October 14, 2013
During Sandra Avila Beltran’s fleeting stay in El Paso’s immigration processing center, reports show “the Queen of the Pacific” is not a woman content with just anything. As laid back as she has appeared in early videos since her arrest, she seemed to act more entitled than others in the El Paso facility. Among her requests, Avila Beltran demanded guards bring her better clothes, “something more comfortable to wear” and make up.
Even after the repatriation program had already provided her customary clothes, “the Queen of the Pacific” was able to mobilize FBI agents to go to the closest Walmart and bring her a pair of tight skinny jeans, a white sweatshirt, a make up case with eyeliner and eyebrow accentuating pencils
Sandra was in El Paso prison “limbo” because she had served her formal sentence, and was waiting to be returned to her country. When extradited prisoners are deported, they pass through an ICE processing centre before stepping back on Mexican soil. She was waiting to board the plane that would send her to a Mexican prison, where her attire would be a brown uniform.
During her stay at the immigration Center, U.S. and Mexican authorities exchanged a series of emails regarding how to meet the personal requirements of Sandra Ávila Beltrán, La Reina del Pacifico. UNIVERSAL had access to that correspondence.
Sandra Avila arrived at the ICE protection center on August 14. After spending more than five years in Mexican prisons. A year earlier she had been extradited to the United States,.
She pleaded guilty to financially helping her boyfriend, Colombian Diego Espinoza Ramírez, El Tigre, one of the big drug traffickers who was arrested in 2009.
Her tour of US prisons began in July 2012, when she was transferred to a processing center in Louisiana, then to another in Miami, and, finally, to El Paso, Texas, her last, where she stayed for six days.
Sandra Ávila Beltrán, as any other inmate, was given facility appropriate clothes, from PRIM (procedure of repatriation to center)…but she demanded something else all together. She wanted skinny, tight jeans, a sweatshirt and a make-up kit.
So the emails began, Thomas Homan, Reginald Buck and Arturo Fierro, the three heads of the ICE sent the request to the FBI. Consulted emails read by UNIVERSAL show that agents of the Federal Bureau of investigation went to a Walmart and bought the Queen’s requirements.
The Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) in a correspondence to their San Antonio office writes that Sandra Avila Beltran hates to be left alone, and perhaps, is terrified at finding herself in that situation. An email that came out of the correspondence from PGR with the San Antonio Office, said she had beaten her head intentionally in order to be moved from an isolation cell to another cell in “General population”, and one night, she asked for sleeping pills to sleep. Doctors evaluated her and decided that they would give them to her. They brought her two capsules purchased from a Walgreens pharmacy so she could finally relax. The next day she asked to speak to her lawyer. ICE authorities once again evaluated her request. They agreed that the staff would place calls under the condition that they would be recorded, with the exception of the calls to her lawyer.
Since 2007, when she was captured by Federal Police as she was getting into a BMW, Sandra has been refused almost nothing. Apart from freedom, of course. A source from the PGR, in DF, told a journalist friend that when they brought her in the back seat of a Suburban without the Federal logos, she was composed and smiling. She asked to use the agents phone to warn her son and her mother to expect to see her on television that evening because she had been arrested.
Then, in the Santa Martha Acatitla prison, Sandra would use the previously mentioned blackmail tactic of hitting her head against the wall while threatening to lodge a complaint against the City Government. Also she would complain about being bitten by the insects that lived in her cell. she called them “noxious fauna.”
There was one request by “The Queen” that was denied by the ICE El Paso processing center. After Sandra Ávila Beltrán was demanding to be given the date of repatriation to Mexico, email reply was negatory “for safety reasons, the exact date could not be given,” says one of the emails. Sandra’s demands spurred a writing frenzy between Mexican and U.S. authorities during her stay at the immigration processing center. She contacted high level executives as Thomas Homan, head of the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Washington, Reginald Buck, assistant of the center of detention in West Texas, Alfredo Fierro, director of the Centre, and Cano Salvador, from of the PGR in Texas. All of them maintained 24 hour contact for six days. Emails were sent to each the PGR attaché and then forwarded to Mexico. Their talks showed the details of Ávila Beltrán’s time in the El Paso facility.
A source of the PGR gave UNIVERSAL access to these sensitive posts, under the condition of not taking a single photograph, copying or printing them. They were not opposed to taking notes in a notebook. For a couple of hours Universal was able to consult files as to whether there was special treatment for Sandra Avila, in comparison to other deportees. They questioned the source who allowed them to see the electronic correspondence and found there was such a thing as special treatment. They found an email which says 15 agents escorted Sandra from the ICE processing center, each carrying long range weapons, joined by 11 operatives from the El Paso International Airport. That is 13 officers more than unusual. -It was a special operation, but nothing preferential- says the source.
UNIVERSAL found 10 letters from the ICE processing center where Sandra Avila was stayed,. All relate to similar stories during the past two years: Those awaiting transfer were tired of waiting in “limbo” and wanted to return home. ICE statistics showed that the average time an “undocumented” who passes through a detention center was about one month. The process almost doubled in length after September 11 attacks.
Letters written by hand on sheets of notebook paper demonstrate that writing is one of the few vehicles available to the undocumented to complain about poor treatment inside the center, such as of being denied food or medical treatment. They suffer verbal and psychological abuse by the guards and often are not paid for cleaning-a dollar a day wage, for weeks without payment.
The ICE processing center of El Paso is on Mountain Avenue, in the northeast part of the city. It is a fenced, wired, filled with cameras, a patrolled complex, away from civilization, near the Fort Bliss military base. There are few differences between a prison and this facility. This processing center is the place where the undocumented immigrants come after they have been arrested in different cities in the country, or those who have entered the self-deportation program. Also those who are fleeing violence in Mexico and ask for political asylum in the United States go to this facility.
But Sandra Avila Beltran is different. In the morning, she was to be transferred with 20 others by a bus, property of the Sheriff’s Office, to the El Paso International Airport
She no longer looks like “The Queen of the Pacific”, not like the first time she appeared on video proud and lofty, with dark nicely cut brown hair, the envy of some women who have remained in prison down trodden and walked over. The grey hair has appeared, however much she wants to conceal it. She is still smiling but it is not really working, even with makeup and everything.
The heads of five law enforcement agencies – FBI, DEA, ICE, CBP and PGR – greet one another for the last time at the El Paso the international airport, where Sandra will tackle the steps of a white plane without logos, 90 windows. Some 39 prisoners has not touched the window, but “Queen,” yea.