Shot for LA Taco
Migrants from the Benito Juarez Sports Complex shelter in Zona Norte, Tijuana organized a march in order to demand to be processed for asylum, Sunday Nov. 25.
The march started after leaders of the caravan held a prayer using megaphones. Mexican federal police blocked the entrance to Puente El Chaparral, a bridge that pedestrians and automobiles use to arrive at the border-crossing area. As the migrants approached the police line, a caravan organizer told the group to stop walking.
“If we will be crossing, we will be crossing in peace,” he said.
The marchers stopped and gave thanks to the Mexican state for sheltering them, sang the Mexican national anthem, gave a solidarity cheer with those who participated in the International Day of Action march in San Diego, all while waiting for the police to let through.
After about an hour of waiting, caravan organizers decided to go around the blockade, down a street that runs parallel to the inaccessible bridge. Police immediately began pushing people down with their shields. The migrants gained momentum as the police continued to use force against womxn, childrxn, and journalists.
The migrants crossed the Tijuana riverbed, helping each other keep steady so as to not fall into the water. They arrived at the car port of entry where Mexican military troops watched from above.
The group I was with made their way to the edge of the large parkway that makes up the border entry point. Four migrants scaled the wall that divided Mexico and USA. US forces on the opposite side pointed a high caliber rifle at the young men. The migrant group then sought another area of the border fence.
The migrant group reached another section of the border crossing point, opened the fence and continued through. I was stopped by riot police and not let through. One officer hit me repeatedly with his shield.
During my walk back the way I had came, I witnessed an officer, who was giving orders earlier, continuously beat and harass a migrant. A Mexican checkpoint official alerted the officer that he had a camera on him and the officer ceased to hit the migrant.
Mexican federal police then sealed the border car port leading into the US. Soon, US Department of Homeland Security Special Response Team forces and US military appeared and began to install razor wire, completely sealing the border and announcing that any unauthorized person will be met with lethal force.
I made my way to meet the group of migrants who were being shot with tear gas and rubber bullets through the border fence by US forces. Mexican federal police rallied them up and forced them back into Tijuana city limits. The final image was the last one I could capture before the tear gas effect became too much for my senses.
“My name is Jorge Steven Gomez, I am 19 years old, I come from Honduras and on September 19th, I was released on bond from the Adelanto ICE Processing Center,” said Jorge Gomez.
On Aug. 23, 2017, Gomez was arrested by the Los Angeles County Sheriff and taken to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles. During his six month sentence, he received a notice from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency stating that he was to be detained for immigration processing.
“I did not believe it,” he said.
Gomez fled Honduras when he was sixteen and was approved for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. This immigration status is granted to children who arrive unaccompanied and were neglected, abused or abandoned in their home country by one or both parents, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“It has been very complicated, being alone in this country, not having my parents [around],” said Gomez.
With turmoil in Honduras, a deportation for Gomez can result in a death sentence.
Gomez arrived at Adelanto ICE Processing Center during April, where he signed up to get help from the Legal Orientation Program, which led to him being represented by attorney Jaqueline Aranda.
“Many people told me that it was not easy [to get in contact with the legal orientation program], they said I had good luck,” said Gomez.
At the Adelanto ICE Processing Facility, detainees must act affirmatively by signing up on sheets posted in the dormitories to obtain Legal Orientation Program services. According to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Legal Orientation Program staff relies on ICE to bring individuals listed on the sign-up sheet.
“The Legal Orientation Program has no input or control over which detainees they see or when they see a detainee at ICE’s Adelanto Processing Center,” said Gail Montenegro, the EOIR’s Regional Public Information Officer for the Midwest.
Gomez’s processing has developed differently due to him being processed in both the immigration court system and having the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status while in line for a visa. The hope, according to Aranda, was that a visa would become available before the removal proceedings were over.
“Broadly, there are two main agencies that deal with immigration, one is the immigration court system and the other is USCIS. USCIS processes applications for anything you are asking for affirmatively; in the court system, you’re acting defensively– so if you’re in the court system, the government is trying to deport you. SIJS was processed by USCIS and then [Jorge] was placed in removal proceedings in immigration court,” said Aranda.
At the 6 month mark in the Central District of California, detainees are automatically scheduled for a bond hearing. During these bond or “Rodriguez”, hearings, it is the government’s legal burden to prove why they should continue detaining the defendant.
“It’s really jarring when you have one agency in the federal government that says it’s not in this young person’s best interest to return to their home country, but then they’re in removal proceedings, and you have a separate agency saying this person should go back to that country,” said Aranda.
During the Rodriguez bond hearing, the application of the law is not in accordance to itself.
“It’s [the government’s] legal burden, but realistically, these judges are just looking for the person in proceedings to prove to them that they should be released,” said Aranda, “so what you do at bond hearings is try to paint a full picture of the person and convince the judge to let this person out of detention.”
“The fear of returning to my country gave me strength to keep fighting my case,” said Gomez.
After receiving aid from a GoFundMe fundraiser, Jorge was able to leave custody.
“The truth is that [the public] already helped. They helped me pay my bond. It all depends on me now,” said Gomez.
“A lot of times when people do have the opportunity to get out of custody [on bond], they just can’t pay it,” said Aranda, “because many [who] are detained come from really underserved, overcriminalized communities that do not have a lot of resources; financial support can make a really big difference.”
Community groups such as the Immigrant Youth Coalition, who supported Jorge emotionally, financially, and mentally, are excellent resource groups to get involved with if one cannot help financially.