In Mexico, the bitterness of the exiles

“It’s sad to know that so many can pass, but I’m not.” The full reopening of the border with the United States on Monday raises the bitterness of Mexicans expelled to their home country by Washington after living long on the “other side” with their families.

“You could say my soul and my spirit are on the other side. Only my body is here,” sighed Martin Figaro Sanchez, 52, who lives in the border town of Tijuana on the outskirts of California.

Martin will only be a silent witness to the lifting of all access restrictions to the United States for passengers who have been fully vaccinated against Covit-19.

The 50-year-old was deported from California three years ago, where he arrived at the age of two.

He was arrested in 1994 after being without a residence permit for several years after the US Immigration and Border Service (ICE) “fooled” him with his “Aquarius” who had already taken him to prison. “They kicked me out for good.”

“I can not say when I will leave work: I’m going to see my children. No. Because this wall is there,” Martin continues, noting the beach and the border that stretches for a few meters. Waves of the Pacific Ocean.

At work, Martin, who speaks more English than Spanish, immersed himself in the American atmosphere in a call center that receives calls from American customers.

VoxCentrix has several hundred employees, 60 to 70% of whom are “Deportos”, says one of its managers.

– “Unjustly evicted”? –

In another border town, Ciudad Juarez, a few dozen expelled Mexicans are demanding the right to return to their “homes” on the pretext of being US military personnel.

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They spread the star-studded banner on the wall separating Juarez from El Paso, claiming it was President Biden’s promise.

Jose Francisco Lopez Moreno, 76, one of the veterans who claims to have served in Vietnam for a year, said, “We hope he will keep his promise and that he will soon allow us to reunite with our families in the late 1960s.

“I left the military in ’69, I got married and I have three children. It says about thirty members.

Called “Pacheco”, he was evicted in 2003 and remembers his “grandchildren” whom he did not know.

In July, the United States announced a pledge to repatriate “unjustly expelled” foreign soldiers. It remains to be seen whether this is Mr. Moreno’s position.

The deportation of Mexicans from the United States to their home countries in 2021 continued at a high rate.

According to the National Migration Agency (INM), Mexican officials say they have provided assistance to 181,0641 people “of Mexican descent who have been deported from the United States” since the beginning of this year. This is the same as for the rest of 2020.

The figure does not specify whether they were Mexicans deported to the United States several years later or after attempting to cross the border illegally.

“What does it mean + returnees + when you don’t even know that country?” Director Alex Kohari asks co-author Leo Matteo of the documentary “On the Line – Martin and Others Deported from the United States” from Tijuana.

The director of the film, which aired on French television, says Mexican deportees who have lived in the United States for a long time “do not feel at home” in Tijuana. “There is even a very strong refusal to accept that they are at home.”

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The multi-award-winning film is set to be screened in Tijuana in January using the border wall with the United States as a screen.

The chances of a return are slim. The case of Rocio Repoller is one of the most famous. The woman, in her fifties, was able to return to San Diego in May after a year and a half in Tijuana, thanks to the intervention of a lawyer.

With no criminal history, the Mexican has been deported three times since his first undocumented visit to the United States in 1988.

His case received media attention because one of his sons was an officer in the U.S. military.

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