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Buzzfeed: Immigrant Americans Get Deported to Mexico, and Struggle to Adjust

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At Buzzfeed today from John Stanton is a heartbreaking look at what happens after long-time US residents are deported to Mexico, how the Mexican government receives them, and how they must struggle to adjust to a country many of them have not seen in decades.

As the article mentions, immigrant detentions are up in the US by 38% this year, including a 156% increase in arrests of people who have not committed any crimes. This means that tens of thousands of mothers and fathers like Lourdes, Jesus, Maribel, and Roberto are being removed, people who have lived in America for decades with US-born children, who have been forced out of their homes and the country they called home, and left without their spouses or children.

They face a hard road to acclimation, often facing hunger and homelessness, and the non-profit groups which exist to help them in Mexico are strained by the number of deportations. To make matters worse, the Mexican government has been slow to devote resources to deportees, with some extremists – incredibly – even suggesting that they be locked up.

Read the full piece at Buzzfeed, or excerpt below:

It’s not even 7 a.m., but the day’s deportations have already begun at Nogales, one of several border checkpoints where the US churns out thousands of deportees daily, an increasing number of whom haven’t been to Mexico in years…

As of June 3, ICE had 968,773 removal orders for immigrants not yet in custody, according to [ICE acting Director Thomas] Homan. But as more and more of the deported population is made up of people who have spent significant portions of their lives in the US, there are needs that the aid groups operating in Mexican border towns are ill-equipped to provide.

“Now with this dramatic increase of people deported from the United States, what people need is a lot more than a plate of food and a place to sleep for the night,” said Joanna Williams, the 26-year-old director of education and advocacy for the Kino Border Initiative, which assists migrants.

“What they need is assistance in reintegrating into their communities.”

That reintegration can prove difficult…

The shock of going from having a home, a job, and money in the United States to being destitute in Mexico takes a heavy psychological toll, as does the separation from families, particularly among deportees with children.

Combined with a lack of good legal advice, this can lead desperate deportees to make bad decisions. Many, still shell-shocked from being thrown out of the country they’ve come to call home, hastily try to cross back into the US through the extremely dangerous Sonora desert, which has claimed untold hundreds of lives.

Others simply hang around in a haze, believing that something, somehow, will change and they will be reunited with their families.

And then there are people like Efrain Bautista Dominguez, who, less than week after being deported to Nogales, still doesn’t understand why it happened.

Everywhere he goes — El Comedor, the Don Bosco migrant shelter, the streets — Dominguez clutches the brown folder that holds everything he has left from his time in the United States: a certificate of completion from an alcohol abuse class, documents related to his deportation, and a small notepad in which he keeps important numbers.

After 14 years in the United States, first in North Carolina and then in Arizona, Dominguez had put down roots. He had a good job, was married, and felt like he was part of his community. The government even knew he was living in Arizona but had deferred attempts at removing him, opting instead to require that he check in with immigration officials periodically.

Like a stunned man hastily retelling a harrowing tale of survival in the immediate aftermath of a bad car crash, Dominguez tells his story in a rushed, stream-of-consciousness cadence, randomly mixing English and Spanish and flitting from one point to the next. Though there’s panic and sadness in his eyes, he speaks of his life in the United States as if it hasn’t ended and makes clear he’s still in shock.

“America, for me? It’s nice! Big people, lots of respect,” he said with the confident smile of someone who doesn’t realize that that life is gone…

While job training, mental health, and housing programs will cost the government money, they could help make deportees — many of whom have US high school degrees and job skills — productive members of Mexican society. For instance, a 2015 study by Mexico’s National Institute of Migration of deportees in Tijuana found that 1 in 4 had a high school diploma and most spoke English.

That, Williams argued, makes the deported a significant, untapped resource. But under the current system, “people who have skills … end up in low-wage factory jobs,” she said.

So far at least, there’s little sign that the Mexican government, which did not return requests for comment, is going to come to the rescue. There’s a government-run program to assist Mexican citizens in setting up small businesses after they’ve returned to their home towns, and earlier this year the government helped release an app for Android phones that undocumented people in the US can use to alert family members that they’ve been detained. But on the ground in border towns, there’s little evidence of the sort of concerted effort NGOs believe is needed from either the government or international institutions. Although the Jesuits and Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist fund Kino’s work, groups like the UN and international refugee NGOs are focused on areas like Syria and not the US’s southern border…

What, if anything, government officials will do to address the problem is far from clear. In the past, officials have insisted the small amount of assistance they provide deportees — such as free bus tickets to their state of birth or access to computers to print their birth certificates — has been adequate.

But if the increasingly hostile attitude toward deportees among many wealthy Tijuana citizens is any indication, things could get worse. During a “community” meeting set up by the city’s government and well-to-do residents, Zuniga said, a city official floated the idea of simply building jails to house new deportees.

“They were thinking they need not shelters, but detention centers. They [see] what is happening with detention centers on the other side [of the border], and they want to do something modeled on that here,” Zuniga said incredulously.

“To me, that sounds like concentration camps.”

Read more about the stories of recently-deported immigrant-American fathers who must now struggle to adapt: