by Christina Castro
It was May 12th. My husband, Miguel, and I were on a bus heading home to Knoxville, Tennessee. We’d started our trip in California, where I’d just had a surgical procedure.
The bus was stopped by Border Control in El Paso and two officers got on. They went to the back of the bus where we were sitting and demanded to see my husband’s papers. Neither he nor I had any idea what they were talking about. Miguel showed them his passport (he’s from Bolivia) and driver’s license, and still they kept asking for his papers. Finally they said they were taking him into custody – and they dragged him off the bus.
Miguel and I have been together for three years. I’m 31 and he’s 43. He’s a musician and we met at Dollywood, where he was performing with an Equadorian band. After two weeks, I wanted to ask him, “Where have you been all my life?” We started dating in early 2017 then we got married. I have four children from a previous marriage, and he’s been an amazing father to them.
Miguel came to the U.S. on a student visa. He went to college and majored in English and music. He performs with bands all around the country, mostly South American music. He’s really talented – he plays the guitar, bass, South American flutes and the charango, a traditional Bolivian instrument.
Even though his I-130 Petition for a Green Card was approved, his visa has been pending for years. We don’t know why the Border Patrol officers targeted him – he’s never gotten into any trouble in the U.S. – but we suspect it was racial profiling. They never asked to see my papers, just his.
I tried to follow my husband outside but was told I had to stay on the bus. I was crying hysterically. I said goodbye to Miguel, then the bus driver announced he was leaving. I had no idea where we were and I got back on the bus. No one even looked at me.
By the time I was able to get another bus back to El Paso from Odessa, it was 10 o’clock at night – nearly 15 hours after Miguel had been hauled off our bus.
I stayed in El Paso for three days, trying to find out where Miguel was being held and looking for an attorney. Finally, I finally discovered he was at the Sierra Blanca Holding Center. But when I went there, the guards wouldn’t even let me on the property. I found out later that after being taken away by Border Control, he’d been put into a room with about 10 other guys. They had to sleep on the floor, without blankets. The lights were on all day and all night, so they never knew what day it was. If they asked the officer on duty, he’d say he’d check and come back – but they never did. Miguel and the other men were fed a piece of bread with a slice of cheese, and water, three times a day.
When I finally spoke to Miguel a week later, he was at the West Texas Detention Facility. He said when he first got there they placed him in a room with over 120 other. They had one toilet – open, with no door. Same with the shower. All the guards could watch the men shower. He said the women officers spoke in English to each other. They didn’t know Miguel understood English, and could hear the terrible things they were saying about the men. For two weeks he wore the same clothes. And all they were given to eat were cheese, bread and water.
He still hasn’t had his bond hearing. I call our lawyer all the time to ask when it will be scheduled, but all I’m told is that they’re working on it. His master calendar hearing is on June 26th, and I’m desperate to get him bonded out and home before then.
When I speak to Miguel, he keeps telling me he’s very stressed out. He says things have happened in the facility that he can’t tell me about until he gets out. “I just want to come home,” he says to me. “It’s really bad here.”
I have a good job, but the legal fees are overwhelming. His attorney charged me $3,000 just to be present in the courtroom during Miguel’s bond hearing. If he’s assigned a bond, we’ll have to come up for the money for that, and I have no idea how much it could be. And I’ll need to continue to pay additional attorney and court fees, plus I have to send Miguel money so he can make phone calls to his lawyer and buy essentials at the commissary.
I need all the help I can get to bring Miguel home. He is my best friend, and the most kindhearted, caring and gentle person I’ve ever known. Please, if you’re reading this, I hope you will make a donation to my fundraising campaign.