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Mission Woman Detained in Mexico Weighs In on Experience after Release

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MISSION – A woman living in Mission almost spent Christmas Day behind bars in Matamoros. Now, back on U.S. soil, she’s talking about her arrest.

It happened after Mexican authorities found a box of ammunition in her car while inspecting toys meant for children.

“There was little cars, and little horses, and little coloring pages and wonderful little surprises for them to be able to play in the space of a tent,” said Anamichelle Castellano.

Hundreds of gifts packed into a car heading to migrant children in Matamoros.

Castellano, her husband Jehu and daughter Ellie were taking goods as they have before. Anamichelle was even dressed for the occasion in Christmas attire. It’s part of the Socorro Foundation’s mission to help migrants along the border. This time something different.

“We don't normally drive this vehicle in Mexico, but that morning my vehicle had a flat tire and the battery was dead,” explained Anamichelle.

The family loaded the packages into Jehu’s SUV and the wrapped boxes.

“We’re going to have to open all your gifts or you can go through the x-ray machine. I said, ‘I'll go through the x-ray machine,’” said Anamichelle.

There was an anomaly in the x-ray. At first, authorities thought a coin cup was the undetected mass.

“We took the coins out and it still showed yellow. So, they, I guess, investigated further and under a bunch of receipts was this random, small little box of bullets that had been left behind by accident from a trip we took more than six months ago to our family's ranch,” Anamichelle described.

Jehu described it as a small box full of 9mm caliber bullets. Taking ammunition into Mexico is a federal crime. Anamichelle and the volunteer in the car with her were detained.

“From there they began to treat us like criminals,” said Anamichelle.

Her husband and young daughter were distraught.

“I don’t care if they hear me cry. I wanted them to hear me cry, because if they heard me cry, they'd hear me suffer,” said Ellie.

Monday afternoon turned into evening. The Castellanos were told repeatedly her release was imminent, but dependent on a process they were not familiar with.

They hired an attorney. He asked them for $500 to negotiate, but nothing happened.

On Tuesday, they tried another attorney who said her release required thousands of dollars. Jehu was getting frustrated.

“I wasn’t feeling like the job was going to get done,” he said.

He says they prayed and by Tuesday afternoon, something changed.

“I’ve been to church my whole life and I know when the presence of God is with me. And I felt a major breakthrough,” said Jehu.

He offered a compromise on the amount and the Mexican officials accepted.

With borrowed money they secured the release of both Anamichelle and her volunteer. Part of the gifts are still in custody, but before they left the family distributed some products and other necessities at the camp.

In spite of the experience, they feel there was a higher purpose.

Jehu said, “We saw the hand of God move.”

For Anamichelle, it served to highlight their mission.

“I think America needs to know that. I think they need to know the story behind this camp,” said Anamichelle.

The Castellanos say investigation in Mexico is still ongoing. They told us they are undeterred from continuing to help.

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