Tyler Sipe, Deseret Morning News
CUAUHTEMOC, Mexico For the first month or so, Humberto "Bert" Fernandez-Vargas couldn't set foot in the town plaza where as a boy he shined shoes and sold candy bars for a few pesos.
His daily walk down the uneven sidewalk on Avenue Augstin Melgar always ended at the intersection of Avenue Ignacio Allende across the street. He just stood there, sometimes for hours, thinking and watching the striped-shirted cowboys, earnest snack vendors and streetwise shoeshine boys.
He couldn't say why but those people in the park scared him. They weren't his people. Still aren't. Never will be.
"The town is not my town. I don't want it. I don't want to be here. I want to be home," Fernandez-Vargas said, wearing a black USA cap and a T-shirt reading "Mexican-American" on the back, both gifts from his son. "I don't want nothing to do with this place."
He is an outcast here.
Home to him is Utah, the place he lived for more than two decades. Home is the United States, the country that threw him out a year ago to the day of this interview with the Deseret Morning News.
He is an outlaw there.
Fernandez-Vargas eventually mustered the courage to break through the imaginary wall around the park with tall fir trees and bronze plaques of past Mexican presidents. Though he ambles there every day now, his mind wanders northward to another barrier, one that is much more formidable with its barbed-wire fence and armed guards.
He's thinking about busting through it, too. But that would ruin everything. He could be caught. His case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court would fall apart.
Or would it heal everything? He would be back with his wife, Rita, and son, Anthony, and his "babies," the dogs. It's so confusing.
Maybe it's better to wait.
Maybe it's better to go now.Maybe it's better to pull the trigger and end it all here in Mexico, where it began. That would get him back to Utah.
I love you Rita Hernandez. Please do not abandon me because I love you with all the strength of my heart. I need you to be able to continue living this way. Soon my love, my Boo Boo.Letter from Bert Fernandez to his wife. (translated from Spanish)
On the morning Fernandez-Vargas left, an uneasy feeling gnawed at Rita Fernandez. Her husband thought he was going to a routine immigration interview about his request for permanent residency.
Though he had lived in the United States illegally for some 30 years, Fernandez-Vargas assured her everything would be fine. He hugged and kissed her as he did his 14-year-old son, who was getting ready for school.
"I will call you as soon as I get out of that office," he told her.
A truck driver, Fernandez-Vargas climbed into one of the two semis he owns. It rumbled from his Ogden home to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in Salt Lake City on Nov. 7, 2003. He asked for an early morning meeting so he could drive straight to a trucking job at Kennecott Copper.
True to his word, Fernandez-Vargas called his wife at 1 p.m. no longer a free man.
"I'm going to jail," he told her.
Unbeknownst to him, the Department of Homeland Security had reinstated a 1981 deportation order. Agents arrested him on the spot.
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