The scary new normal for immigrants.

Author:Gupta, Arun
 
FREE EXCERPT

On the morning of March 25, at his home in Newport, Oregon, Ignacio Garcia-Pablo was placed under arrest. Minutes earlier, his cousin had barged into his bedroom exclaiming, "The police are outside!"

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Ignacio, twenty-one, spotted three men prowling around the house he shared with five other Guatemalan men. At first, he thought they were local cops checking out his car, which was running and unattended. Ignacio's cousin and brother were trying to jumpstart a van that the migrants used to drive from the Pacific Coast to the Cascade Range, where they harvested forest products six days a week.

Quickly he got dressed and stepped outside. An unmarked car with dark windows and flashing blue-and-red lights in the grille was out front. One agent in civilian clothes asked Ignacio in Spanish if he had documents for U.S. residency. When Ignacio said no, the men ordered him to raise his hands, frisked him, and handcuffed him.

"Why are you doing this to me?" Ignacio recalls asking. He says they responded: "Because of the new President. He gave us a law to grab those people who do not have legal permits to be in the United States."

The men stuffed Ignacio in the backseat of the unmarked car, where he discovered his brother in cuffs. That's when he learned they were agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "My brother told me, 'ICE got us now. But don't be sad. We've not done anything wrong, we don't have a criminal record.'"

Ignacio's cousin was also seized. The other three men in the house refused to come out and were not arrested.

After five years of working in farms and forests in Oregon, Ignacio had been preparing to return to his home in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. His reason was President Donald Trump.

"I was very afraid. I don't want to be seized by ICE and be in jail. I wanted to return voluntarily," he says. "In Guatemala, there is a stigma if you are deported."

Ignacio told his story a week after his arrest, sitting in the Portland home of Marta Guembes, head of the Guatemalan Honorary Consulate in Oregon. He spoke in Spanish, his second language after his native Mayan tongue of Mam. The next day, he flew home to Guatemala.

Ignacio was among the eighty-four immigrants collared by ICE in the Pacific Northwest during a three-day "operation" in late March. Nearly all were men from Mexico and Central America.

In fact, hundreds of immigrants have been similarly arrested. In his first week, Trump issued an executive order effectively criminalizing all eleven million undocumented immigrants. He also broadened "expedited removal," which enables low-level immigration agents to bypass due-process protections for anyone who cannot prove he or she has been in the United States at least two years. Some ICE agents have described their enhanced ability to sweep up immigrants as "fun."

In 2012, Ignacio arrived in Oregon. He was sixteen, and he hoped "to earn enough money to buy a little land and build a house in Guatemala." He left the mountains of Huehuetenango after his grandparents died. One of seven brothers, Ignacio says, "We are a poor family. My father was all alone. He had no home, no land. He is seventy-two years old and too ill to work."

Ignacio borrowed $6,500 from relatives to pay the smugglers who spirited him to Chiapas, Mexico. From there, it took more than a month to traverse...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP