An Absolutely True Story of Being Deported at Age 14

At first, I was scared to share this story about me getting deported. First of all, I am not a good writer yet. I am only 16 years old. English is my second language. Spanish is my first. So when I decided to tell this story, I asked my English teacher to help me. I am telling this to him right now and he is writing it because he thinks people should know about my story in my own words. I’m also scared to tell this story because it is true, it is painful, and it affects me to this present day. I no longer feel safe walking around in public, but this is supposed to be my home-- where I live and go to school. This is supposed to be the land of opportunity and freedom, and that is all I am hoping for, even though it’s hard for me to believe in now. The following story was originally written by me, but most of the grammar and spelling errors were corrected with the help of my teacher (Mr. Carrillo), who understands that sometimes the rules just don’t make sense.

Everything began the morning of May 20 of 2009 at 8:02 am on my way to school. I was in Old Town waiting for the bus that I usually take to get to school. That morning was different. When I saw that the bus arrived, I walked toward it as usual. But when raising my right foot on the bus, a man with normal civilian clothes got close to me. He pulled my arm, asked for my name and, in a matter of seconds, showed me his badge he had in his jacket. It was like a quick snap and I didn’t really get to see what it said on the badge. I tried to ignore the guys because, first of all, I didn’t know him and second, I didn’t do anything bad. I turned around and tried to get on the bus again to get to school but things got worse. He pulled at me again and started asking me serious questions.

More people started to come and gather around me. That’s when I realized something serious was going on. They kept on asking me questions about my name, where I live, and if I was born here, but I simply replied to them: “I don’t know you and I’m not going to answer your questions.” All I heard come from his mouth clearly was “I’m an agent,” and I started to get scared. He insisted and kept on asking me and as I saw more people were coming. I started to get more nervous and more scared. Another agent asked me what my name was and where I was from. I didn’t know what to say. I felt like I was in a movie. So I said what they said in the movies. I told them I wanted to make a phone call and that I needed to speak with my lawyer. They said “NO!” forcefully, then “Answer our questions!” So I told them in Spanish “Compa no voy a responder tus preguntas hasta que haga una llamada,” meaning: “Friend, I’m not going to answer your questions till I make a call.” The agent got angrier and came close to my face and aggressively responded in Spanish: “Yo no soy tu compa y si quieres problemas you will have them with me!” meaning: “I am not your friend and if you want problems (you will have them with me!)” I said to him that I did not want problems. All I wanted was to make a call because they were strangers. And I was afraid and confused. I didn’t know what to do.

The agents gave me the feeling that if I didn’t answer something could go very wrong, so when they asked me again where I was born I simply replied to them: “Mexico.” That was a fact—but I didn’t think it was a problem. Maybe because I had lived here for such a long time, attending school and making good friends. But they didn’t care. All they said to me was “Stand up!” and took away my school folder and handcuffed me. At that point I felt so bad and embarrassed because they were doing all this in front of my friends and also because there was nothing I could do as a minor. I didn’t know it at that moment, and maybe they didn’t know it either, but I was considered a “minor” because I was only 14. They walked me toward the parking lot where they were all hiding— like they were camping out before a sports event. I remember asking the guy grabbing my handcuffed hands: “What type of agent are you?” All he said was “Immigration agent.” Another agent with civilian clothes searched me. He checked me to see if I had any drugs or weapons or things like that. They took my Ipod for “security reasons” and seated me on the floor.

In back of me there was a young girl who was crying. I realized later that it was another minor-- a student that was probably going to get deported along with me. Alongside me, there were two other agents that were young-- around the age of 20. I kept asking them if I could make a call, and they finally replied to me, “No, not until we process you.” Later I asked another agent, and he said the same thing “No.” They were good at ignoring me—like I wasn’t even there. Later a different agent approached dressed in green with his immigration uniform on. He told me “Stand up. We’re going to put you in the back of the truck, but first I have to check you.” I said, “They already did.” Without caring what I said, he grabbed my arm hard and pushed my head towards the truck, hitting the right side of my face and head on the door. Pressing his elbow on the back of my head and holding my hands, he began to check me. He pulled my wallet out and in an angry tone he asked me “You know why you are here?” I said “No”. He told me, “You’re here because you’re illegal and don’t have proper identification.” I told him that I was on my way to school. I had homework to turn in. He ignored me and didn’t respond. He tightened his hand around my fingers, cracking them, and then let go of me and by pushing me in the back of the truck.

