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Exiled From America: One Student’s Deportation Story

Exiled From America: One Student’s Deportation Story
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Written by Sydney Bouchat, a Campus Progress blogger

Hector Lopez is arrested before he knows his crime. At the age of twenty, the Portland State University sophomore discovers he is an undocumented immigrant while sitting in a federal holding cell in Portland, Oregon. After spending ten days at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, and before he could find a lawyer, he is deported to Mexico, knowing neither the people nor the language. This is only the beginning of what becomes a grueling four-month ordeal for Hector, away from his home, family, and friends.

You were arrested on August 23, 2010. What was that experience like? It must have been very difficult.
Absolutely, especially when you’re not expecting anything to happen, and with me not knowing anything about my legal status. At first, you’re kind of . . . you think it’s not real. Like, ‘Oh, you must have the wrong person.’ But after you realize that it is you that [the authorities] are after, it quickly puts you into a panic.

So you were not aware at the time that you were an undocumented immigrant?
No. I have a Social [Security number] and a driver’s license. And, you know, usually when you hear about people with immigration problems, you hear of them changing names or doing things to fit in, but I never had to do any of that. I figured if I was [illegal], my parents would have told me.

How exactly did the US immigration authorities go about taking you out of the country?
I thought that as soon as I talked to a judge, someone would come to their senses and realize that this shouldn’t be happening and everything would be okay. And then, [immigration] just said, ‘Hey you, you’re leaving today.’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know anyone. I don’t speak the language. What do you want me to do?’ They said, ‘Well, we can’t give you legal advice.’ At around 9 a.m. [September 1, 2010], I was taken from my cell. I was given my clothes back and then handcuffed at my waist, wrists, and ankles. Then I was put on a prison plane. It made three stops. It was a twelve-hour process. We landed in Brownsville, Texas, at about 9:30 p.m. that same day. From there, [the other deportees and I] were driven to the border and made to walk across.

You were made to transport yourself across international lines?
They kind of just drop you right off at the border. You can’t go anywhere because you’re immigrant of a federal area, so you only have one way to walk, and that’s toward Mexico.

At this time, where was your father? Was he with you?
No, my dad was going to ask for asylum, but when I got deported before him for no reason, he gave up his right to fight for his case so he could be with me in Mexico. He was deported about two weeks after me because he gave up his case. But this whole situation when I was deported was by myself.

You were in Mexico for two-and-a-half weeks before your father gave up his right to asylum to be with you. Describe that experience.
That [first] night, I went to the bus station that was a little ways away from the border. There was a group of about 150 of us that had just been deported. My phone was dead, so I couldn’t call anybody. I couldn’t ask for a hotel. Three people had gotten murdered in that area a couple hours beforehand. I found a gentleman who spoke some English and he told me I probably shouldn’t be leaving the bus station because it was dangerous. So I slept at the bus station that night. The next day, I called my mom, who told me to get a bus ticket to Mexico City, where a lady who was my mom’s old neighbor was going to take me in for a while. I took about a sixteen-hour bus ride from the border to Mexico City. The lady picked me up when I got to the bus station in Mexico City. I stayed there for almost two months.

What was it like living in Mexico?
I saw moms and children sleeping on the street. They were homeless. And I thought, ‘You know, where I grew up, we don’t let that happen.’ I wasn’t used to seeing things like that. I didn’t want to be there, but I couldn’t leave. The majority of the two months I spent in my room by myself. It was almost like I didn’t even have a life. It was too much to handle, and you just kind of hide yourself and try to deal with it.

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Photo from Noah Jaquemin via flickr creative commons

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31 comments

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4:17PM PDT on Oct 29, 2011

maggi m, when the politicians start following our laws, maybe then they can ask the rest of us to.

Who do you think mows their lawns and cleans their bathrooms?

4:07PM PDT on Oct 29, 2011

Reading people's comments on immigration articles is always disturbing. People who go on ignorant, hatred-fueled rants are so far gone, I wonder if human-kind has a chance. I hope that those who are more experienced and broadminded with compassionate hearts can one day overrule the narrow-minded, ruthless crazies who are completely clueless to the tragedies that occur outside of their petty little lives. I can only hope that articles like this can open people's eyes.

4:54AM PDT on Aug 25, 2011

Thanks for the article.

8:57PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

IF this is true, maybe his parent's should be put in jail. Again, IF it is true. I hate to hear that someone was unjustly arrested, etc, but damn- the world's tiniest violin plays- try going to their country illegally & see what happens. I think they were pretty harsh & pron unjust to him, considering his specific circumstances (again, IF his story is true) but then, at same time, illegal is illegal & allowing a free pass is a slap in the face to every legal citizen & PARTICULARLY every legal immigrant who's come here the right way. .

8:05PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

thanks for the info

5:48PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

Good idea Sandra, Show us your long form birth certificate....can't...oh too bad, you now get deported to Iran. Lets see you get by in a foreign country.....

5:13PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

I think U.S. should not deport illegal immigrants who is too young to remembered that they move to USA.

3:13PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

@ Marilyn L. , America does not take "good care of thier own".....And it does "hand everything to illegals", I know this from personal experience. I have no problem with anyone from anywhere entering this country "legally", BUT when they do not, they should be deported, that is the law. If we as American citizens have to "follow our laws", then WHY don't illegal immigrants? You cannot have it both ways, either EVERYONE follows the laws or NO ONE HAS TOO...

2:30PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

Pick up all the Illegals children that are of age, send them to their OWN countries, let them work in fixing them up, teaching all NOT TO BREAK THE LAW. You cannot tell me that the older children of Illegals do not know they are Illegal, it is all a SCAM, & the parents get free benefits for all the children they have, which needs to STOP. He stated he had a social security card and a drivers license, which State broke the laws by giving them to him, and did he show proof of auto insurance??? Corruption big time, now he will get free college as long as he stays an illegal, lmao, what a bunch of crap. DEPORT THEM ALL, they are stealing from taxpayers while the taxpayers children go without many things including "free education". This is discrimination to the legal citizens. OBAMA IS A TRAITOR TO THE LEGAL AMERICAN PEOPLE.

2:16PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

Either this kid is a great story teller or is painfully unaware of the plight of the homeless in this entire country. His statement that "we do not let this happen where he comes from", is ignorant at best. America has a very large homeless population. I speak from personal experience, when I had to live in the streets of So. California, I never once came across homeless "illegal women and children", why?, because they have been given all the assistance that an American citizen should have been given. When I applied for help I was turned down. The very clear message that I recieved was , if I was illegal I would recieve all that I needed. I have no problem with anyone who enters "any country" legally. Every country in the world has immigration laws, America is the only one that does not enforce thiers, which is something I will never understand. Just for an example: take a look at how Mexico handles it's "illegal immigrants", I say if Mexico's Immigration laws are good enough for them, then America's should be good enough for us, BUT our country won't follow it's own laws....I say this:"Enter America Legally, OR be DEPORTED" and as well "if you are here illegally, NO HELP from the U.S. Government with food, housing,medical, and no employment",. To many of our own citizens are without in this country, it is time that "Charity begins at Home". Let's take care of our own legal citizens first, just as many other country's in the world do.

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