A new report from the American Immigration Council features harrowing quotes from eight women who fled horror and violence in Central America to the US, but were eventually deported back to their home countries.
“First-hand accounts from Central American women and their family members…reveal the dangerous and bleak circumstances of life these women and their children faced upon return to their home countries,” note the report’s authors in “Detained, Deceived and Deported: Experiences of Recently Deported Central American Families”.
“The testimonies reveal that for the most part, upon return these women live in hiding, are terrified to leave their homes, are confronted with extreme hardship, receive frequent threats, and have no access to any protections or assistance from state institutions.”
“The testimonies from these women and their partners also expose the traumatic conditions that characterize the removal process, which regularly involve the use of misleading information and threatening tactics by U.S. authorities.”
Francisca, a 29-year-old mom fled gang violence with her two young children in 2015. They were deported back to El Salvador — after being held in the Karnes Detention Center for nearly a month — when officials determined “they did not have credible fear” claims for asylum:
“Since I’ve been deported I am living imprisoned in my own home. I don’t go out because I am afraid. Afraid that they—the people I am running from—can do something to me, or to my two kids.
When I was gone, while I was in the United States, they were monitoring my house… coming around looking for me and asking for me. Those guys, so far they don’t know I am here, and I haven’t seen them either. We couldn’t return to where we lived before because they were looking for me. So we had to come live with my mother, but I can’t go anywhere since no one [can know] I am here. We don’t have any freedom. I am hiding from them…for now we are only safe until one of them finds out [we are back]. We are trusting and hoping in God that no one finds out.
My kids don’t know what is going on, and I won’t tell them. This isn’t something that little kids should know about, and I don’t want them to know. They would be traumatized if they knew. I live imprisoned and I can’t go out to the street because they could do something to me and my kids.
And look, the reality is that there are [no protection options] here. We see that the police are somehow connected to the gangs. So you realize it’s better to resolve things on your own, because they [the police] are in with the gangs. There are probably others [police officers] that are afraid of the gangs. But either way, they can’t help.
Gabriela, also from El Salvador, fled with her three young children in 2015 after the powerful MS-18 gang threatened and attempted to extort her.
Gabriela and her children were detained at a center in Texas for 48 days, but were then deported “while their requests for reconsideration of their negative credible fear determination were pending with the asylum office”:
“The men who were threatening me before I left have called me three times since I got back to El Salvador. They call demanding that I join their gang, because they have asked me for money again and I won’t give it to them. These are the same men that were threatening my sons before we left the country, and now that they know I am back they are calling to threaten me too. They are telling me I have to join the gang now…it’s really distressing.
The first time they called they told me that if I didn’t join the gang they were going to kill me and take my children. Then they called me again and told me I had to join the gang. The last time they called me was [a few months ago], because I keep changing my phone number…The last time I got a new phone number [I] thought they weren’t going to call me anymore, but within four days they were calling me again.
Here, because of the MS (gang), the police can’t take care of the neighborhood and are the ones that are helping the gangs. And the gangs say they are taking care of the neighborhood…but there’s no protection from anything because they are the ones threatening everyone, harassing everyone. How would there be any protection for me here?
I don’t have the protection of anyone and it’s very scary. It’s extremely hard for me to be here, without the protection of my husband, without protection of my family or anyone. There are a lot of gang members here everywhere on the corners of my neighborhood…I’m always afraid that I might run into one of them and they’re going to hurt me. For now I just ask God to help me. At night I make sure that I lock the door before it gets dark and I stay inside with the kids.
The full report, available here, features six more stories from other women, and represent “just a fraction of the women and children” who fled unimaginable circumstances in their home countries, only to be failed by nation that continues to be a “self-proclaimed global leader in refugee protection.”