Sunday, May 5, 2019

Arrested and stranded in Chihuahua, Chihuahua

Saturday 2 Mar 2019
It's dark, and it's getting late. My bags are both heavy and ill-prepared. I need to find a bus to downtown Chihuahua. I know downtown is to the right, but a passerby assures me the bus to downtown comes from the right. So I confirm with other passersby, then cross the street to wait at a bus stop on night three of a 3-week vacation now interrupted.

Two nights ago, after singing baritone backup for the Remember When Doo Wop show at Scottsdale Shadows, changing clothes, and saying good-bye to my grown sons in Mesa, I drove to a Walmart parking lot in Benson, AZ. I slept there until I couldn't stand the cold, continued to El Paso, TX for a USA Trusted Traveler Quick Entry (SENTRI) card interview, then crossed the Zaragoza bridge over the Rio Grande into Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Once on the Mexico side, I pulled my car into a diagonal pull-through bay where I was looked over and asked where I was going.

"To San Luis Potosi to visit a friend."

"OK. You're good."

I found the toll road to Chihuahua, Chihuahua and continued to a checkpoint at the edge of the border zone, beyond which immigration and customs law applies. I was waved through, and I spent the night in my Chevy Metro "CaRV" in the parking lot of a gas station in Villa Ahumada.

On Saturday morning I continued through Chihuahua, Chih. to its south side, where I spent the day working at Cíber Monica and consulting on dialect with a communications graduate.

In the evening I continued south toward Parral for another night in my "caRV". A few miles outside Chihuahua, Chih., I stopped at another Highway Patrol checkpoint where I was waved through. No sooner had I left the checkpoint than I saw flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I hastily worked on getting Facebook Live started as I pulled over.

"You need a sticker in your windshield," the officer told me. I replied that when I had asked about driving in Mexico on getting my visa at Nogales customs office I wasn't given anything. He replied that he'd have to confiscate my license and my car.

"Well, then, let's go to the police station," I said. He told me to go to the next turnaround and from there he'd guide me back to the checkpoint. Once at the checkpoint, one of the police officers started sketching my situation and my future.

"I want to show you a permit somebody else has. To get this permit, you have to leave a deposit, more or less $400. They will ask for your passport, registration, license, and insurance."

"Can it be done here in Chihuahua, or I need to go back to Juárez?"

"You can't do it anymore. I'm trying to find a vehicle to show you the permit. When your vehicle returns to the USA, they return your deposit. They only charge you $55. The deposit's just so Mexican customs has a guarantee that your vehicle will return to the USA."


"In a bit I will show you the document. And the judge, the vehicle is going to be impounded, you can't get the vehicle back. The vehicle is lost. And as for you, the judge will decide how long you stay arrested. ... You aren't going to be able to get it back anymore. ... I am going to drive it in to the station. ... You are going to be handcuffed. You knew you needed the permit. Tell the people on the video. Yes, you knew. Yes, you knew."

They read me my rights, showed me handcuffs, took my keys and license, and asked me to sit in their truck. But eventually they returned everything and escorted me driving back to Chihuahua where they impounded my car at the Highway Patrol headquarters (28.6128733,-106.105889 WGS84)--with me under the impression I'd be spending the night at the station waiting to see a judge. They told me to take my belongings from my car.

I was under the impression I would be spending the night at the police station where they'd give me food and water. So I grabbed my valuables instead of my necessities. So I'm standing here without adequate travel gear needing to find a hotel.

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