“Please Save Us”
Almost 50 people held on immigration charges in New Mexico signed letters saying that if they are deported over the state's border, they will be immediately kidnapped or killed.
One missive, written in June in broken English, was sent to David Hill of the nonprofit No More Deaths by 21 detainees held at the facility in Torrance County, N.M. “Please save us,” they wrote. They pled to be deported through the Arizona or California border instead.
They said that if sent through either New Mexico or Texas, they will be kidnapped by a drug gang known as Los Zetas and will almost certainly die.
The detainees’ letter also says the municipal police in Mexico kidnap deportees and turn them over to gangs that hold them for ransom. “They take you to an abandon alley or house and waiting for you is this group Los Zetas at gunpoint your eyes are bandaged and your feet and hands are tied, and so begins the nightmare!”
“It's not entirely clear to us when, in fact, and how they're going to be deported and what their immigration status actually is.”
Peter Simonson, executive director of ACLU-NM
No More Deaths started a letter-
Other activist groups were relieved that dangerous deportations were being spotlighted, Hill says. Several national nonprofits, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have become involved in the case.
Peter Simonson, executive director of ACLU-
“The humanitarian consequences ... are enormous, as is evidenced by the case of these detainees that are terrified for their lives.”
Lena Graber, a policy associate with the National Immigration Forum
Simonson says he's unsure of the locations of some of the detainees. “It's not entirely clear to us when, in fact, and how they're going to be deported and what their immigration status actually is.”
No More Deaths released a statement on its website on Thursday, June 23, indicating that seven have already been deported. A volunteer with the organization, Hannah Hafter, says other letter-
Representatives of ICE declined to comment for this story but issued a response to the call for safer deportations. ICE recommends the detainees contact the Mexican Consulate with safety concerns. The response notes “ICE recognizes the current situation relating to violence in Mexico,” but the agency does not allow people to choose the location they will be deported to.
The statement goes on to say that as of March 3, ICE has not been deporting “criminal aliens”—that is, immigrants facing criminal charges unrelated to immigration status—through Ciudad Juárez.
Hafter says the response letter from ICE is upsetting. “It’s basically both acknowledging that they know that this is happening to people and saying that they don’t do anything about it, and it’s not their responsibility.”
Furthermore, reaching out to the Mexican Consulate or other government agencies for help could be dangerous. Simonson says the detainees told him in conversation that Mexican immigration services have been known to collaborate with drug cartels. He says the detainees told the ACLU that “the receiving immigration office is actually conspiring with the drug cartel to hand people over to the drug cartel so they can be held for ransom.”
ICE generally sends deportees to a different location from where they were apprehended, according to Lena Graber, a policy associate with the National Immigration Forum.
“They believe that it's part of a fair strategy of deterrence to re-
Hill of No More Deaths says getting people deported through Arizona or California would be a great help to the people who sent the letters, but more drastic policy reform is needed on the border.
“The things that people are experiencing immediately on deportation are happening all over the border—kidnappings, extortion, beatings, ” he says. “Obviously, we would like to see fundamental immigration reform.”