American dream lost by deportees
Tuesday, March 25, 2008 8:49 AM PDT
By Denise Holley
Almost everyone here in this dusty camp at the Mariposa Port of Entry would like to be somewhere else.
Deported from the United States and bused just across the border, Mexicans congregate at this aid station that offers water, coffee, soup and bread in a dirt lot of tents and trailers behind the Mexican Customs building.
The camp is a bi-national project of Sonora's State Commission for the Care of Migrants and No More Deaths, a coalition of humanitarian groups in Tucson that tries to prevent migrants from dying in the desert. It opened in June 2006 with "a tarp, a tailgate and a table," according to a report by No More Deaths. About 136,386 deportees passed through the camp in its first year.
"Their suffering ... doesn't end with deportation," said Maryada Vallet, a volunteer with No More Deaths. Many recently were plucked from the desert and arrived thirsty, hungry and exhausted. Often, their feet need treatment. Volunteers offer first aid and try to help the deportees connect with organizations in Sonora so they can return to their homes.
Oscar Muro Perez would like to get to Ensenada in Baja California, where a hospital has his records and could treat his possibly broken nose. Before he arrived early on March 20, a Border Patrol officer had punched him in the face when he was getting out of a van, he said.
An ambulance took Muro, bleeding from the nose, to a hospital in Nogales, Sonora, he said. But it had no X-ray machine and he had no money to fill a prescription for pain pills.
Muro, from Torreon, Coahuila, had worked at a carwash in Phoenix for three months and slept at a mission, but never got paid, he said. Then the boss reported him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and he was picked up Dec. 31 and jailed in a detention center.
"I want to go to Mexico and not return to the United States," Muro said, breathing through his mouth. His children live in Ensenada and he wants to join them.
A short stay
Mercedes Silva had a very short stay in the United States. Now three months pregnant, she just wants to be reunited with her husband, she said. The couple from Jalisco crossed the border at Sasabe in the early morning darkness on March 20 with two friends.
Border Patrol agents found them about three hours later, Silva said. They took her husband to a detention center and she has no way to contact him.
He was probably detained under a new U.S. Border Patrol policy to detain and prosecute some of the border-crossers, Vallet said as she gave some prenatal vitamins to Silva.
Under "Operation Arizona Denial," the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector selects about 40 of the hundreds of migrants picked up daily and detains them for criminal prosecution, said Jesus Rodriguez, public affairs spokesman.
"They look at all the records," Rodriguez said. If the person has a criminal record, a warrant or a previous illegal entry, or is not Mexican, he or she may end up in detention instead of the Mariposa camp. "It just depends."
Pedro Saucedo has a different dilemma - he's been deported to a country he left 28 years ago and hardly knows anymore, he said. Originally from Michoacan, he lived in California and worked with a series of temporary permits. He applied for the 1986 amnesty program, but never got a permanent resident card.
Deported in February, Saucedo promised a coyote $1,000 from his bank account to take him back to the United States, he said. His group was left in the desert to walk to Tucson, where another coyote drove them to Phoenix.
There, coyotes called his friend in Las Vegas, Nev., and demanded a ransom of $2,000, Saucedo said. His friend said he didn't have the money. The coyotes stripped the group of men to their underwear and threatened to beat them. They were rescued when Phoenix police showed up at the drop house.
With his fluent English, Saucedo would like to go to Tijuana and work for a resort or hotel, he said. "That's the only hope I have."
In the meantime, Saucedo helps serve food and clean up the camp, and occasionally interprets, he said. He sought help at Grupo Beta, a Mexican agency that helps immigrants, where he got one phone call and a cup of Ramen soup. He called his friend in Las Vegas and asked him to mail his birth certificate to a human rights representative in Nogales, Sonora.
Grupo Beta will pay half the cost of a bus ticket for a deported migrant, Saucedo said. But he doesn't have any money and neither do most of the others at the camp.
"So many here need to go somewhere," said Gilberto Flores, who manages the camp. He's also a deportee who used to live in Campbell, near San Jose, Calif.