Before we left the van, I asked one agent if he didn’t find the whole thing ridiculous – these Salvadorians had just come to work and improve their lives, find something better for their families… and for that, they were arrested and would be sent away. He said it was all due to the influence of Trump – more pressure on the Mexican government to create a first line of defence, protecting the precious US from central Americans. Naturally, at no point during this speech did he accept personal responsibility for his role in Trump’s game.
They finished cataloguing my items, my phone, my video camera, my mics. My condoms were not catalogued, and I would never see them again. Prophylactics are expensive in Mexico.
“Your name? Date of birth? Do you have any communicable diseases? Where were you travelling when you were detained?”
-Hold on, I don’t want to answer too many questions. I want to wait until I speak to the embassy.-
“These are standard questions. Everyone answers them. We must process you.” I don’t like being processed.
The agent was looking at me very sternly – that’s how they got me. I like making people happy, not angry. Before I realised it, I’d answered five more questions. When it got to the questions about when and how I entered Mexico the last time, I put my foot down and refused to answer. They gave me the same spiel about being standard questions, and continued to get angry at me.
They handed me some documents and said “Here, sign this.”
-Hold on, I’m going to read it first.-
“You’re going to read it?”
-Of course I’m going to read it. Don’t you read things before you sign them?-
“Look buddy, all the people who arrived with you have already signed this stuff. That’s what happens. I put it in front of you, you sign it.”
-All the same, I’d like to read it.-
I am a man of many talents, but reading legalese in my second language at 5 a.m. is not one of them. The document was something about my rights and obligations. I understood most of the rights, but not the obligations. The agent was standing nearby with a frustrated look on his face.
-Do I have to sign this?- I asked.
“Well, it’s what everyone is doing and it is necessary for the process so we can get you out of here.”
-So you’re saying I have to sign it?-
“It’s standard stuff so we can get you processed.”
I wrote “I sign under duress”, and signed.
After a few minutes, the other agent came up to me and said angrily “Why did you write ‘under duress’? You think you’re under duress? What duress?” He was putting me under duress to try to convince me that I wasn’t under duress.
“Here, sign this one.” He handed me a book.
-What is this for?-
“Oh, come on, what are you – a 5 year old boy? You need to ask questions over every little thing? That’s fine – I’ll take this away.”
The irony of calling me a 5 year old boy while playing this type of mindgame.
-I can sign it; I just need to know what it’s for.-
“It’s so you can get a blanket.”
Who knows what the book was actually for, but in any case I got the mattress and the blanket. No pillow, but I could make do.
They let me get a change of clothes from my bag, searched me, took me to the dormitories, and I had a room to myself. I tried to get a few hours of sleep.
At around 8 a.m., a Punjabi fellow came in and introduced himself as Mani. He said if I was feeling lonely, I could always come to their room across the hall. Then another Punjabi fellow named Maan came in and said he had a spare toothbrush for me. Before that, I had the concern that maybe I was stepping into some gang-controlled prison, a violent place that order had forgotten. At that moment, I knew that wasn’t the case, and no matter what other trouble I was in, my life was not under threat. Providence had delivered me to a peaceful place, and I was grateful.
To be continued…