Q&A: Jorge Aguilar talks about his deportation
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Sunday, September 09, 2012
9/09/12 at 4:48 AM
Related Story: Tulsan awaits U.S. Supreme Court decision on immigration
In an email, Tulsa immigrant Jorge “George” Aguilar answered questions from the Tulsa World about his experience in detention, being taken to a country where he knows no one and how he has adjusted.
Aguilar was placed immediately in the Tulsa Jail Feb. 14, 2011 after an immigration judge ordered his removal. He was sent to different jails until his deportation to El Salvador Dec. 9.
His case is cited in legal filings at the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of allowing retroactivity of the court’s previous ruling regarding advice criminal defense attorneys give non-citizen clients. Aguilar was a legal resident who has lived in Tulsa since age 10.
TW: How was your treatment while in custody?
“They did not mistreat me, but the hard part was being in the system, just being in custody. It was also hard being picked up in the middle of night with no warning and transported to other jails. Once, when I had a hearing coming up, one of the immigration guards told one of the other guards in front of me, ‘He’ll have his hearing, but they’ll most likely deport him.’
“Then later, when I was being processed, ready to be deported, I saw the same guard again and he said to me, ‘I told you we were going to deport you.’ I felt very sad, because I couldn’t say anything. It was like they were saying they were stronger than me, and could do anything they want and have the last word.”
TW: What was it like upon arrival? How have you adjusted?
“I was feeling a lot of things. After being locked up for 10 months, I was just glad to be free. But I was struck with depression. So arriving in my country, I felt beaten and defeated. But I was very happy to be out of prison. The people who received us at the airport in El Salvador gave us food and a very heartwarming welcome. That was world’s apart from how I was treated in the U.S.
“Being in jail, it’s like a holocaust, except you’re not being killed. You’re looked at by the guards, and the whole experience is like you’re not human. So, I was very moved by being received back home with a different atmosphere of welcoming and understanding.
“But being in El Salvador was still very hard, because everything was taken away from me, and I had to start over in a country where I did not grow up. It was hard, because even though this was my native country, I didn’t know how to fit in with the culture. Plus, you go from a good paying job in the U.S. to jobs making just $8 to $10 a day, on average. However, I was very glad that I did have a house to come to, unlike others who are deported and have nowhere to go.
“It took about six to seven months for me to adjust to living here. I went from an everyday routine where you get up, get in your car, go to work and go about your daily activities. But coming here, I didn’t have any of that.
“I don’t know how to explain how I adjusted, I just had to learn how to fit in to all of the different aspects of the culture. Also, I had to learn how to relate to my family that is living here.”
TW: What kind of connection do you have with Tulsa now?
“Well, I have a very loving relationship with my fiancee and we talk every day by Skype. I keep in contact with my pastor, Nick Garland at First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow. I do keep in contact with other members of First Baptist, as well as friends from other churches. Mostly, I call them through Skype, or I email them. But there are communication barriers. Since it is long distance, it is not as easy as if you were just making local calls. I miss my friends in Tulsa, who showed me a lot of love while I was in the United States.”
TW: What have you been doing since you were sent to your home country?
“Even though I felt despair after being deported, I received an unexpected email from a ministry that works in Central and South America, which had heard of my story and my deportation. They lovingly invited me to go on a mission with them in Honduras.
“There I received training in evangelism, and then we went out and evangelized in the towns of Honduras. I also got the chance to tell my story on television and radio in Honduras. I was there for almost a month.
“I then got invited by the same mission to do the same type of ministry in Colombia for a month. When I got back to El Salvador, I really felt that I wanted to be an independent missionary, a pastor, sent by my church to minister here. Thanks to God, that has become a reality.
“I have now rented a place and turned it into a house of prayer, and I am having quite a few folks showing up, who have the desire to grow in faith in Jesus Christ. I have the hope to turn the house of prayer into a church as it grows. I love teaching the Bible. That’s my passion. I don’t see myself doing anything else, except being a faithful preacher of God’s Word.”
