Mexicans Deported From U.S. Will Get Free Ride Home

Mexicans deported from U.S. will get free ride home
Program to provide additional services

By Sandra Dibble
April 1, 2008

TIJUANA Mexicans who are deported from the United States or leave voluntarily after being apprehended are being offered free trips back to their hometowns under a pilot program launched yesterday.

The Tijuana program, dubbed Humanitarian Repatriation, will also ensure that returning Mexicans receive shelter, food, emergency medical care and temporary employment upon their return to Mexico. President Felipe Caldern announced the program in December, and federal officials hope to expand it to other communities along Mexico's northern border.

Ten Mexican federal immigration agents trained to work with returning migrants have been assigned to Tijuana under the program. The agents will assess the returnees' psychological health and help them contact family and obtain identification papers.

Mexico's federal government has not allocated additional funds for the program, but by shifting around existing resources as well as coordinating efforts among government agencies, religious organizations and nonprofit groups, officials say they hope to step up support for Mexicans who are forced to return.

We're joining together talents, resources, energy, said Ana Teresa Aranda Orozco, deputy secretary of the federal Interior Ministry.

Up to now, deportees and others forced to return have had half the cost of a trip to their home communities paid by the Mexican government. From now on, they will receive free bus transportation home, said Francisco Javier Reynoso Nuo, head of the Baja California office of Mexico's National Migration Institute.

Mexico's federal government officials say close to a half-million Mexicans are sent back from the United States each year, and about 40 percent are sent through Baja California.

These are people, not numbers; they're flesh and blood, with souls, with spirit, that suffer the pain of having left their land and those they love the most in the world, Baja California Gov. Jos Guadalupe Osuna Milln said during the ceremony.

Yesterday's ceremony at Puerta Mexico, across from San Ysidro, was briefly interrupted by the arrival of a half-dozen returning minors who appeared exhausted and startled by the crush of media and officials that greeted them as they walked into Mexico.

Osuna said after the ceremony that his two brothers crossed without documents to the United States in 1972. They walked across the hillside, and I stood watching them at Playas de Tijuana, he recalled. They were later able to legalize their status under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, he said.

Sandra Dibble: (619) 293-1716;