April 19, 2010

The Contradictions of Deportations: Jaraguenses and Expedited Removals from the US

There are many ways for Brazilians to be deported from the United States. One of the most common ways is through “expedited removals.” All of the people I interviewed in Jaraguá, Brazil this past weekend were deported from the United States using the “expedited removal” provisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) – Section 235 (b) (1). Expedited removal allows Border Patrol agents to make a decision that a person is inadmissible if they are found within 100 miles of the border and have been in the US for less than twelve days.

Expedited removals can happen at airports or at land borders. For example, “Marly” traveled to the United States on a tourist visa. She overstayed her visa and remained in the US for over three years. She returned to Brazil to see if she could get visas for her children to join her in the US. She was unsuccessful and returned to the US on her own. When she arrived in JFK, it became apparent that she had overstayed her previous visa. She was held at the airport all day, and returned to Brazil the same evening. This is recorded as an “expedited removal” and shows up in DHS records as a formal removal – commonly called a deportation.

Expedited removals also can happen at the border. There often is not enough bed space at detention centers along the borders. As such, when Border Patrol agents catch undocumented migrants attempting to enter the US, they often have to release them with an immigration court date – called a “Notice to Appear.” Most people never return for their court dates and remained in the US illegally. In response, certain Border Patrol sectors began to implement expedited removals of some individuals in order to be able to deport more people and allow fewer to remain in the United States.

In 2005, for example, the Rio Grande Valley Sector of the Border Patrol began to selectively place only Brazilians in expedited removal programs (http://www.mre.gov.br/portugues/noticiario/nacional/selecao_detalhe3.asp?ID_RESENHA=160606 ). Whereas Hondurans and Salvadorans were released into the US with a Notice to Appear, Brazilians caught in the Rio Grande Valley Sector were placed in expedited removal proceedings where they waived their right to an immigration hearing and were deported to Brazil. This happened to “Sueli” in 2004 in the San Diego Sector. She was found attempting to cross into the US in the trunk of a car and agreed to be deported. She was sent back to Brazil within eight days.

The expedited removal policies were implemented selectively along the Mexican border. Coyotes in Mexico and Brazil learned which sectors were implementing expedited removal, which were detaining Brazilians on bond and which were releasing Brazilians into the US with a Notice to Appear. In response to this, coyotes chose new routes for Brazilians to enter the United States.

“Geraldo” was found in the desert near Nuevo Laredo in 2002. He had been abandoned by a coyote and he and his two companions walked for five days in the desert without food or water. When they arrived in Nuevo Laredo, Texas they were arrested by Border Patrol agents and placed in detention. Geraldo spent 82 days in detention before being deported to Brazil. Geraldo had such an awful experience he never wants to see the US again. In contrast, his two companions went back the next week and made it into the US – this time traveling through a different Border Patrol sector.

A friend of Geraldo’s went to the US a week later. He entered into a different Border Patrol sector, was arrested, and released within three days with a Notice to Appear. He continues to live in the US until this day.

Many Brazilians who hoped to enter the United States heard about these contradictory policies. They knew that it was illegal to enter the US via the Mexican border. But, they also heard that, once you are in the US, you are given “permission” to stay for six months. Of course, the coyotes they contracted embellished these stories saying that there is nothing illegal about crossing into the US. And, once you get in you are given permission to work and to stay for six months. Many Brazilians willingly sold all of their belongings to try their luck in the land of plenty.

Many Brazilians were lucky and made it into the US and worked to pay off their debts. Some avoided detection by Border Patrol agents. Others were caught and released by Border Patrol agents with Notices to Appear. Still others entered on tourist visas and remained past their time.

Many Brazilians also were unlucky and fell victim to their coyotes’ lack of knowledge or trickery. Some sell everything, don’t make it to the US and return deeply in debt. Others are abandoned by coyotes in Mexico or in the desert. Some meet a worse fate – they die of hunger or thirst in the desert.

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