He’d soon be bedding down at one of the three migrant shelters in Nogales. Albergue San Juan Bosco was almost at its capacity of 100 – an easy feat given recent, record-setting US immigration enforcement trends – and the stench of sweat-crusted clothes, dirt and creosote filled the men’s dormitory. Many at the shelter had recently been picked up by the Border Patrol (BP) days deep into the Sonoran Desert, a desert where BP found 192 migrants’ bodies in 2011. Others, like Alberto, had been torn from well-established lives and dropped off in a country as foreign to them as it is to most US citizens.
“I had the wallet, the other jacket and a cell phone and they didn’t give it to me. So I don’t have them with me right now,” he said in English. ‘They,” in this case, are the Washington police officers that arrested him and turned him over to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after he was pulled over without a valid license. ICE is the federal agency responsible for interior immigration enforcement. That arrest had happened several weeks prior in late January 2012, and his family hadn’t heard from him since. As far as they knew, Alberto had simply vanished. “I don’t have a way to call [my family] right now, to let them know I’m here in Mexico.”
He was eventually able to get a hold of his family,(1) and they told him to head south to Hermosillo, Sonora’s state capital and largest city, where he had relatives he hadn’t seen in over a decade. That’s likely where he is today, more than 1,500 miles away from Pasco, with the hyper-securitized US-Mexico border and increasingly punitive US immigration law separating him from his home and family.
“I can barely remember my grandma,” Alberto said in the shelter’s simple chapel. “It was a long time ago … I haven’t been here in ten years.” Like an increasing number of deportees, 22-year-old Alberto had spent much of his life in the United States. “I’ve been living in the United States for ten years. I grew up over there.”
When Alberto was 13, he arrived in Washington State, where he went to high school and earned a GED. He was driving to his job when he was arrested. His mom and younger sister are there. He speaks fluent English with a Northwestern accent.