Deported to the Interior of Mexico: Data and Life Stories

Guadalajara, Mexico, June 25, 2020 – Repatriations or deportations by air to the interior of Mexico began in 2012 as a pilot program operated jointly between the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) and the National Institute of Migration (INM). The program intended to prevent deported migrants from attempting to re-cross into the United States and to facilitate their return to their communities of origin in Mexico. In 2013, the program became permanent, receiving two flights per week at the Mexico City International Airport; however, in mid-2018 the North American government unilaterally suspended it. In December 2019, the “PRIM” was resumed, changing its headquarters to the Guadalajara Airport, but it was temporarily suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. After the pandemic, PRIM was re-implemented, now at three airports: Mexico City, Guadalajara and Villahermosa. This implies a greater number of deportees to the interior of the country, with six weekly flights (two per week to each airport) in which 135 deported people arrive on each flight.

Casa Scalabrini was invited by the Jalisco representation of the INM to join the PRIM to offer their services to the deportees upon arrival at the airport. Since 2017 we have established a comprehensive accompaniment program for Mexicans, men and women, deported from the United States, who for some reason are established in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area. In the module that we have at the airport, we offer our sisters and brothers: temporary accommodation, food, change of clothes, shoes, toiletries, medical care, spiritual accompaniment, legal advice, advice to process official documentation and to get a job.

Although the vast majority return to their places of origin, several need a few days to decide what to do after being deported. From January to March 2020, we have accompanied 103 deported people; the majority originating from Guerreo, Oaxaca, and Chiapas.

These are the stories of some deportees to Guadalajara that we have met at Casa Scalabrini.

Eli is a 27-year-old single mother, originally from San Luis Acatlán, Guerrero, where the Tlapaneco dialect is vastly spoken. She finished her high school studies, however, she did not continue studying because she was diagnosed with arthritis. She started working in a restaurant and then in the agricultural fields. Since she was earning very little, she decided to migrate to the United States with her 5-year-old son (the boy’s father abandoned her after learning of her illness). The reason why she decided to emigrate was to improve the economic situation and give her son a better future. In addition to this, she was concern that in a couple of years she could not do anything due to her illness. Before crossing the border, she left her son in the care of a lady, who she thought worked with the “coyotes” in Piedras Negras. The coyotes planned that she and her son would come first. However, after walking 10 minutes, she was detained by ICE. As her first irregular entry to the United States, she lasted three days in the Tucson, Arizona detention center and was deported to the Guadalajara Airport. When she arrived at our Shelter, she expressed shyness, concern, sadness and was confused by the place where she was deported. She thought that she was going to be located on the border. Her dream of arriving in the United States with her son did not stop. The next day, she traveled to Hermosillo to look for her son and try to cross again in the hope of not being detained and deported.

Leo was born in Miahuatlán, Oaxaca. He is 23 years old. To improve his financial situation, he decided with his wife, Juliana, to migrate to the United States. Some relatives of Leo who had already emigrated helped them financially to make the trip and hire the coyote. As they crossed the border, they were detained and taken to different detention centers. He remained five days in Yuma, Arizona; then he was deported to Guadalajara. As he did not know anything about his wife, he stayed in our shelter to be able to communicate with her. After 6 days without knowing where his wife was, he decided to start working in a taco store to save money and be able to meet his wife. A month after being at home, his wife was deported to Nogales, Sonora, Juliana contacted Leo and they decided that she would travel to Guadalajara to meet Leo and return to Oaxaca together.

Paulino, 18, and Martina, 20, were born in Cochoapa, Guerrero. They are brothers and speak Mixtec dialect. They finished their high school studies in San Miguel and later their dad helped them to go to California with another brother to work in the fields. They were detained for five days in San Diego, CA. They were deported to Guadalajara. When they arrived at our shelter, they did not share much of their life, they were shy, probably due to their culture; however, they expressed their desire to try to cross again to improve their financial situations. Their family sent them money to return to Tijuana with the intention of crossing again.

Our mission is to offer them a safe place to go and prevent criminals from profiting from them and their needs so as not to be victims of abuse, extortion, rape, and enforced disappearances. On the other hand, we also guide them so that they are the ones who make the decision on what to do after being deported. For some of them, the main motivation to emigrate is to improve their economic situation and be able to offer their families a better life. Although they are deported, many of them will try again so that the “investment” they made in emigrating is not lost.

Carlos Andrés Méndez and Fr. José Juan Cervantes, c.s.


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