About 10 percent of the shelter's deportees speak little or no Spanish, including Salvador Herrera IV, 28, who came to the U.S. when he was 2 in the back seat of a car and grew up skateboarding and playing basketball in Long Beach. With a conviction for grand theft auto putting his legal status out of the question, he is considering paying $8,000 for someone else's identity documents to try to return illegally to Southern California.
"I'm basically American," he said. "I'm a beach boy. I do American stuff."
Many at the shelter have convictions for DUI or domestic violence, said Hernandez, reflecting the Obama administration's priority to target anyone with criminal records for deportation.
Gonzalez was arrested in Santa Barbara on suspicion of disorderly conduct, landing him in Tijuana for New Year's Eve. He said he had several misdemeanor convictions, including a DUI, which he committed shortly after turning 18.
"That's when you party a lot and you think it's not going to matter," he said.
Gonzalez was born in Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City, and came to the U.S. by plane when he was 2 years old, never leaving Santa Barbara. After graduating from Santa Barbara High School in 2002, he took automotive classes at community college, worked about four years at a Jiffy Lube outlet and held jobs as a mechanic, gardener and telemarketer in the picturesque California coastal city of 90,000 people.
Gonzalez doesn't know where he will settle after his foot heals. His family helped with more than $3,000 in medical expenses, including a metal rod that holds a toe together.
He may try to find an aunt in Cuernavaca but doesn't have her phone number or address.
"I never thought I would be in this predicament," he said.
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