In this June 25, 2012 photo, Juana Garcia Martinez, seated center, poses with her family, from left, son Carlos, 12, daughter Gladys Dominguez, 19, son Victor, 19, granddaughter Jazleen Dominguez, 8-months, and daughter Katie, 5, in front of a photo of Juana Garcia’s late husband, Ildefonso Martinez, in Vista, Calif. Ildefonso Martinez died from dehydration trying to cross back into the United States after being deported last year. The death of migrants crossing the Southwest border has long been a tragic consequence of illegal immigration and, many say, the massive increase in U.S. border enforcement. For some, the tragedies are a powerful motivator in pushing Congress to act this year on a larger immigration reform package. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
My father Alfonso Martinez was a very hardworking man. He always took care of us and provided for our family. He had lived in the United States for twenty years with no problems. One morning he went to the store, he was asked by the store owner to stay and watch over the store while she left for an emergency, since the store owner is a family friend and being that the brother of the owner was on his way to take over my dad agreed.
Right after the owner left a deputy from the Vista sheriff department was delivering new policies for the sale of alcohol my dad was asked to sign to verify he had received the paperwork the deputy then asked for his ID and my dad showed his matricula consular. The deputy immediately called ICE because he assumed my dad was undocumented. My father was held for two hours in the backseat of a police car like a criminal. ICE arrived and took my dad to San Clemente, where he was then threatened to sign his so called “voluntary departure”. He was then deported to Mexico and separated from our family and my dad began his journey back to the US to reunite with all his 5 children and wife.
I received a frantic call from my mother on a Tuesday morning telling me that my dad was left behind in the Arizona desert because he was sick. Isaac, a friend of my dad whom he had befriended on this journey was with him crossing the border and refused to abandon my dad when the coyote took off with the rest of the group.
After trying to get a hold of help with no luck because of no cellphone signal, Isaac decided to walk until he found a spot two hours away from where my dad was laying ill. He called 911 knowing himself would be detained and taken back to Mexico. He asked for help soon after he was picked up and arrested Isaac pleaded with immigration agents to go rescue my father but was told to not worry about his friend. Since Isaac knew they weren’t looking for my father he asked to make a phone call to inform us of what was going on he was denied the call, a call that might just could have saved my dads life. After being detained for 3 nights Isaac was released back in Tijuana where he was able to inform us of all that had happened.
We immediately started calling everywhere to see if they had any information of my dad, but no one knew anything about him. I kept researching, calling detention centers and immigration customs agents to try and find him, but they were no help. I kept researching until finally I found Borstar, which is a search and rescue team. Eventually I talked to an agent, who was willing to bring Isaac to where my dad was left.
Isaac wasn’t confused, he knew exactly where to find my dad. My father was found in the same spot Isaac had left him to go search for help. If only the agents would have taken Isaac to where he knew my father was on that day, my father might still be here with us, or at least his body would have been recovered in better condition. His body was found completely decomposed. After 5 days in the hot desert with all the wild animals his body was not in condition to be viewable for a last goodbye.
A dad’s love is endless, because he will do anything to be with his family. He knew he was putting his life at risk, because Arizona is hot the desert is hot, but nothing was more important than being with us.