“We were actors in a movie,” was how one of 135 deportees described an encounter with President Enrique Peña Nieto yesterday after they were sent packing by authorities in the United States.
The flight carrying the deportees — it was the first since President Donald Trump took office — arrived at Mexico City airport, where the Mexican president was on hand to welcome them back.
Before television cameras, the president assured the undocumented migrants that his government will not abandon them and that Mexico is a land of opportunity.
“You are not alone. Do not feel neglected. The doors of this, your home, will always remain open,” declared Peña Nieto.
“Let the government accompany you in this homecoming process . . . Mexico is a land of opportunities . . . a fact shown by the large numbers of those returning when compared to those leaving for the United States,” he continued.
After his speech, the president took some time to talk to the repatriated migrants, many of whom were more interested in linking up with their families, especially as the ceremony started 40 minutes late and delayed the travelers by some four hours. And some were not in a good mood to begin with after the ordeal of the deportation process.
One told the newspaper Reforma that he had been pushed around and shouted at after being woken at one in the morning in an El Paso, Texas, jail before being handcuffed and put aboard the plane.
When the aircraft landed they were lined up and given the news that the president was coming to receive them.
“We were actors in a movie,” said Mario Sánchez Piña.
Another migrant said he told Peña Nieto, in response to the latter’s claim that job opportunities existed in Mexico, that “it’s not only about creating jobs, but about increasing the salaries, too.”
Pedro Vázquez, originally from Pachuca, Hidalgo, had been living in Atlanta, Georgia, for 20 years but was deported after being detained for a traffic violation, leaving his wife in Atlanta.
With regard to the president’s message of hope and opportunity, Vázquez said he didn’t believe it.
“I’ve seen so many things, all the news and killings, and I no longer believe all that.”
Vázquez said he planned to return by paying a pollero, or human smuggler, US $4,500. “In no more than 15 days I’ll go back. It won’t be difficult, even if there’s a wall.”
Life is better north of the border, he said, better than in Mexico even though he had to work hard to earn $16 an hour.
Construction worker Ramón Barajas, originally from Jalisco, was deported after he attempted to get a driver’s license. He left his wife and four children behind in Denver, all of them born in the U.S., where he had lived for 26 years.
Upon landing, the deportees were given a backpack containing a repatriation letter, a phone card and a bus ticket courtesy of the Mexican government.