by Erickson Martinez
Editor's note: IMM Print has featured two posts about Erickson, the last on October 1st. He was detained for 3 years before being deported to Colombia last September. Erickon lived in the US for 28 years and has no friends or family in Colombia. Here, he writes about his struggles to find work and build a life away from his home and daughter. Please consider helping Erickson through a donation to his GoFundMe campaign.
When I found out I was going to be deported it felt weird to even think about going to a country where my only memories were painful ones. I left so long ago that I don’t know anyone in Colombia anymore.
After I was told I would be deported, I was taken to a holding cell at Krome and kept there from 2:00 in the afternoon until 4:00 in the morning. Then we were processed and taken to the airport. First we went to a detention center in Louisiana, where I stayed for 3 days before getting on a plane to Colombia with about 60 other deportees, both men and women.
I was scared when I got off the plane in Bogota. I didn’t know what to expect. We entered a building where all 60 of us had to share one bathroom with two toilets and one shower. Names were called and people started to leave. I was one of the last ones to leave, after about 4 hours. I didn’t understand why it was taking so long.
I was released at the airport and changed some dollars and found a hotel room in Bogota. I stayed in the room and only went out to eat and buy a cell phone. I was lucky to have some money from friends I encountered in detention.
I remained in that room for a week, then decided to go to Cartagena, the number one tourist city in Colombia. I hoped that because I spoke English I would have a chance of finding work there. I used the hotel’s wifi to find a room to rent in a house. I don’t get a key – just the room. The toilet and shower are outside the room. It’s very hot here, but it costs too much to use an air conditioner, so all I have is a fan.
The tourist part of Cartagena is about 45 minutes away and has a beautiful old castle and walls built by slaves used by the Spaniards. There are lots of hotels and tourists there.
I put together my resume while I was still at Krome, but had to redo it because here you need to include a photo. I went to the airport and lots of hotels and restaurants and left my resume without any luck. Then I started searching for jobs on the internet. I applied for several jobs and got called for two interviews, one at a hotel and another at a telemarketing company for English speaking clients, but again no luck. I also downloaded an app for providing translation services but no luck with that either. I don’t have any problems with my paperwork, I have a high school diploma, and I still can’t find work in my own country. Here, it seems that you really need to have a career history and a university degree, and if you are older than your late 20s, it's just much more difficult. The work situation in Colombia is bad, and you have to have connections to get a job. In the US, I worked in restaurants, and my last job was managing a tattoo shop and selling jewelry and art at a shop in South Beach.
Currently, I’m only able to get by with a little help from some friends and what I can make with a homemade tattoo machine.
I’m very depressed. Sometimes I think I don’t want to live anymore, but then something stops me. I’m all alone here, and I have to be on the lookout all the time. I learned that when some guys threatened me with a knife and stole my phone and some money.
The hardest part is that even though I’m bilingual with a clean record I’ve been here since last October and can’t find any job. It’s real sad that I was forced to leave the country where I had been living since I was 8 years old, not being able to provide for my daughter, who is 7 years old and living in Miami. I lost everything after spending 3 years in immigration jails fighting for the chance to stay with my family in a so-called free country.
I’m still trying to get ICE to release the video of the assault by the guards at Baker. I was almost killed and they broke my nose. There’s a coverup by both ICE and the Baker County sheriff’s office. All I want is the release of the video to prove what happened to me.
I don’t envision anything for my future. All I’m doing is living day to day. I’m trying to stay focused so I don’t get into any bad things. I pray for an opportunity to make an honest living. I’m 37 years old, and I don’t want to be involved in madness.