TW: How hopeful are you that you will have a pathway back to Tulsa? Do you still want to return to Tulsa or the U.S.?
“I do have hopes of returning to the United States one day, in God’s timing. I hope to return to the U.S. with a testimony of God’s goodness in my life during my time here in El Salvador. In the time being, I feel indebted to the people I am preaching to right now, until God calls me again to leave this place and come back to the United States.
“I will be very glad to come back to the U.S., but it would be hard, too. I would be glad because I consider the U.S. my home. But it would be hard also because I am falling in love with the people that I am ministering to, and I have adjusted again to a new lifestyle. It will be hard to leave and then have to readjust again to living in the U.S.”
TW: What has kept you motivated?
“God, definitely. And my fiancee. I am motivated by the future hope of being married. It also motivates me more and more of seeing my dream of having a faithful church established, where I can do what I feel most happiest doing. But God is like the cake of my motivation - everything else is the icing.”
TW: What are your long-term goals?
“One long-term goal I have is to graduate from seminary and be an ordained pastor. I also want to be a faithful husband to my fiancee and a faithful father to my future children.”
TW: What are your thoughts on the upcoming Supreme Court hearing?
“I believe God has allowed for my story to reach the Supreme Court, not only for my sake, but for the sake of those who could benefit from my story and my case. I hope the ruling is positive, so that other men and women who are facing a similar situation could have an opportunity to be allowed a pardon and stay in the United States.”
The World also interviewed Aguilar’s fiancee, Kara Culp, of Tulsa, via email:
TW: How have you been holding up since Jorge left?
“It has definitely been hard. Just a few days after Jorge was deported, I fell on ice and broke both of my arms, shattering my right arm in multiple places, resulting in a couple of surgeries. That time was extremely difficult, since Jorge could not be here with me. He did a wonderful job encouraging me through Skype and phone calls, but it was still very hard to not have him here. But I think that through the intense trials of the past couple of years, our relationship has only grown that much stronger.”
“ After my injuries healed some, I was able to surprise him on Valentine’s Day - exactly one year after he had been taken into custody by immigration - by visiting him in El Salvador. And he surprised me with a ring. It was wonderful being able to be together after being separated for so long by jail and now by deportation. But it was also bittersweet, because in the end I had to come back to the U.S., and he had to stay there.
“But I have a lot of hope, because I know that God has brought us together, and so one way or another, I know God will work it out. So, I keep reminding myself that this situation is temporary, and I keep placing my hope and faith in God. In the meantime, Jorge and I keep talking every day on Skype, dreaming about the future together, and planning my next visit.”
TW: What kind of support have you seen for Jorge?
“The support for Jorge has been incredible. Since the first day he was taken into custody by ICE until now, there has been an outpouring of love and support for Jorge, especially from his church First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow.
“Since he arrived in El Salvador, people from Tulsa have helped him get on his feet financially, encouraged him through emails and phone calls, helped him make connections with other Americans living in El Salvador and prayed for him diligently.
“In addition, his church, along with other friends, has invested in Jorge by helping him get established in ministry in El Salvador as he is working to start a church in his hometown. I really do not know what would have happened if he had not had such tremendous support from his church and friends in Tulsa.
“In light of this, it is sobering to think about the many immigrants in similar situations who have been deported, and yet do not have the same level of support. I honestly do not know how they do it.”
TW: What are your plans in light of the immigration action?
“We are waiting to make definite plans until we see how everything plays out in court. But we are hopeful.”
TW: What are your thoughts on the upcoming Supreme Court hearing,?
“I believe that it is no coincidence that his story has now reached the highest court in the United States. I believe that God wants Jorge’s story to be heard, and I believe He will use it for good. We are excited (and a bit nervous) to see what happens, but I am confident that God has a purpose.”
Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376