you to the border and on the other side were the coyotes who talked you into crossing again.”
Carlos now says that he no longer feels like working in the U.S. Perhaps only a visit, he said.