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Guatemala: The Deported Return

Guatemala: The Deported Return

Written by James Rodríguez

Guatemalan nationals exit a plane and head for the Migration Office in Guatemala City’s La Aurora Airport after having been deported from the United States. Each week, fourteen flights arrive at La Aurora Airport from the U.S. carrying approximately 135 deportees per airplane. According to the Guatemalan General Board of Migration, the United States has deported 33,783 Guatemalan nationals between January 1st and August 31st, 2013. These numbers display a sharp increase from the previous year of 2012 when the number of deportees for the same period was a then-record 27,999. (1)

 

A migration employee welcomes deportees at the Migration Office in Guatemala City’s La Aurora Airport through a motivational speech: “Welcome back countrymen! You should be very happy because you all came back with the greatest gift of all: the gift of life. Go back to your families and feel good about yourselves because Guatemala is proud of you! Guatemala has once again proven its children are hard working people, because that was the reason you wanted to go the United States – to work!”

The 33,783 deportees during the first eight months of the current year are comprised of: 31,051 men, 2,475 women, and 257 minors under 18 years of age. Would-be adult migrants spend an average of two months at U.S. detention centers before they are sent back. (2)

Maria Estela Pablo (center), 20, from San Miguel Acatán, Huehuetenango, listens to instructions at the Migration Office in Guatemala City’s La Aurora Airport after having been deported from the United States. “This was my first time. I went so I could get ahead in life,” states Maria Estela, who travelled with her uncle who was not caught and remained in the U.S. “It actually was not as dangerous as I thought. I will probably try again at some point.”

Marvin Castillo, 29, from Chiantla, Huehuetenango, waits in line before registering at the Migration Office in Guatemala City’s La Aurora Airport after having been deported from the United States. Marvin declares: “I already spent four years in Cincinnati from 2003 to 2007, but I got deported. My wife and kids are with my in-laws here in Chiantla. I was held for two months in a Texas detention center this time. The gringos treat us like animals, but I will have to try again at some point as there is no work here, and I did not even finish my primary education.”

Leopoldo Francisco Cifuentes Perez, 28, from Palo Grande Hamlet in Chiantla, Huehuetenango, speaks with his family through a complimentary phone service at the Migration Office in Guatemala City’s La Aurora Airport after having been deported from the United States. Leopoldo, who cannot read or write, states: “This is the second time I try to reach my brother-in-law who is in Florida. The first time I was caught in 2010 in Phoenix, now I got caught in Houston. I have a wife and two kids and we do not have a home, so I will try again to go up North and earn some money to build my family a little house.” Francisco claims he lost his down payment of 13,000 Quetzales (roughly $1,600 US) to his Coyote, or smuggler. He was supposed to pay the remaining 25,000 Quetzales of the 38,000 Quetzales it costs to cross to the United States, but he was caught before reaching Houston.

Guatemalan deportees, whose shoelaces are removed by United States Homeland Security Agents, wait in line as they arrive at the Migration Office in Guatemala City’s La Aurora Airport. The Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates that from the 1.5 million Guatemalans that live in the United States, 60% of them remain as undocumented immigrants. (3)

Manuel Francisco Manuel, 53, from Nentón, Huehuetenango, signs up for complementary transport up to Huehuetenango City at the Migration Office in Guatemala City’s La Aurora Airport after having been deported from the United States. Manuel, who has two sons who have been living many years in Nashville, Tennessee, claims this is the 15th time he has been deported. “I have no land here, no money, so I will keep trying. My family is over there.”

Melya Cruz Vasquez, 21, from Sipacapa, San Marcos, waits for her number to be called so she can pick up her belongings at the Migration Office in Guatemala City’s La Aurora Airport after having been deported from the United States. Melya attempted to migrate to the U.S. for the first time along with her 17-year old brother, but she was caught in McAllen, Texas. When asked why they attempted the dangerous journey, Melya replies: “Because we need to help our family economically.” Melya has immediate relatives who work at the controversial Goldcorp Marlin Gold mine, but she states their salary is still not enough for everyone. She was separated from her younger brother and does not know of his whereabouts or wellbeing.

Relatives of deportees and money changers await outside the Migration Office in Guatemala City’s La Aurora Airport for would-be migrants who have just arrived from the United States after being deported. Despite the massive deportations, Guatemala is expected to receive a record 5.2 billion dollars in remittance money in 2013. (4)

 

Remittance money makes up roughly one-tenth of Guatemala’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a large percentage of Guatemalan families depend on it to make ends meet. (5)

Notes:

1. Agence France-Presse (AFP). “Aumentan 20,65% deportaciones de guatemaltecos desde EEUU.” elPeriodico. Guatemala, 2 de septiembre, 2013.
http://www.elperiodico.com.gt/es/20130902/pais/233860/
2. Ibid
3. EFE. “Remesas familiares aumentan 4,84% en ocho meses.” PrensaLibre. Guatemala, 5 de septiembre, 2013.
http://www.prensalibre.com/economia/Remesas-familiares-aumentan-meses_0_987501391.html
4. Op. Cit. Agence France-Presse.
5. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook.
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gt.html