While visiting Friendship Park in Tijuana in August, I saw a man on a cell phone looking bewildered. When I approached him, he asked me for the name of the park. He was talking to his wife in San Diego, trying to describe where he was.
Running the length of the Park is a steel fence extending into the Pacific Ocean just a few yards away; it marks the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Here, men, women and children press their faces against the dense mesh, hoping to exchange a few words with relatives on the other side. Fingers probe the tiny openings, seeking contact with the fingers of loved ones just a few inches — but an entire country — away.
I learned that the man had been deported two days earlier from San Diego, where he lived with his wife and two children. He had heard about the Park, and had hoped his wife might be able to meet him there. Unfortunately, visiting hours on the U.S. side are restricted to 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays only; when I met him, it was 10 minutes before 2 on Sunday. Here is his story, as told to me that day.
I came to the U.S. when I was 13 years old. I traveled here with my brother; he has also been deported. I graduated from high school in San Diego and then got a job in construction to support my family. I have a wife and two children; my daughter is 11 and my son 14.
I was working on a street crew three days ago when ICE stopped me and asked for my papers. But I didn’t have any.
They took me to the Federal Building in downtown San Diego. They said they were going to deport me. I said, why? I didn’t do anything wrong. They took me to a small room, like a jail cell, and locked me up for more than 24 hours. I asked to make a phone call, but they didn’t let me for 10 hours. The whole time, my wife didn’t know where I was.
I told them I wouldn’t sign their papers, that I wanted to see someone, that my wife had my papers, but they said it didn’t matter, that I was going to be deported anyway. They forced me to sign their papers. Two days later I was deported.
My wife’s green card expires in October. I need to get money so I can help her get her card. I can’t imagine my wife and children coming here to Mexico.
I just want to talk to and see my wife. It’s so hard.
I don’t know what I’m going to do.