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At eighteen, Juan Carlos Coronilla-Guerrero was deported from Texas to Mexico.He later returned and settled in Buda, Texas, with his wife. In January, 2017, someone in his neighborhood reported him for a domestic dispute; police found him in possession of a quarter of a gram of marijuana.“When I am found dead,” she told him, “it will be on your conscience.”When Donald Trump announced his bid for the Presidency, he made anxieties about whiteness under siege a signature part of his platform. According to the United Nations, since 2008 there has been a fivefold increase in asylum seekers just from Central America’s Northern Triangle—Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—where organized gangs are dominant. N., Honduras had the world’s highest murder rate; El Salvador and Guatemala were close behind.On the campaign trail, he promised to “deport all criminal aliens and save American lives.” After his Inauguration, the Department of Homeland Security created an office for the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, called —Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. In the past decade, a growing number of immigrants fearing for their safety have come to the U. Even as border apprehensions have dropped, the number of migrants coming to the U. Politicians often invoke the prospect of death by deportation in debates about the fate of these immigrants and others with precarious status, like the Dreamers.In early 2016, as the director of the Global Migration Project, at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, I set out, with a dozen graduate students, to create a record of people who had been deported to their deaths or to other harms—a sort of shadow database of the one that the Trump Administration later compiled to track the crimes of “alien offenders.” We contacted more than two hundred local legal-aid organizations, domestic-violence shelters, and immigrants’-rights groups nationwide, as well as migrant shelters, humanitarian operations, law offices, and mortuaries across Central America. And we gathered the stories of immigrants who had endured other harms—including kidnapping, extortion, and sexual assault—as a result of deportations under Obama and Trump. Nelson had fled the country at seventeen, after receiving gang threats. An “His life is in danger,” Ana Lopez wrote, begging U. Survivors of the fire alleged that it was set intentionally, perhaps as an act of gang retaliation, and that the guards had done little to help the men as they screamed and burned to death in their cells.As the database grew to include more than sixty cases, patterns emerged. We discovered, too, how minor missteps—a traffic violation or a workplace dispute—can turn lethal for unauthorized immigrants.The lawsuit, and others like it, has implications for the treatment of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have found refuge in the United States, and for whom deportation can be tantamount to death.Some, like Laura, are survivors of domestic violence seeking safety in the U. Others, like Elizabeth, are Dreamers, undocumented youths who were granted relief from deportation under President Obama, only to have their status imperilled by his successor.
In Mexico, he’d reportedly joined a local drug cartel. Laura and her friends waited by the roadside until a U. Border Patrol agent named Ramiro Garza arrived and ordered the three of them into his vehicle.left the restaurant where she waitressed, in Pharr, Texas, and drove off in her white Chevy. Her twenty-third birthday was nine days away, and she and her nineteen-year-old cousin, Elizabeth, had been discussing party plans at the restaurant.They’d decided to have coolers of beer, a professional d.j., and dancing after Laura put her three sons to bed.The officer, Nazario Solis III, claimed that Laura had been driving between lanes and asked to see her license and proof of insurance. She’d lived in the United States undocumented her whole adult life.“Do you have your residence card?” Solis asked.“No,” Laura said, glancing anxiously at her cousin and her friends. Only Elizabeth had a visa, which she fished out of her purse. “I’m calling Border Patrol,” he said—an unusual move, at the time, for a small-town cop in South Texas. At five feet two inches and barely a hundred pounds, she looked younger than her age. citizens and steady jobs they didn’t want to lose, but they knew that Laura’s fear was distinct.