The Immigrants Deported to Death and Violence
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The Immigrants Deported to Death and Violence
Sarah Stillman reports on people who fled their home countries fearing for their lives, and the tragic consequences when they were sent back.
Released on 01/08/2018
It's long been written into U.S. law
that if you come here fleeing,
and really do believe you will face particular forms
of persecution, then you deserve protection here.
That has been just so fundamental,
to the essence of this country.
They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime,
they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.
Almost the moment Trump got into office
he begun issuing executive orders
that changed the idea of who is deportable.
[Interviewer] Let's just talk about who Laura was
and what had happened to her.
So Laura was a 22 year-old mother of three boys
in South Texas and she'd been living undocumented
in the U.S. for a long time.
One night, she got off work and was driving home
with her colleagues pretty late,
and they got pulled over by a local border cop,
he said, are you documented or undocumented?
She acknowledged that she was not here legally,
he called Border Patrol.
This is a woman who had been routinely abused
by her romantic partner, to the point that
she sought a protective order against him,
she received that order, and he was deported.
He had joined a drug cartel right back across the border
in the same area where she was from, and she knew,
because he'd been threatening her with death,
that she faced a very, very serious risk
of harm if she was sent back.
And she told this, right away, to the policeman,
she said again and again,
I fear I will be killed if you send me back.
When I am killed next week, my blood will be on your hands.
You're sending me back to the slaughterhouse.
And they presented some forms to her
at the Border Patrol station,
it's called a voluntary removal form,
and she was told that she had to sign.
So, at sunrise, she was crossing the bridge
directly into Reynosa, Mexico,
which is known to be a Zetas cartel stronghold.
It's there that a few days later, he indeed strangles
and sets her body on fire, and kills her.
So one of the things that was interesting
about this reporting process is that it actually began,
far before Trump was even elected.
I set out with a team of students
in a graduate school class I teach at Columbia,
we picked four or five local legal aid providers
that help immigrants, and we asked them,
have you heard of anyone who was deported to their death
or deported to other kinds of harm?
We basically set out to assemble a database of harm.
Really documenting all the different ways
that people can get harmed after they're deported.
And then we set off to find these people.
And mostly these are women and men coming from
Central America's Northern Triangle,
so the countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
So many of the families I've spoken to who came here
actually came here fleeing violence.
They don't come here just because they wanna take our jobs,
or make a lot of money.
They many, many, many, many times come here
because they really do fear for their lives.
If you don't join this gang, we're going to kill you,
or we are going to kill your mother,
or we are going to kill your entire family.
Oftentimes, the people I interviewed
came explicitly telling the U.S. Government
they wanted protection, not trying to sneak in,
in fact reporting directly to Border Patrol,
and then they were never given that chance,
despite the fact that the law requires it.
Maria, Laura's mom, has taken on a lot
in the aftermath of her daughter's death.
Including, really being the primary caretaker for the kids.
I do remember that one of the things she said to me was,
I wanna show you this little miracle,
this thing that I find very surprising,
and she walked off into her bedroom,,
and she went and grabbed a box, and she brought back
in her hands a bunch of Laura's clothes.
And she handed it over to me, and gave this pile
of Laura's waitressing clothes, and I remember like,
she said, the crazy thing about this is
that Laura's still there, and the clothes smell fresh.
So, the big takeaway for me, under Trump, has been,
if you're going to massively expand the numbers of people
who are deportable, and you are not going to afford them
the conventional due process that we have
written into the law, and that we have agreed to
in the International Law as well,
there are going to be real consequences.
The consequences have been death,
or the consequences have been sexual assault,
or kidnapping, or all these kinds of things
that we want to look away from.
How we think about ourselves as a country
is that we have always been a nation of refuge.
And that is changing, and that is evolving,
as we send back more and more people who
have fled legitimate forms of violence,
and who may have very, very good
legal claims to seek protection here.
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