The deportation process for Beatriz Morelos Casillas is expected be completed today, and her story follows a prescribed and routine path that federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement has pursued for more than a decade. Her story outlines how ICE does what it does.
The 34-year-old mother of four was arrested by the Ohio State Highway Patrol on July 23 in Painesville for driving without a license. She and her family have lived in Painesville for nearly 20 years; she worked seven days a week at a factory in Mentor, which she had just left to return home on that day.
Veronica Dahlberg, executive director of HOLA Ohio, said that arrests and detentions like Casillas's force the community to respond quickly, often to little avail. "We know that nothing is going to stop this deportation, but we have to hurry up and speak out," she tells Scene
, describing the ensuing days of protest. "Right now, everybody is a priority for ICE. Everybody that they encounter is a priority for removal, and some police departments are helping them, turning people over to them."
The State Highway Patrol has a policy
of notifying ICE "if it suspects an immigration violation during a traffic stop." It's not a unique stance; a recently adopted Painesville policy
places a responsibility to report potentially undocumented immigrants to ICE. Earlier this year, Chief Anthony Powalie mentioned that this policy is focused on criminals. "That's a section that just tears apart a society," he said. "That's not who anybody wants in here." (Casillas has no criminal record on local and county court dockets.)
Once she was arrested, things moved very fast.
Casillas was held in the Lake County jail for a day before being taken to a border patrol center in Port Clinton, according to Dahlberg. From there, Casillas was transported to the Seneca County jail, which maintains a contract with ICE for immigrant detentions
. Casillas has remained there until today, when she is scheduled to be brought to Toledo Express Airport. Her ultimate destination, while unconfirmed, is expected to be Nuevo Laredo, a small and violent town in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, near the southern tip of Texas.
"U.S. citizens should defer all non-essential travel to the state of Tamaulipas due to violent crime, including homicide, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, extortion, and sexual assault," according to a current U.S. State Department warning. "The number of reported kidnappings in Tamaulipas is among the highest in Mexico."
Just last month, Francisco Narciso was arrested by Mentor police for driving without a license. He had been involved in a car accident that resulted in head injuries. After pleading guilty in court, ICE agents arrested Narciso and transported him to the Seneca County jail. From there, following the same path that Casillas is on, he was taken to Toledo and flown to Laredo, Texas, on Tuesday, July 25. In Nuevo Laredo (across the border from Laredo), Narciso was kidnapped, beaten, starved and held for ransom by an apparent local crime cartel.
The Plain Dealer
's Michael Sangiacomo reported
on Narciso's experiences in Nuevo Laredo in gripping detail. (A $4,000 ransom was paid, and Narciso was apparently released on Sunday.) Like Sangiacomo, Scene
is seeking information from ICE as to why Nuevo Laredo is used as a drop-off point.
Deportations are on the rise again and projected to hit numbers not seen in five years.
The issue for observers like Dahlberg is that Narciso's story is not isolated or unique. The drop-off point in Laredo has prompted alarm for years.
"It's almost as if they chose the worst place [to take detainees]," Dahlberg says. "They're literally putting our families in mortal danger. They're taking this young mom — 34 years old, never left Painesville since she was 17 — and dropping her in the most violent city in Mexico at night by herself. Her entire family is here
The Seneca-Toledo-Laredo circuit is routine for ICE's regional field work. The physical deportation process takes place on Tuesdays, when Ohio detainees are carted from Seneca County to Toledo. From there, they are flown in chartered aircraft to destinations along the border like Laredo — or, other times, Brownsville, Texas, or Alexandria, La., where ICE oversees other detention centers and "staging facilities." ICE has confirmed
that the removal flight path out of Toledo's airport has been used "for more than a decade and predominantly contain[s] individuals who have been encountered in Michigan and Ohio."
Casillas now joins the nearly 100,000 immigrants expected to be deported from the U.S. this year. For now, her family joins others around the country in the painful wait for news from the border.
"The family is going to be split up," Dahlberg says, "just like countless other families across the country."
Ed. note: We have clarified the arresting agencies in both Casillas and Narciso's cases, and clarified Painesville's policy to report undocumented immigrants to ICE.