Amy and Esther Juárez were edgy with excitement as they boarded the bus full of seasonal workers heading for a farm at the other end of Mexico from their home in the poverty-stricken southern state of Chiapas.
Although their brother Alberto,18, had made the same journey the previous year, it was the first time Amy, 24, and Esther, 15, had left the tiny indigenous community where they had grown up.
But about half-way there, immigration agents boarded the bus, and after checking all the passengers’ papers, ordered the three siblings to get off.
The officials accused them of carrying false documents and lying about their nationality. Then they told the youngsters that they would be deported to Guatemala, a country none would have been able to place on a map.
The baffled youngsters – who speak the Mayan language Tzeltal but very little Spanish – were transferred to an immigration holding centre in Queretero CITY.
Alberto, 18, was taken into a separate room by four agents who told him that unless he signed documents admitting he was Guatemalan, would die there.
“One pushed me, another was kicking my leg, and a third who was very fat gave me an electric shock here, on the back of my right hand,” Alberto told the Guardian through a translator.
“I really thought I was going to die, so I signed lots of sheets of paper – but I can’t read or write so I didn’t know what I was signing.”
The three siblings were held for eight days before a lawyer from an activist group filed a legal complaint and eventually secured their release.
A growing number of indigenous Mexicans are being detained and threatened with expulsion by immigration agents looking for undocumented Central American migrants.