Facing deportation or returning to Guatemala
What you need to know
Preparing to return to Guatemala
You and your family may have to return to Guatemala, either voluntarily or due to deportation. If you face this possibility, plan ahead so that the process can be as simple and safe as possible for you and your family.
Breathe. Know that your family and community are holding you in their thoughts and prayers and it is your own inner strength that will get you through this difficult transition. Take good care.
Before you leave the U.S.
If you have time:
1. Contact the Guatemalan Consulate in Denver and make an appointment by phone 303-629-9210 or online at http://www.consdenver.minex.gob.gt/Home/Home.aspx (if the link does not open, search for “Guatemalan consulate” on the internet) to get passports for you and your family members and other information for reentry.
2. Sign and give a Power of Attorney to someone you trust in the U.S. so that this person (your representative) can take care of your financial affairs for you after you leave.
3. Take care of your finances. Sell or transfer your real estate. Use banks to transfer funds from the U.S. to Guatemala.
4. Make arrangements for where you will go in Guatemala. Let your representative know how to contact you there.
5. Finish your family preparedness plan http://coloradoimmigrant.org/preparados. Tell your Power of Attorney where it is. Keep all your documents safe.
6. Avoid notarios!
7. Dual citizenship between the U.S. and Guatemala does not exist. Check with the Guatemalan Consulate regarding citizenship questions. Minor U.S. citizen children traveling to Guatemala should have a U.S. passport and a notarized consent form from the other parent or legal guardian permitting their travel.
8. Read the consulate website so you know what documents to bring.
9. Collect other documents for you and all children, such as school records and/or diplomas (notarized by school registrar), immunization records, and U.S. birth certificates.
10. Collect medical records; medications; marriage, divorce, and/or death certificates for every family member.
11. If family members travel separately, make sure that you sign an authorization letter for the adult caregiver who will be travelling with your minor children.
12. If a child will remain in the U.S. (even for a short time) in the care of a non-parent, sign a Power of Attorney authorizing the caregiver to care for your child.
Tip: Two last names (father’s last name, mother’s last name) may be required on all official documents. Be consistent in providing names.
Tip: Get more than one original birth certificate for each child because they may be needed.
Warning: Keep in mind that buying false Guatemalan birth certificates is prohibited.
Consider using the emergency notification app called Notifica to keep your family informed and aware. Many people use WhatsApp to communicate internationally (you need Wifi to use it).
- While in GEO ICE Processing Center in Aurora, Colorado:
- Family/friends may visit you if they have a valid passport or unmarked license. They should call GEO (303-361-6612) to get your visiting days and hours and instructions for visiting.
- Family/friends can put money on your phone account at www.talton.com or 1-866-348-6231 using the detainee’s A#.
- Leaving GEO in Aurora, Colorado:
- You have the right to retrieve any clothing or possessions that you entered GEO with, such as your wallet, credit cards, and phone. Family/friends can also bring you “one of everything,” i.e. one pair of pants, underwear, bra, socks, shoes, one short-sleeve shirt, one long-sleeve shirt, coat, gloves, and hat.
- If you have medicine approved and given by a GEO doctor, you can take it with you. This includes insulin and inhalers. If you can bring a written prescription from a doctor, that can be helpful.
- If you can bring a credit card or between $200 to $500 in small bills, it will be helpful. Put the money in different pockets on your person, not in your bag. If you have money on account from the commissary, phone, or work, you will be given up to $500 in cash. If you have more than $500, you will receive a check, which can be hard to cash later.
- Detainees are not given much advance notice of their departure date to avoid “incidents” during transport.
NOTE: This is how it is supposed to happen, but be prepared that you may not be able to bring all of these things.
What to bring with you
The following items can often be brought by family/friends to GEO. They must bring a photo ID to drop off items:
- Phone numbers for friends or family, both in Guatemala and in the U.S. (You should memorize them before leaving the U.S.).
- Phone card, phone charger, and a backup phone battery.
- Have an address in Guatemala. Many forms and job applications often ask for an address. Get an address of a family member that you can use.
- Medications and written prescriptions in your name, such as insulin; what you need to keep it cool; inhalers. If you are diabetic, you may be able to bring a PowerBar or something similar.
- Driver’s license or ID from any Guatemalan city or institution, like a voting card.
