Reflections from a Migrant Rights Caravan: U.S. Immigration Enforcement Hits Home
This blog post, by Juliana Morris, is part of a series following a caravan for migrant rights on the Mexico border.
“The worst part is that, I have so many photos of him in the house, every time I look at them all the pain comes rushing back.”
And with that, the tears begin to fill Alicia’s wide eyes. She sits on the edge of the plastic lawn chair, clutching the photo of her son in her two hands. Alicia is one of the hundreds of Central Americans participating in the migrant rights Caravan Paso a Paso Hacia la Paz (Step by Step Towards Peace), demanding better treatment for their migrant relatives who leave home searching for a brighter future in the United States.
Alicia’s son left his home in San Marcos, Guatemala for the last time nearly nineteen months ago, but for the past eighteen months, she hasn’t had any news of him. She has heard rumors that he got lost and dehydrated in the desert of Texas. She worries that he may have been attacked by gangs. And she has had dreams that he’s locked up in a detention center in Arizona. Alicia lives every day with this uncertainty and fear, hoping against hope that her son is alive and that he will return to her someday.
Still, things didn’t always go badly for Alicia’s son, Ricardo. When he first emigrated to the United States, in search of work opportunities to support his family, he arrived safely to his destination – Boston, Massachusetts. Only 17 years old at the time, he quickly adapted to life in the U.S., made lots of friends, and developed a reputation as a skilled, hard-working laborer. He also started going to school and was learning English. However, after seven years, Ricardo’s time in the U.S. was cut short when he was picked up driving without a license in a traffic stop near Boston and turned into immigration authorities by the police.
After a few months in detention, he was sent back to Guatemala. But he didn’t stay there long. He missed his life in the U.S. so much, after just one month of being back home, he hit the road again.
Back in the States, Ricardo went back to work, but was picked up in another traffic stop just 8 months later. This time, the police didn’t arrest him directly, but gave him a court date. When he arrived in court, Immigration was waiting for him. So in 2009, after being deported twice, Ricardo tried for his third time to get back to his life in the U.S. He called his mother to tell her he had made it to Mexico, but that was the last she heard from him. Now, she struggles to deal with her worries, with only her photos and hopes to sustain her.
What’s at the root of Alicia’s suffering? Clearly, the fact that Ricardo journeyed multiple times along a dangerous migrant trail put him at an elevated risk for getting lost, detained, abused, kidnapped or even killed along the way. But one could also point to a deeper cause of Ricardo`s multiple migrations – the fact that he was turned in to migration authorities by local police for a minor infraction and ultimately deported. Ricardo spent his formative years in the U.S. – he had made his life there. If he had never been deported, he wouldn’t have felt the need to retake the risky journey to get back to the U.S. If his case had never been channeled from local police to immigration, he would have never been lost to his mother.
Stories like Ricardo’s are becoming increasingly common. In Boston and throughout the U.S., the Secure Communities program has operationalized the collaboration between local police and immigration authorities, in spite of the demands by human rights advocates that immigration enforcement remain a purely federal responsibility. As was the case with Ricardo, the majority of the deportations that take place under Secure Communities are of people classified as “non-criminals.” And yet it is programs like these, and the increasing numbers of deportations each year from the U.S., that are terrorizing families on both sides of the border.
Here in Central America, the impact is painfully clear. As Alicia passes me her son’s photo and says him name, a tear falls from her eye. “If only they`d give him a chance,” she pleads. Unfortunately, in Ricardo’s case, even if this chance came, it might still be too late.
If you have news of Ricardo Baldemar Córdova Figueroa, last seen in Monterrey, Mexico, please communicate with the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Guatemala: http://www.minex.gob.gt/
Please take a minute to help stop the deportation of two other young immigrants from Boston — Denis and Vinny: http://tinyurl.com/enddenisvinny
For more information on the impact of Secure Communities on immigrants and their families, visit http://uncoverthetruth.org