By Murphy Woodhouse and ST McNeil
Alberto Laborin Villa got to Mexico with what he had on: a pair of slacks and a gray dress shirt. His pockets were empty: no money and no identification. He had no phone numbers either because his phone was back home in Pasco, Washington. Alberto was in Nogales, Sonora, now, and home was about as far away as a place could be for Alberto that night, his first after being deported.
He’d soon be bedding down at one of the three migrant shelters in Nogales. Albergue San Juan Bosco was almost at its capacity of 100 – an easy feat given recent, record-setting US immigration enforcement trends – and the stench of sweat-crusted clothes, dirt and creosote filled the men’s dormitory. Many at the shelter had recently been picked up by the Border Patrol (BP) days deep into the Sonoran Desert, a desert where BP found 192 migrants’ bodies in 2011. Others, like Alberto, had been torn from well-established lives and dropped off in a country as foreign to them as it is to most US citizens.
“I had the wallet, the other jacket and a cell phone and they didn’t give it to me. So I don’t have them with me right now,” he said in English. ‘They,” in this case, are the Washington police officers that arrested him and turned him over to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after he was pulled over without a valid license. ICE is the federal agency responsible for interior immigration enforcement. That arrest had happened several weeks prior in late January 2012, and his family hadn’t heard from him since. As far as they knew, Alberto had simply vanished. “I don’t have a way to call [my family] right now, to let them know I’m here in Mexico.”