There were nine other adults sitting in the back of that truck. I was the only minor out of all of them. The truck was more like a van inside with bench seats that made everyone face each other. I was at the end, near the back window. From the window of that truck I was able to see my high school friend that I ride the bus with outside. She came up looking for me but the border patrol agent told her they had already took me away, while I was right there listening through the cracks, still there in the truck. They moved my friend out of sight with the border patrol agent. I think they handcuffed her too so she wouldn’t try to rescue me. At least that’s what I thought at the time.

They drove us to the Imperial Beach processing area where they process all of the undocumented people that they arrest. Once we arrived, my legs started to shake. I was in shock. My body wasn’t responding the way I wanted it to. The place looked like a prison. I was helpless. They got us out of the big truck and made us get in a straight line. They walked us to a plain door and made us line up facing the wall. As soon as I turned and faced the wall I asked if I could go to the bathroom, but they wouldn’t let me go. They told me to turn around and to stop asking questions. After a while of standing up and facing the wall—I didn’t understand why-- it was time to put us in a room. That’s when I got separated from the adults. They put all of the adults in one room and I was sent to a different one because I was a minor. There was one other minor in there. He was as scared as me. We became friends. After 30 minutes of being there with him and talking about what happened and what might happen next, they took me out to process me which meant that they would take my fingerprint, photo, my name and a report of why I was getting deported.

When they were taking my fingerprint and photo I heard everything that the agents were saying. They thought that I couldn’t understand them, but I could understand everything. I hated how they were making fun of me—of us. Making fun of Mexicans. At that point I was so stressed out, mad, sad-- I just can’t really explain my feelings in that moment. I was still afraid, but also getting angry. And I was alone. I asked one more time if I could make a call and they told me to wait fifteen minutes. I started feeling something in my throat that made it so I couldn’t speak for a minute. I grabbed my throat. I remembered that I did not eat any food or drink anything since 7 am. I asked for water and without thinking twice they gave it to me. Maybe they thought I was going to vomit. Maybe, for a second, they could see that I was only a kid. They put me back in the room with my new friend. Thirty minutes passed and I was wondering what was going on with the call they said they would let me make. One of the agents who had stopped me came and asked me if I wanted to make a call. I replied “Yes!” And soon I was dialing my dad’s number. They wouldn’t even let me do a private call though. They had me on speaker where all the agents could hear what we were talking about.

As I was making the call I saw many different pictures on the wall and I realized the racism of the agents toward immigrants. I saw a picture that made tears drop through the inside of me because it was so shocking. The picture was of an undocumented Mexican immigrant in the middle of the desert, only wanting to cross for a better future, but on his back was the shooting sign, the target symbol for a gun, and it said “YOU ARE THE TARGET.” I couldn’t believe it. It was as if shooting an illegal immigrant was like hunting animals to some of those agents. And here I was, surrounded by them. My dad said he would talk to my mom and a lawyer and we would talk again soon. That was it.

After the call I was sent to stand by the wall and wait till the other minor finished his call. Then one of the agents came to me and asked me why I was pulling an attitude with them when they stopped me, just because of the call I wanted to make and because I wanted to talk to a lawyer. He told me “Even if you call your lawyer, he can’t do nothing for you. Lawyers won’t help you. They’ll just take your money away.” Before he was finished making me feel even more helpless he said, “Anybody who is not an immigration agent can’t come here, so your lawyer won’t be able to step foot in here anyways.”

They put me inside the holding room and after 5 minutes got me out again to speak with one of the Mexican consulate people. Then I got to talk to my mom for the first time that day. Tears wanted to come out of my eyes but I had to hold them in because I was around so many people with no emotions. My mom, trying to make me feel better, told me that everything was going to be okay. Her words healed my heart for a second, but not all of it. I was still going to be away from her and helpless and have to experience what any adult undocumented person who gets arrested goes through.

