Following the deportation of a teenager whose one mistake changed his life: Part 1

Brandon Salinas came to the U.S. as a child. At 17, he was caught with marijuana, arrested and later sent to an ICE detention center. Then, nearly a year later, he was left on the border of Mexico.
12:14 | 10/31/20

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Transcript for Following the deportation of a teenager whose one mistake changed his life: Part 1
Thanks for joining us. We rarely get to watch someone being deported as it's happening. Tonight, a year-long odyssey for one teenager who grew up feeling like a second-class citizen and whose deportation raises questions of who deserves to be an American and who does not. In small-town Georgia, Brandon Salinas had an all-American childhood. Being a boy scout. Listening to gospel music. Playing ultimate Frisbee with my friends. What kind of a boy was he? Nickelodeon, that was his favorite. Reporter: Yvonne raised her four kids as a single mom. His siblings all U.S. Citizens. But Brandon was her only child born in Mexico. I was about 4 years old when I was brought over here to America. I remember I was too short to walk over the Rio grande. They put me on their shoulders because the water was too high. Reporter: Yvonne worked hard in construction her kids could walk to the local school, but all it took was a teenage mistake to upend the life she had built. Last year at 17, Brandon was caught with marijuana. Along with some friends. They were never charged. But unlike them, Brandon is undocumented. Not only was he arrested, he got sent to an I.C.E. Detention center to face deportation. I regret it each and every Reporter: For years we've charted the human toll of our nation's crackdown on immigration. Families stranded at the border. Children separated from parents. And now her reeling from her son's deportation, forced away from the only home he'd ever known. I felt like, you know, if I could have another opportunity just to do things right, I will. Reporter: Dalton, Georgia, dubbed the carpet capital of the world. Population roughly 30,000, ly half Tino. Like so many, Yvonne was lured here by the promise of a good factory job off the books. Brandon would also toil in one of those carpet mills. At 16, he wa obsessed with buying a car, and he worked two jobs to earn it. How much did you save up to buy the car? $10,000. Reporter: But a shadow hangs low over this town. A decades-old policy THA allows local law enforcement to work with immigration officers. This trend of mass deportation has deep roots. We will expand andrevitalize the popular 287-g partnerships -- Places like Dalton, Georgia, have these robust agreements between local law enforcements D I.C.E. Agents where a vehicle stop can get turned into you're in I.C.E. Custody Awai removal proceedings. Reporter: In 2019 alone, more than 160,000 people have been detained across the U.S. Under 287-g. The majority picked up on minor offenses. Since 2014, nearly 50,000 deported. Right now we're in Stewart detention facility. I've been here a couple days. I've been incarcerated about 10 months now. My friends, most of them, they knew I was born in Mexico. Me growing up, I realized I was different from everybody else. I know I went through this when my boys were such sweet boys, suddenly they turned into teenagers. What was that like for you, watching him go from boy to manhood? It was very hard. It was very hard. Because he wouldn't listen to me. Did you know he was smoking marijuana? In high school. I was getting out of work probably around 8:00. Went out with some friends. Had some marijuana on me. I remember that we were in my car. And my friend was driving. There was a sheriff. He turned on his lights. That's when my friend, he sped off. He got nervous. He sped off in my car. Reporter: Even though his friend was driving, all four were arrested and later released. Days after Brandon's 18th birthday, the police came back. Reporter: Brandon was arrested and charged with marijuana possession and lying to police a his age and the spelling of his name. He spent five months in county jail. And then he was handed over to I.C.E. So this is his bed. Oh, that's him? What grade? Oh, this is the cap and gown. For his graduation. What do you think when you see this gown? I'm very sad. He waited for that day. He missed it. Yeah. When he was in jail, and later when he was in detention, and he would call you, I know that he would always act very like he' a man. Uh-huh. But I'm sure he was a scared little boy, too. Uh-huh. I can't imagine. Reporter: The pain of families tor apart is a trauma that permeates this little town. His childhood friend Andris knows this well, their lives separated only by a piece of paper. Do you think people here who are undocumented a afraid? Yeah, they are scared of the cops. They don't want to drive a car, they don't want to do nothing like that. One wrong move? Yeah, one wrong move and who knows, you might be going to a whole new country. Here's my M. My mom also got deported while she was driving. You mean she got picked up because she was driving without a license? Yes. What was that like for you and your family? That was hard, especially on me, because I'm such a mama's boy, such a mama's boy. I can't alk about it without crying. It was really hard on me for sure. I don't know,was just hard on me, really is. Reporter: When we reached out to the sheriff's office that first arrested Brandon, they directed us to I.C.E. In Atlanta. Everyone here in the united States who's not a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident is subject to removal. But I.C.E. Also has discretion to not deport. And we use that on a regular basis, but those kind of cases, you're not hearing about. How does it keep Americans safe by deporting a nonviolent teenager to a country he's never lived in, really? Because we still have to follow the rule of law, that's why. Does that make Americans safer? Yes, because at the end of the day, if you don't follow the rule of law, you're going to have chaos. But what if a person has no gang history, there's no violent crime, and they came as a toddler? I mean, aren't you punishing someone for the sins of the We look at those on a case-by-case basis. Reporter:ut Brandon's case was a long shot. He was facing one of the strictest judges in the south. After nearly a year behind bars, Brandon says he'd lost hope. The exact same day he was deported, I had a meeting scheduled with him. Reporter: Fernando Chavez was Brandon's attorney, but it was too late. He'd waived his right to appeal and signed his own deportation order. He said it himself, I don't know, what am I supposed to appeal? Asylum? I've been here my whole life, how does asylum work for me? The system had just -- too long. They dropped me off in Texas close to the border and told me to walk to Mexico. Reporter: He walked to a shelter with $23 in his pocket and the few meager belongings from detention. It would take days for his mom to frantically scrape together enough money for a plane ticket. My home is my house with my family. Christmases, fourth of Julys. I had so many experiences. Reporter: In the dead of night, Brandon finally makes it to the city of torreone where he's about to see his grandfather for the first time since he was a baby. La. When we come back, Brandon

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