REYNOSA, Mexico – By the time they reached this border town down the road from McAllen, Texas, after being deported from the U.S., the three Mexican women had decided to stick together.
Rosa Maria Martinez, 49, of Joliet, and Adriana Acosta Hernandez, 36, of Indianapolis, had been shipped out of the U.S. through the immigrant detention facility in Broadview on Friday morning. The airplane in which they traveled stopped in Kansas to pick up more deportees, and they met Toribia Peñaloza Torres, 45.
About 9 p.m. they found themselves on a dark street near a bus station, frightened to walk to the Casa del Migrante, a shelter for deportees and migrants, because of the city’s reputation for killings and shootouts.
Others decided to sleep on the floor at the bus station, unsure if the shelter would take them late in the evening.
The women decided to immediately head to the shelter because Peñaloza Torres was struggling with abdominal swelling, pain and nausea.
“There are good people,” Acosta Hernandez said at the shelter, where I interviewed them. “A Mexican taxi brought us here and stayed until they opened the door.”
They talked of suffering indignities during the deportation process and expressed gratitude for food, clothes and a measure of self-respect they had regained at the shelter, where most deportees stay three to five days, until loved ones send money for bus tickets, or they find jobs in Reynosa.
Churches used to offer shelter, but the rising number of deportations in the last several years made it unsustainable, Sister Maria Nidelvia Avila, the shelter’s director, said. The Mexican government chipped in to build this shelter with the Diocese of Matamoros.
The shelter has private offices for medical treatment and counseling and enclosed cubicles for telephone calls. There are dormitories and large rooms to gather for group prayer and therapy. “They get dedicated attention,” Avila said.
Peñaloza Torres quickly received medical care. Staff at the shelter sent her to the local Red Cross for treatment and later had her prescriptions filled.
While in detention in the U.S., she had taken multiple medications for her condition but was sent back to Mexico with only one, and she wondered why.
The women had a long list of questions about their treatment in deportation.
After weeks or months of detention in the U.S., why were they summoned for deportation at 2 or 3 a.m. without time to properly pack or notify family?
After arrests, why weren’t jail guards more vigilant of inmate abuse? Two women described instances of fondling or assault by inmates.
After riding in a bus from the plane to the border, why did the driver carelessly throw their belongings on the ground that was soaked from rain?
Martinez, of Joliet, cried as she described photographs of children and grandchildren getting wet. Among the women, she had the most serious charges that led to deportation: two counts of manufacturing and delivery of cocaine. She spent nine years in prison and had her green card revoked.
Yet, she seemed the most confident about adapting in Reynosa, where she plans to settle, possibly joined by Acosta Hernandez. Martinez showed me certificates for some of the 34 classes she completed in prison.
Peñaloza Torres said she needed a way to make it back.