After speaking to my mom they pulled me aside and told me to sign a paper. They said it was a paper that every undocumented person signs when they’re getting deported. A man explained to me a little bit about the paper in Spanish first, and then proceeded to read me the paper in English. The paper was based on three different statements. The first one was “I accept that I am illegal and I want to go back to my country”; the second one said “I am scared of going back to my country”; and the third one said “I want an audience with a judge.” He gave me a pen and just stared at me, waiting for me to sign the paper. At that point I remembered everything that my mom once told me in case I ever got deported: ‘Don’t sign anything!’ So I told him I wasn’t going to sign the paper. The man told me “You see all the people over there, well they sign it because they know what’s going to happen next.” I responded to him, “I have no idea what’s going to happen next because I’ve never been deported before in my life.” I was horrified at what might happen next. Scared, I asked him, “What happens if I don’t sign it?” He said, “Nothing. I will just put down that you didn’t want to sign.” I picked up the pen and gave it back to him and told him I was not going to sign the paper. I don’t think it mattered.

They took me back to the room with the adults and told us that in 10 minutes the truck that was going to take us to San Ysidro was going to arrive. When it arrived they moved us out of the room. Nobody was talking. They gave us our stuff and put us in the back of the truck. We arrived to a building in San Ysidro minutes later where we met with the Mexican consulate people to talk to us before we got officially deported. I was sitting and waiting for about 30 minutes but it was like an eternity. I felt the time wasn’t moving at all. All that was on my mind was: What is going to happen to me? I know no one in Tijuana! What am I going to do without my family? Without anyone? Without any money? Being in the waiting room was the worst thing ever. They pulled in a lady with her kid, treating them bad as if they had committed a crime. I remember hearing the screams of the agents toward this lady. “This is not your child, why do you have him!?” The other agent: “I want to see you suffer in prison for doing this!” and many more things that sounded very extreme and angry. At the end, they found out the lady was the mother of the kid. Then they let them go without saying sorry.

After the guy from the Mexican consulate came in, he took us into his office where we talked about what happened and what would happen next. He asked some more questions and then he asked who Raul was. I responded “That’s me” because I hoped he could help me or had good news that would end this whole bad dream of a day. He told me, “So you are the one that your teachers are looking for.” I said, “I think so.” That made me feel better, but I didn’t think the people at my school could do anything to help me. After that meeting the agents took us to a different room that was more like a prison with just one window but metal bars around it and a metal door. They told us that we were going to wait there for a little while before they took us to the DIF (Distrito Infantile Familiar) in Tijuana. That’s when tears started to come out. I couldn’t hold them back anymore. My emotions got worse. I cried and cried and had the worst feelings ever. I then realized I felt the suffering of hundreds or thousands of people being forced out of a country and getting separated from their family members without knowing if they’d ever see them again.

I had it in my mind that people-- documented or not-- had some basic human rights, especially if they are minors-- kids. But in this case things weren’t like that. I was speechless. Even if I could talk I felt voiceless. I asked my new friend why they were doing this to us. He just shook his head and closed his eyes in pain. The Mexican consulate guy came alongside us with a border patrol agent. They got us out of the room and took us straight to the truck that was going to take us to the border and then to the DIF.

When I arrived at the DIF the sun was going down, and it occurred to me that it wasn’t worth crying any more. I was already out of the United States and without my family. But I felt that my future dreams of having a good education, a career and a good life were all crashing into nothing. The DIF worker was trying to be nice. He let me make a call and I called my mother right away. When I heard her voice my heart crashed again and I started crying. That’s when I felt I was nothing without her and my family. She cried too and asked me about my entire day. It was hard to explain what it felt like to be treated as a criminal; to be treated less than a human being. For some reason I remember the smell of the floor at that moment. They used too much detergent to clean that floor. It smelled like Mexico. ‘How was I going to get back to my family?’ My mother told me that I had a cousin in Tijuana and that she would come to get me so I didn’t have to stay at the orphanage. She told me they would be able to get me back to San Diego soon. She told me not to worry. That everything would be okay. Even though I was still very scared and confused and angry, she made me feel better.

Well, for me, the next part of my story had a happy ending. I was able to come back to the United States and with permission from a nice judge in San Diego who realized I was doing well in school and was not dangerous to society. It is strange to think that anyone would ever think I was a “danger to society.” I was 14 years old then, 16 now, and am not a bad person. I just want to have a happy life with my family and be a good person. I feel lucky to be here, and be back at school. Sometimes, on my way to and from school, or when I am outside talking to friends, I am afraid that an agent will come out of nowhere, arrest me and take me away again. Sometimes I have real nightmares about being deported again. That’s when I pray that I will have a chance to live and work here as a full and legal citizen some day… Some day.

By Raul and Mr. Carrillo

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Raul, you are so brave to tell your story. I can't imagine that happening to anyone, let alone a boy of 14. Thank you for sharing with us.

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