My name is Rafael, and I’m from Venezuela. I’m one of the first people returned to Nogales under the MPP policy. I arrived in Mexico on June 28, 2019. I arrived in Mexico City, and from there I traveled to Reynosa, Tamaulipas. In Reynosa, I attempted to enter the United States, and was returned to Mexico. I waited for four months in Reynosa, which were horrible, because there are organized criminal groups in the city that operated in the shelter set up by the church. They would approach us to ask if we had family on the other side of the border, in the U.S., and I, of course, have an eleven-year-old son who is there with his mother. He’s a resident and has lived in the U.S. for five years. When I was in Reynosa, I saw five Cubans arrive whose hands were severed because they didn’t pay the $5,000 that were demanded of them. They amputated a hand from each one of them. I was present when 14 people arrived—among them Africans, Cubans, Russians—all of them were dehydrated after being kidnapped for more than 20 days.
I was kidnapped in Venezuela by government officials. Because of this, I panicked when I heard that the migrants were kidnapped too. When I only had about three or four weeks left to wait before being allowed to pass through the Reynosa port of entry, the organized criminals burned the area around the church where I was staying. They did it so that the people staying there, the migrants, would flee the building, and then they’d grab us and kidnap us. More than once, the pastor sought help from the military, but they only stood on watch for a week, then left suddenly one evening. That was when the organized criminals burned the surrounding areas so that we’d come out of the building because of the smoke.
Then I came here, to Nogales. I had to restart the process at the end of the waitlist. I had already waited four months in Reynosa, and here I had to start from nothing. I arrived here in Nogales on September 21, 2019.
In Venezuela, there’s no reporting of crimes. If I reported something, they’d kill me. I have three children in Venezuela, one who’s 10 years old, another who’s 5, and a six-year-old. My family was broken up because of that. I left everything in my house there. I didn’t leave for an opportunity to find work. I had a job. I decided to leave in March not for economic reasons, but to save my life.
Waiting in Mexico under MPP has been extremely difficult. There’s uncertainty about what’s going to happen. If we get to the U.S. and they deny us asylum after having waited so long, what happens then?
It’s even more difficult because I don’t trust anything here. I have no security. The AMLO government promised to help and support us, but they haven’t followed through. It’s not easy to continue here, not having a life, having left your kids behind, having left yourself behind, your wife. It wasn’t in my plan for my life to be here at over 40 years old and spending a year and a half living in this uncertainty. Yes, I am grateful for the help of all the organizations that help us, but it’s not a life. There are rumors going around here that just two or three weeks ago, organized crime went around kidnapping the taxi drivers, just grabbing them off the street. Here, young people are disappeared daily. You can walk through here and see the signs posted by mothers and fathers searching for their children, their family. You have to be very careful around here.
What I’m most concerned about here is my life and wellbeing, my psychological and emotional stability, after living with so much uncertainty and being separated from my family. I can’t return to Venezuela because I’ve seen what happens to people who return. I can’t turn back. I don’t have a country anymore. There have been more than 7,000 people disappeared by the government in Venezuela—all because they had a different political opinion, they were against my country’s government.
If I had a chance to talk to the new administration in the United States, I’d tell them that I’m not here for tourism. I’d tell them to humanize their migration policies and ask that they realize that there are real cases here, and that we’re not adventurous people looking for tourism. I’d tell them to recognize that there are real people who are here for reasons of life and death, because we can’t return. We can’t get from here to Venezuela from one day to another. I can support, and I want to support, the United States.