Juan Coronilla-Guerrero promised deportation to Mexico would kill him and it did.
On Sept. 12, four armed men burst into a house in San Luis de la Paz in central Mexico looking for the 28-year-old married father. The gunmen went to the bedroom where Coronilla-Guerrero was sleeping with his young son, jammed a pistol to his temple and took him away. “Don’t worry, my love. Don’t worry,” he told his son before disappearing, according to an account in the Austin American-Statesman.
“I knew that if he came back here, they were going to kill him,” Coronilla-Guerrero’s wife told the paper. “That’s what happened.”
Coronilla-Guerrero’s body was found last week on the side of a road 40 minutes away from the house where he had been staying in Central Mexico. The death occurred three months after Coronilla-Guerrero and his family begged a federal judge not to catapult him back over the border for fear of the Mexican gangs they had illegally crossed the border to flee in the first place.
Coronilla-Guerrero’s warnings had apparently been well-founded — his wife (who has not used her first name publicly for safety reasons) — has indicated she believes a gang was responsible for the killing. The violence now serves as a grim reminder of the life facing some immigrants after they’ve been taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody and worked through the immigration courts.
The case raised alarms from the start. On March 3, Coronilla-Guerrero was arrested at the Travis County Courthouse. He was in the building to face two misdemeanor charges — marijuana possession and family violence. Although he had already been arrested and deported in 2008, Coronilla-Guerrero made the appearance to address the charges; both he and his wife said the family violence charge was a misunderstanding and Coronilla-Guerrero had not abused his wife.
“He wanted to do the right thing and he appeared at his second court date,” Coronilla-Guerrero’s wife told the Austin American-Statesman. “When he was leaving, immigration agents were waiting for him and took him. He didn’t even get to say goodbye to me, or to his son, because now we don’t even know where he is going to be.”
The arrest, however, triggered larger concerns. In the wake of President Trump’s increased emphasis on immigration control and promises to build a border wall with Mexico, many observers were worried ICE agents would use the criminal justice system as a fishing ground for undocumented defendants. At the time of the arrest, KVUE reported it was the first time federal immigration agents had made an arrest at the courthouse.
“It struck me as extraordinary,” Daniel Betts, Coronilla-Guerrero’s attorney, told the station.
Following his deportation, Coronilla-Guerrero went to live with his wife’s family in San Luis de la Paz while his wife stayed in Texas. Following his death, she returned to Mexico. Local authorities reportedly have not released any information on the death.
“This is a true tragedy for him and his family,” David Peterson, an attorney who represented Coronilla-Guerrero on his immigration case, told the local paper. “Deportation should never be a death sentence.”
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