El Cero

short stories

Pouring back

With the recession, hostile US anti-immigration laws; especially in the border states of Texas and Arizona, and an unpredictable and potentially lethal security situation in Mexico, crossing illegally into the United States seems to becoming less and less attractive. My brother’s Costa Rican father-in-law has made the crossing twice in his life, however when I saw him a few months before he said he wouldn’t try again mentioning all of the above reasons. These sentiments are often repeated by migrants in northern Mexico. Many say the game has really changed in the last few years. The director of a Casa de Emigrante told me 3-4 years ago 80% of the people coming to the hostel were new arrivals from further south, now he says he’s dealing exclusively with deportees from the United States.

While I was there groups of 15-20 people were being deported every 6-8 hours or so. The hostels were filling up. Some had been in the US for years, some had wives and children they’d had to leave behind, some couldn’t really speak Spanish, some were good people who’d been unlucky, some had committed serious crimes. The majority of them had been directly affected by the changing political and economic climate in the US. Everybody serves time for committing immigration offenses now and they said the prisons were full of Mexicans. The BBC reported on this a few days later with some pretty high statistics, although many Central Americans will also claim to be Mexican so as not to be deported further south. The majority arrive in Mexico with no possessions and no money. Some say they’ll go back while others just want to go home.

For me I’ve seen too many photos of nameless black and brown hordes moving around borders, trying to find a better life. I felt no urge to photograph the scared and defenseless groups crossing the bridge, or the crowded rooms these ordinary people were having to live in. So I got to know a few that little bit better and tried to take a bit more of a dignified picture. I don’t think it works completely but I feel the idea’s sound and I’ll keep on working on it. There’s also a small chance I’ll get to follow some of these guys as they go back to meet their families, which for me is where the real magic would be.

Guadalupe from Sonora.

Guadalupe told me this year’s crops were destroyed by a wild fire so he went to the US to find work instead. He made the 5-day journey independently without the help of a Coyote. However he said the reception north of the border was very hostile, and in the end he spent 15-days in a Texan jail for breaking immigration laws before being deported. He headed home the day I took this picture and said there was no point in trying again. He’d rather be with his family, living off very little than go back to The States and the lottery of their immigration system.

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