Juan was deported to Nogales, Sonora two years ago, and now lives separated from his U.S.-based family by a border and from his relatives in Chiapas by thousands of miles. Struggling to make ends meet and missing his wife and children, he occupies that in-between state so common to the deported, a life with uncertainty, vulnerability, resilience, and hope.
When Juan was deported to Mexico in 2015, he had lived in the U.S. for 20 years, working as an agricultural laborer harvesting oranges, broccoli, and onions, marrying, and raising two children. Though initially granted a work permit after his first detention and while still in the immigration court process, ultimately the immigration judge only allowed Juan to either accept a voluntary return or be formally removed. An attempt to return to his family in Arizona with the help of a smuggler resulted in his kidnapping, extortion of ransom from his family, and few available options for reunification.
Now Juan works at a recycling plant in Nogales, his meager wages of 900 pesos a week (50USD) barely covering his rent, and he subsidizes his income by making and selling bracelets through the women’s cooperative at the KBI shelter. On days off, Juan visits the comedor, shares in the meal and company there, lends a hand in washing dishes and cleaning up, and welcomes newcomers, occasionally helping then find work. Even as his resilience and faith have kept him going, staying connected and contributing to his new community, Juan’s greatest wish is to be reunited with his children. His story illustrates the heavy toll and uncertainties of family separation, touches on the criminal violence endured by both border-crossers and the deported, who are without protection or recourse, and testifies to the hopeful spirit that survives despite everything.
My name is Juan Andrés Jiménez and I’m from the state of Chiapas. I lived in a suburb called Salvador Urbina. I had to flee Chiapas because my land was threatened by another person who had connections with the military. After I was detained by the soldiers, and my land was seized, I didn’t have any money left so I started to think of going to the United States.
I worked there and met the woman who is now my spouse and we had two children. I lived in the United States for twenty years. But, unfortunately, since I was working, I one day was driving without a license and without papers. A sheriff’s deputy stopped me and turned me in to immigration officials. I tried to fight my case to obtain legal status. I was detained for ten months before I was granted a bond. I paid a $6000 bond and I was given a work permit. But shortly thereafter, I received a letter that ordered me to present at my next court date. In that same letter it said that my only option was a voluntary departure. So I arrived to my court and the judge told me that I wouldn’t qualify for any legal status.
I didn’t turn myself in because they were going to operate on my wife and I had to hide. But one day on my way out of work I was detained. I spent two and a half months in detention and after that time I was deported to Mexico.
I obtained a guide and met with him so that he could help me get across the border. But that isn’t what happened. He kidnapped me and tied me up. I was with one other man and a woman. I don’t know whether the woman was killed or if she is still alive, because they separated her. I heard that they were going to bring her where the other women were. I was alone at first and then another man arrived. They tied us up in the hills in the middle of the desert. We were just thrown to the ground. We were there for a night and a day. At dawn, I spoke with my family. The kidnappers charged a $6000 ransom for my release. Thanks to God my wife paid. It is the most difficult thing that I have lived. I simply pray to God for those people who harmed me so much and I continue living my life. It makes me sad because they separated me even more from my kids. When I talk to my children they ask me to come but I don’t have a way to do so. I don’t lose hope that someday I will see my children again.
Thanks to God that the sisters have helped me. From the moment I was kidnapped they were there for me. They helped me by involving me in the cooperative, where I make bracelets, which helps me have a little more money for my expenses living in Nogales. When I was sick they went to see me, and bought me medicine. I am thankful to everyone in KBI because they have helped me in the moment that I most needed it.
My desire to make it to the US is simply to be with my family. I hope that one day I might be back with my kids.
Me llamo Juan Andrés Jiménez, soy del Estado de Chiapas. Yo vivía en una colonia que se llama Salvador Urbina. Me tuve que ir a Estados Unidos por causa de un señor que nos quería quitar la parcela que teníamos que tanto nos había costado. Nos mandó matar, valiéndose de los soldados … nos metieron a la cárcel. Entonces, cuando salí de la prisión, salí sin dinero … Entonces me puse a pensar irme a los EE.UU.
Después seguí trabajando, pero me encontré con una mujer que tengo ahorita y me junté con ella, tuve mis dos niños que tengo. Ya no regresé para acá. Me quedé allá por 20 años. Pero…desgraciadamente, como andaba trabajando, andaba manejando sin licencia y sin papeles. Me paró el cherif, y él me entregó a migración. Estuve peleando el caso para que me dieran papeles. Estuve 10 meses detenido, hasta que alcancé fianza. Pagué $ 6 000. 00 Dólares de fianza y me dieron un permiso de estar trabajando. Pero al poco tiempo me llegó una carta y me ordenaban presentarme a otra corte. En la misma carta decían que nada más alcanzaba la salida voluntaria. Entonces yo me presenté en la corte y la jueza me dijo que no podía alcanzar papeles …
No me entregué porque iban a operar a mi señora y me estuve escondiendo. Pero un día iba a salir al trabajo y ahí me agarraron. Me volvieron a llevar a la cárcel. Estuve dos meses y medio en la Durango todavía. Sin derecho a comunicarme con mi familia. A los dos meses y medio, me fueron a sacar y me sacaron hasta México.
Conseguí un coyote y fui a entregarme para que me pasara. No fue así. Me secuestraron, me amarraron. Éramos dos hombres y una mujer. De la mujer ya no supe si la mataron o vive. A ella la apartaron. Oí que la iban a llevar donde están las otras mujeres. Primero estuve solo, luego llevaron al otro. Nos tenían amarrados entre el monte del desierto. Tirados en la tierra. Ahí estuvimos una noche, otro día. Cuando amaneció, hablé con mi familia. Me cobraron 6 000.00 dólares para que me soltaran. Gracias a Dios mi señora pagó. Es lo más duro que he vivido. ¨Porque a esta gente que me hicieron tanto mal, solamente le pido a Dios por ellos y yo sigo adelante. Me da tristeza porque me alejaron más de mis niños. Cuando hablo con mis hijos, me piden que me vaya, pero cómo, no tengo cómo. No pierdo la esperanza de volver a ver a mis hijos.
Gracias a Dios que ustedes, las madres, me han ayudado mucho. Desde que me secuestraron y con las pulseras y cuando me enfermé que fueron a verme y a comprarme la medicina. Y estoy muy agradecido con ustedes. Porque me han ayudado en el momento que más lo he necesitado.
El deseo de llegar allá a EE. UU. es por la familia. Espero algún día, volver a estar con mis hijos.