By Mariana Martínez
Food, water, shelter, work, an identity, are basic human rights, but those are exactly what Mexicans are lacking when they re-enter their own country after being deported by US emigration authorities.
Among the hardship they face when being deported, they report families being split for deportation, failure to notify the proper Consulate, deportation of women and unaccompanied minors at odd hours of the night, deportation of non-Mexicans to Mexico and lack of food and water.
But the problem for immigrants does not stop after their deportation, because in Mexico, they are constantly extorted by local police, robbed or exploited.
Oscar, a 45 year old immigrant who asked not to give his last name, was deported from Los Angeles a few days ago. As he was walking towards an immigrant shelter, he was stopped by police.
“They asked me stuff like “where are you going” and when I said, “to work” they changed it and kept asking “are you working by selling drugs?” Oscar remembered, “every day I hear of police extorting the immigrants at the shelter, beating them or searching them because we don’t have local ID´s”.
Oscar had been working at a construction site and earned $20 dollars, he decided to use it to pay the “fine” a judge ordered without explaining the crime he was accused off.
“I had chosen not to even buy food so I could save up to go to my home town”, Oscar said sadly, “but I decided to pay the fine because I had been there for 12 hours and the cell was filthy”.
According to the Mexico National Immigration Institute (INAMI), 42% of all deportations from the US to Mexico are done so thru Tijuana and Mexicali; over 200 thousand deportations in 2007 and more than 60 thousand in the first quarter of 2008.
An alarmingly high number of such deportations are of unaccompanied minors, according to INAMI´s regional director, Francisco Javier Reynoso Nuno, who said that 4, 219 minors with no adult companions where deported thru Tijuana in 2007, and in 2008, 1,156 minors have been deported so far.
“The number of deported minors is astonishing, especially after the immigration raids in California,”said Reynoso “that’s why we are getting ready, because we expect this year to set a new record in deportations”.
Despite there being International Agreements that establish unaccompanied minors should be deported only during the day and notification to local authorities, this agreements are often overlooked by US immigration officials.
Tonathiu Guillén, director of regional think tank, Colef, said unfortunately the US has not changed its “lateral repatriation” policy, consisting in deporting immigrants in places other than where they where arrested, sending them away from family networks.
“México has been really insistent in the request for a deportation process that focuses on human rights, but unfortunately it has not been successful, especially in the case of women and unaccompanied minors”, said Guillén.
In a joined effort to help vulnerable immigrants returning to their own country, non-profits and all levels of the Mexican governments have launched a new pilot program for a more humane return.
The program launched this week in Tijuana, with the support of the local Child Services (DIF) shelter, that guarantees immigrants food, shelter, temporary work and help getting in touch with their family.
Father Luiz Kendzierski, president of the Immigrant Support Committee and Immigrant House director said the important thing is action and a change of public policy from the Mexican government, starting with this pilot program.
“The important thing is to provide for the immigrants, asking, what are their needs? So the Mexican government is finally paying back some of what the immigrants provide to this nation,”said Kendzierski.
Among the priorities, immigrant rights activists find the need for proper ID´s for immigrants.
“Many times, the immigrants have been outside Mexico for too long and find themselves with no official ID when they return, making it hard to get hired and opening a window for corrupt authorities to try to extort them,” Kendzierski explained.
That’s why the plan they help the government design includes stages, to provide immigrants with an overall support network for them to get proper ID, secure jobs and help to get back to their places of origin.
In the mist of terrifying experiences, such as the one Oscar had with the police, the vain promises and good intentions of the past, Kendzierski considers this new program a ray of hope.
“As human rights supporters applaud the effort and we hope to see this pilot program expand thru the Northern border by the end of the year,” he added.