February 11, 2017 was a particularly sad day at the aid center for migrants in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico where I volunteer. Early in the day, a man presented himself declaring himself to be a US Marine war veteran who was deported. He spoke in English, which appeared to be his first or preferred language. But, as most of the migrants there are Spanish speakers, they asked him to repeat his story for them. He complied, but stumbled some and sometimes struggled to find the correct words.
I was horrified at the story, particularly because he was clearly feeling so betrayed and so abandoned and forlorn.
Later that morning, I had the opportunity to visit with him privately. He told me that he graduated from high school in Colorado, where he lived most of his childhood. Immediately after graduation, he joined the Marines. Later he was shipped off to war.
War was a particularly traumatic experience for him, he told me. In fact, he said that he couldn't allow himself to think about that at the moment because it would induce emotional overload. He already appeared to be struggling, confused and fearful.
Rene doesn't have any family or relatives in Mexico, he told me. He doesn't know the country at all. He misses his family and feels isolated.
He also told me that his possessions and cellphone were taken from him by immigration authorities--and never returned. "They took anything that could connect me to anyone. I don't have any identification. They took it." Money? "Only fifty cents," he told me.
He feels like a victim of Trump's executive orders on immigration.
Although eager to record his testimony, I didn't want to further traumatize him. Fortunately, the staff had recorded his story in Spanish. My own rough translation follows:
My name is Rene ______. I’m a US Marine, Infantry Division, the 332nd. I was in the Afghanistan and Iraq War. That was a very rough experience for me. I lost many of my brother Marines who died in front of me. Many of them with expressions very grave when they were shattered with bullets.I haven't verified any of this information. I simply relay what I heard. You can make your own judgement.
I myself almost lost my life. I lost feeling in half of my face. My lip was destroyed and reconstructed. I have an injury in my private parts. I served the four years of my contract—my tour of duty—with the United States. I was returned. When I completed my tour of duty, I decided not to continue.
I have three little children—well, [unintelligible]. I’ve lived in the US for 24 years. It’s always seemed like my country. I gave up a lot for them. Nevertheless, the country—the President—made it easy for them to eliminate my documents and deport me. Because he feels like I’m a risk to the country. What I did for them wasn’t enough. Here I am in Mexico--without my family, without my children. I’m all alone, with only the assistance of these church people.
Who knows what the future will be for me?