In this fertilizer-scented city opposite the alfalfa fields of California’s Imperial Valley, the deported sleep in parks, abandoned buildings and along the train tracks that run through town.
They beg for pesos at traffic lights, squinting in the low winter light, and cluster along blighted downtown streets of dim cantinas and discount pharmacies that advertise cheap Levitra and powdered cobra venom. Dressed in oversized American clothing handed out by church shelters, they look dusty and dazed, like shipwrecked castaways.
The Mexican government considers them “repatriated” persons and offers aid services and free or discounted bus tickets to their home towns in the country’s interior. But many do not get on the bus. “We’re getting a reputation as a place full of deportees,” said Mexicali’s city manager, Jose Arango. “They’re sent here, and when they can’t get back to the United States, they get stuck.”