Latinx Tech Engineers Are Getting Caught Up in Deportation Drives

Carlos Martinez Baldenegro graduated top of his class in computer science yet suffered years of recruitment discrimination in the tech industry. Now he may be forced to leave the United States.

Jose Fermoso
OneZero
Published in
11 min readFeb 19, 2020

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Photo courtesy of the Martinez family

CCarlos Martinez Baldenegro was speeding south toward the Mexican border. It was August 7, 2019, and his 84-year-old grandmother had suffered a heart scare in Cananea in the Mexican border state of Sonora. He had dropped everything to head to Mexico so that he could see her before she died. It was a huge mistake.

Martinez is an undocumented immigrant, the child of economic migrants who came to the United States in the 1980s. He grew up and earned a master’s degree in computer science. As a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) designee, leaving the country would mean Martinez would legally abandon his rights to stay. But he didn’t know that. In previous years, he could’ve asked for an advance parole permit to cross under humanitarian grounds, but the Trump administration ended that option in 2017. He didn’t know that either.

Ten minutes after crossing into Mexico, Martinez stopped for gas at Nogales, a border city where more than a thousand refugee families are living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions and where violent attacks and kidnapping are common. He panicked, turned his car around and drove back to the border. When he reached Homeland Security, he told the guards he was sorry. “I was strictly honest. I told them I made a mistake. ‘Here’s my DACA that expires in 2020 and here’s my driver’s license,’” Martinez explains over the phone. He’s speaking to me from a jail cell at the Eloy Detention Center (EDC), where he has been for more than six months.

At the border, Martinez had told officers from the Department of Homeland Security that he needed asylum. Even though he’d been in the United States since he was a child, he was processed as an “arriving alien” without right to a bond and transferred to EDC.

Tech companies that urgently and vocally claim to support diversity have done little to support the DACA community.

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Jose Fermoso
OneZero

Investigative reporter for international publications. Beats: Tech, culture, injustice. Oaklander 🌳 Runner 🎽 Podcast host 🎙️ Tips: DM4Signal 🐦Twittr@fermoso