Tijuana shelter offers relief for deported

Immigrants face desperate future in a country foreign to them

TIJUANA – On Wednesday morning, 26-year-old Rodrigo Rogero Navarro was waiting for something to happen in his life, perhaps a miracle.

It was his fifth day at Casa del Migrante, a shelter for homeless immigrants, where he had landed after being deported from Tacoma, Wash. He had lived there for 22 years, working in construction, and had started a family.

Penniless and alone, he had turned to the shelter like nearly 8,000 deported men have done this year, seeking a roof over the head as they try to figure out their future.

Supporters of the Casa are having their annual posada there Saturday evening, bringing a touch of the holidays to those there.

Rogero said he had been born in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, but had been brought illegally into the United States by his parents at age four, along with his siblings. In Tacoma he went to school, learned English – he only spoke Spanish at home and with fellow workers – and had gotten married and himself had children, Leonardo, 5, and two-year-old Jocelyn.

Another child is son the way, he added. He said his wife is five months pregnant but he's just found out that she's not doing well – she doesn't want to eat since he was deported.

"I have talked to her by phone. She tells me she's sad. My son asks me when I'm coming back. I get very emotional," he said, and begins to weep. "What am I going to do here? I don't have any identification, my Spanish is useless. I am afraid of going out on the streets. I don't know what I'm going to do."

On Tuesday, Dec. 6, he said, he was stopped by Tacoma police. The car he was driving was not registered to him and inside they found the remnant of a marijuana cigarette. He said that he had been careful to live a lawful life, and guesses the cigarette was left behind by one of the co-workers he gave rides to.

Rogero was arrested but was able to pay a $4,000 bail to be released. The next day, immigration agents were waiting outside his house.

"They did not give me an opportunity to speak to my attorney. I didn't eat for days; just last Friday I had something in the detention center.

"They looked at me like I was going to kill myself. They gave me anti-depressants. By Saturday they told me to put on my own clothes, that I was going to go to a better place. That's when they deported me."

Like Rogero, some 7,905 deported immigrants have arrived at Casa del Migrante this year, said Luiz Kendzierski, a Catholic priest and the shelter's director.

Their main characteristic is that that had lived in the United States a long time; some since childhood, others during all of their adult lives.

Despite statistics from the U.S. Border Patrol and Mexico's Immigration Institute that deportations dropped 40 per cent in 2011 compared to last year, the director said that the shelter's population has dropped closer to 8 per cent.

"Maybe it's because immigrants who have lived in the United States feel more vulnerable in this city," the director said. "They seek more help and support from Casa del Migrante."

The Catholic order of Scalabrinian Missionaries minister to immigrants, refugees and the displaced. They opened the Casa del Migrante in 1985 and offer shelter, food, and spiritual support to homeless immigrants who are in Tijuana hoping to make their way to the United States, or, increasingly, those who have been deported.

In 2010, this shelter gave lodging and food for 15 days to 10,300 immigrants; this year, through Wednesday, the tally was 9,300.

Some 85 per cent had been deported; the rest had arrived from southern Mexican states.

Kendzierski said the immigrants face the overwhelming situation of having been separated from their families and from a culture that is all they have ever known.

"Many will try to return to their homes (in the U.S.) in a few months, despite that fact that it's more complicated now because of the stepped up surveillance at the border, the abuse migrants face from smugglers, and, above all, the threat that if they are detained again they will go to prison for several years," the director said.

During the Obama Administration, the number of deported people has reached one million, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the majority returned to Mexico.

A leading immigration researcher, Douglas Massey, said in a recent lecture in Tijuana that there are currently 11 million Mexicans living in the United States, about 60 per cent of them undocumented. Three million of them were taken there as infants or small children. He called the deportations a human rights crisis, particularly those taken north as youngsters.

"These children grew up in the United States, they speak English," he said. In Mexico, "they don't have anywhere to go. They don't understand the culture, because after all, they have spent their entire life in the north. However, they have no possibility of advancing in the United States either because they are illegal."

The director of the shelter, Father Luis Kendzierski, shows the keys to cars and homes in the United States left behind by the immigrants who were deported. David Maung/SanDiegoRed.com



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