More than 40 percent of illegal immigrants who get deported to Mexico say they don’t get all of their personal belongings back when they’re kicked out of the country, according to a new study that chides agents for failing to take better care of their charges’ needs.
The American Immigration Council, which produced the report, said phones, identification cards and cash can all end up missing after illegal immigrants go through the deportation process, making it difficult for them to integrate once they’re back home.
The AIC said agents are supposed to carefully label and store possessions, but oftentimes they end up tossing them, and in some cases agents have been accused of theft.
In cases where cash is returned, it’s sometimes done through a check or money order that can’t be cashed in Mexico, or through a prepaid debit card that can’t be activated from Mexico.
Migrants can also get transferred between agencies, making it even tougher to keep track of their possessions, the report said.
Being sent back home without money or a phone is a hassle, but being sent without their identity cards or documents is major problem, the council said.
“This is arguably the most important possession one could lose,” the authors said. “Extortion and harassment by Mexican officials have been linked to lack of identification. Moreover, it is not possible to receive a wire transfer, obtain certain jobs, board an airplane, or access some state services without identification.”
Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said they have “strict standards” in place to ensure migrants get their possessions back. “Any allegation of missing properly will be thoroughly investigated,” she said.
Migrants who aren’t being prosecuted are supposed to have their possessions follow them through the system, and it’s supposed to be returned to them when they are removed to the border.
Those who are being prosecuted sign a release for their items to be stored. They are supposed to contact their consulates about getting their items back.
That’s where the breakdown often occurs, according to Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol. If the properly goes unclaimed, it is destroyed.
In testimonials included in the report, migrants said the system doesn’t appear to be working.
One man said the agent who nabbed him threw away his clothes, wallet and belt, but saved his cash, ID card and phone. When they created a list of his items, however, they cut the amount of money in half. He said when he was deported he didn’t get any of the money back.
Other migrants reported carrying lists of phone numbers with them, only to have the lists confiscated by agents and never returned.
Some migrants said they were told they had to request their belongings be returned, but several said the procedures weren’t explained or were too much of a hassle.
“They told me to speak to the consulate if I wanted to recover them. I feel bad because my wife and kids don’t have enough to eat and I will not be able to recover my money or work without my ID,” one 27-year-old man identified only as “Carlos,” told interviewers back in Mexico.