Students Sent to Mexico Return to U.S.

Border Patrol: Teens 'not deported but given an option to voluntarily go back to Mexico'

Three local high school students are back home after being separated from their families for nearly a month.

It's where they call home that will keep their ordeal going. It all started last month during what the Border Patrol called a routine check of the trolley in Old Town. It ended with 21 people sent back to Mexico, three of them teenagers on their way to school.

The Border Patrol said the students were not deported but given an option to voluntarily go back to Mexico when no legal guardian could come forward. At least some of their family members are in the United States illegally.

Wednesday was an emotional day for three teenagers, including Stephanie Jiminez, who said she was glad to be back with her parents.

"No matter where you stand on the issue of immigration, I think we all have to agree that kids should be with their parents, and it should be a judge that should determine what happens to their case," said immigration activist Christian Ramirez of the American Friends Service Committee.

At the trolley stop last month, border agents questioned and detained 21 passengers, including the three teenagers, who, officials said, admitted they were in the country illegally. That was a question they never needed to answer, according to former U.S. Attorney Pete Nunez.

"They don't have to answer the questions, but if you do, you're stuck with what you gave them," Nunez said.

The students are now back in the U.S. on temporary visas.
Mauricio Villanueva was also on his way to school the day he was detained.

"I could see by the acts they were trying to be racist," Villanueva said.

Despite accusations that agents are using racial profiling, agents have every right to be on the trains, Nunez said, and are likely choosing those areas for a reason.

"I'm sure the ICE, Border Patrol, transportation authorities can demonstrate that over the course of history, many people use the trolley that have just entered illegally," Nunez said.

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