What to expect from ICE transport
- If you have an ankle monitor, you may have to get it removed prior to departure.
- You may be handcuffed and shackled at the ankles during transit.
- Your possessions may not be intact or returned to you at all.
- You may travel by bus to Florence, Arizona or another location in the U.S. and then be put on a plane to Guatemala City.
- You may experience dehumanizing behavior from ICE officials. If you can remember their name or get their badge number, it could be helpful in the future or for others.*
*ICE does not respect your human dignity, but we do. Others you will find in Guatemala through this list will also treat you well and support you as much as they can.
When you arrive in Guatemala
- To stay safe, make a friend on the bus or plane. Stay together to support each other.
- Be alert and calm. Blend in and comply with authority.
- Avoid casual street encounters, including eye contact.
- Don’t look vulnerable, but also don’t look cocky.
- Be prepared for bribes. Have $40 to $100 in cash in $10s and $20s, and keep them in different pockets.
- Beware of criminal elements. Don’t use an offered cell phone to call your family. Create a “palabra clave” or code word with family members in case someone calls asking for ransom. You should decide what you want your family to do if you are speaking to them under duress.
- Keep contact information for your family in El Salvador (and all documents that prove your identity and deportation status) on you, not in your bag.
Cautions for Guatemala
- Keep your money/valuables as secure as possible.
- Avoid public ATMs, where credit card scams tend to happen.
- Conceal valuable items such as smartphones.
- Be careful when walking in Guatemala City and on buses, which are frequently subject to armed robberies.
- Understand that members of MS-13 and Calle 18 gangs and Mexican drug trafficking organizations operate throughout Guatemala.
People are transported to Guatemala from several detention centers in the U.S. Those deported from Denver generally depart on flights from Florence, Arizona. They arrive at the La Aurora Air Force base next to the La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City.
When deportees, both adults and minors, arrive in the Salón Migratorio at the Air Force Base, they are given refreshments and are officially received by representatives of Dirección General de Migración (General Agency on Migration, DGM).
Adults get a free phone call and can exchange currency. After, they are taken to the bus terminal and are given a bus ticket to their hometown.
Representatives from the Pastoral de Movilidad Humana may be at the airport to meet returnees. They can arrange transportation to Casa del Migrante, which provides services to returnees. Representatives from the Association of Returned Guatemalans (ARG) may also be at the airport. See descriptions below.
Unaccompanied children are briefly interviewed by Secretaría de Bienestar (SBS) staff. After, they are taken to Nuestras Raíces in Guatemala City, where they. are given something to eat, a basic medical examination, and a clean change of clothes. A psychologist and social worker are there to conduct interviews to determine if there is a case (of abuse, trafficking, etc.) that needs to be referred to another agency. If this is the case, the case is reported to the Procudaría General de la Nación (PGN) of Guatemala, which contacts the proper agency.
(Source: “The Realities of Returning Home: Youth Repatriation in Guatemala,” The Wilson Center, June 2015)
Nonprofit organizations providing assistance
Casa del Migrante—Guatemala
15 Ave. 1-94 "A" Zona 1, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
(502) 2230 2781
People can stay at Casa del Migrante for up to two weeks depending upon available space. They welcome returnees from 7 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Guests cannot stay in the shelter during the day. They need to look for work (even short term) in order to be able to pay for some expenses of the rest of their travels.
All guests need to register and provide personal information. A photo is taken. If someone was the victim of abuse by the authorities, delinquents or organized crime, they can denounce this anonymously if they want. The registration is useful if family has lost track of someone and comes to the Casa del Migrante to find out if their family member has stayed there.
- The dangers of vandalism, crime (assaults, beatings, abuse and sexual aggressions), attacks by organized crime including extortion, kidnapping, human trafficking
- How to protect oneself from criminals and from sexually transmitted diseases
- The orientation is required as is the completion of specific activities
Types of assistance available:
- Accommodations, meals, access to showers, clean clothing and laundry
- Personal hygiene products, basic medicines
- A short long-distance call if needed to communicate with family
The Association of Returned Guatemalans (ARG)
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ARG-ong-257316458010435/
The Association of Returned Guatemalans (ARG) meets returnees in the Salón Migratorio at the airport.
- Local and international phone calls
- General orientation for return to their places of origin
- Help to locate shelters or hotels if required
- Other services to mitigate the process of return