A South Texas woman feared she would be sent back to Mexico after trying to cross a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint even though she proved to be in the country with a valid permit.
The move is part of a directive being enforced by the agency.
“We’re just stuck here… probably we can’t go nowhere else,” said a 19-year-old woman who we’ve given the pseudonym “Laura” to conceal her identity as she feared possible repercussions including deportation.
Laura is breaking her silence for the sake of informing others who could be in her situation.
She drove up with her aunt and uncle on Monday morning to the Falfurrias Border Patrol checkpoint like hundreds of people do every day.
The Falfurrias station, located about 80 miles north of the Texas Rio Grande Valley, is one of several stations set up along the border with Mexico where agents inspect people and cargo.
It’s a route Laura and her family take every time they travel to San Antonio from their hometown of Pharr, Texas.
Once they approached an agent that morning, their leisure trip was cut short.
“Just right there with no explanation ‘we’re going to process her,’” said Erika Cepeda, Laura’s aunt recalling what a Border Patrol agent told them at the checkpoint.
Cepeda is referring to her niece who is a DACA recipient. People who benefit from an Obama-era executive order granting a temporary legal status to those brought by their parents into the country illegally as children.
“Then we were like ‘why? Why is this going on?’ said Cepeda. “'We had like a law or something that went through at 7 a.m. So, we have to stop everybody that has DACA,’” she recalled the agent saying.
A total of nine DACA permit holders were detained that morning and held for hours.
The U.S. Border Patrol later released a statement that read:
“When a DACA recipient presents themselves for immigration inspection, they will temporarily be detained for accuracy and verification of status. Once substantiated, the DACA recipient will be processed and released accordingly.”
Laura and her family waited six hours for that verification.
“It was unfair because we didn’t know this was going to happen, they didn’t let us know,” said Laura. “If they would’ve said something we wouldn’t put ourselves at risk for that.”
A risk Laura’s aunt was also taking. Cepeda said an agent threatened her with criminal charges for harboring an illegal alien, referring to her niece.
“I was like ‘what charges I mean, she’s not illegal, she has a government permit and everything to be here in the United States,” Cepeda recalled telling the agent. “I’m a U.S. citizen and I was still detained there, for no reason!”
The family feels it was an unnecessary ordeal that has caused fear and raised alarms within the immigrant community.
“They’re like ‘oh, you can’t come no more, either you go back to where you are or you stay where you are going, ‘cuz if you pass a second time we’re going to deport you,'” said Laura repeating what an agent allegedly told her.
It’s uncertain if Border Patrol is continuing said actions after this incident. They are not responding to specific questions or allegations, rather sticking to their statements.
The KENS 5 Border Team is working to obtain the memorandum that these agents are believed to have acted upon to stop DACA recipients at the checkpoint.