When Noah Nordstrom was taken off the bus in Mexico by police, he was afraid.
“When I first got detained, I had no idea where I was going,” Nordstrom said. “They wouldn’t tell me where I was going, so I was pretty afraid. They could have killed me for all I knew, so it was really scary.”
An ETSU student, Nordstrom was detained in Mexico for a week after it was discovered that his passport had not been properly stamped.
“By accident they didn’t give us the proper stamp,” Nordstrom said. “It was an administrative error because they let me pass before they gave me a stamp. They told us just to cross the gate. … It was kind of a weird situation. We weren’t trying not to get the stamp, it’s really easy to do it the right way.”
Nordstrom had been on his way from Vera Cruz to Mexico City with his boyfriend when the bus they were on was stopped for a random immigration check.
“I have white skin and blue eyes,” Nordstrom said. “I don’t look like your typical Mexican, so they came and asked me.”
Once it was discovered that Nordstrom’s passport was not stamped correctly, the police asked Nordstrom to come with him.
“They were kind of treating me like a criminal,” Nordstrom said. “They told my boyfriend to stay on the bus and that he couldn’t come with me … I thought it was going to take a few minutes, but it ended up being almost a week.”
He was taken to prison, where the guards kept him in a private cell. In a Facebook post made by Nordstrom he said the authorities kept him separate from the other prisoners. Nordstrom said the police did this because they said the other inmates “were rapists, criminals and delinquents.”
“I didn’t really know what to think because I don’t usually believe that narrative about immigration,” Nordstrom said. “I wasn’t really scared of the people, but the guards wouldn’t let me near them.”
Eventually Nordstrom asked to be placed with the other prisoners.
“I was a little nervous because I’m gay,” Nordstrom said. “And I was locked up with a lot of men. I was afraid they would be homophobic, but when I started talking they were really accepting, and they weren’t trying to discriminate or harass me. Everyone was really nice and kind and it left an impression on me. That everyone was kind when they were made out to be criminals and rapists.”
Over the course of his stay, Nordstrom met a variety of people and learned their stories. One such person was a man who had been deported to Mexico, leaving behind his wife and family in the United States.
“It really broke my heart because he lived in the U.S. for so long,” Nordstrom said. “Because the government got more conservative, they took away his license, and he was deported. His family is mostly American, but here he is stuck in an immigration prison trying to reunite with his family before his kids grow up.”
Nordstrom is now living in Mexico City with is boyfriend, and his week stay in an immigration prison left an impact on him.
“I’d already read about what was happening in Central America,” Nordstrom said. “Sitting there for a week of my life just made it so real because I wasn’t reading about it on some online article, I was living it. Listening to these stories about how they were fleeing for their lives, it made me more passionate about changing the system.”