There’s no place like home – Los Angeles.

A true Los Angeles native knows that life without a car is no life at all. This L.A. transplant of 20 years whose coming of age happened in the great City of Angels couldn’t agree more. She would also learn that life without Los Angeles is hard to imagine.

To love L.A. is to drive it. Even when you can’t get a license, an undocumented Angelino/a finds a way. We were certainly forced to find one after 1994 when licenses stopped being issued for folks without papers (although that has recently changed with legislation granting California Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Residents).

Oh, yes! I remember the first car I drove. This car was what we call a carcacha, it definitely looked like a clunker; but on my last year of college it spared me the agony of the daily commute from my home in South Central L.A. to the San Fernando Valley, and back. On a good day I would spent four hours hopping on three buses and a metro. With that kind of commute I was certainly no friend of the Los Angeles public system, but I was determined to get a college education and 30 miles were not going to get in my way. No way! Besides, the long rides gave me time to do my homework or take a nap, my antidote to a normalized sleep deprived life style.

When my dad had enough savings to buy me a car, it didn’t matter it was a vehicle that looked as it was ready to head to the car graveyard. In its past life, it had survived an accident that left a dent on the door on the driver’s side, but any repairs done to it didn’t remove the evidence that it was a survivor, like me. It had a missing window that was usurped by a type of plastic that was good enough to look like a glass window, but it distorted the driver’s view, giving it a blurred vision effect that made driving it either bit interesting or hazardous, depending on the type of driver you are. As long as I never had to take any place where valet parking was required, I was good to go!

This minivan made me fall in love with Los Angeles, its multiculturalism, diversity, gentrification and segregation, all for the price of one. It took me everywhere I needed to go and become the car that made me a happy and fearless driver on the 101/405 FWYs. In my post-college years, so much of my life was dependent on my car. Going to work meetings, road trip to Las Vegas with my family to spend the holidays, rushing to meet my friends for happy hour, even grocery shopping.

LA-Street-MC

 

After graduation, I upgraded by purchasing my first car, a red Camry Toyota that allowed me to continue my driving relationship with LA. This one survived a Freeway accident and an immigration persecution. Yeah, the one where I was stopped on my way to work. I’m sure my car will never forgive the officers for forcing me to leave it stranded in the middle of the street to be towed away. The bloody bastards!

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Separating from a movement that never was: Los Otros Dreamers and the “dreams in Mexico” out of reach for most

It was three years ago, in the month of May, when my life in activism started in Mexico. I spoke about my experience of deportation for the first time in a public event in Tijuana. It was the first of many moments that led me to meet others with similar experiences. I was becoming hopeful of the possibility of a movement of deported and returned youth in Mexico.

Two years after my post-deportation “coming out”, I found myself sitting in a conference room in Mexico City with a group of around seven people. The plan was to discuss ways in which we could organize around a cause, identify a mission and objective and immerse ourselves in the theory and history of political movements so that we could build from the knowledge of the past.

Among those engaged in the dialogue were “voluntary” returnees, couple of us de facto deportees, and a few handful of allies of “the cause”. What united all of us was the “Los Otros Dreamers” book which would featured our experiences of return/deportation, a project that would give us a label many of us would adopt. The book was scheduled to be released on the same weekend of our transnational encuentro we had started in that conference room with the leadership group.

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Transnational Conference, September 2014 – Mexico City

 

As the coordinator of the training agenda, my intention was to create an open, safe, and powerful space from which we could discuss how we would advocate on behalf of a generation of US-educated youth that had been returning (in)voluntarily to Mexico in mass numbers for years. But in the middle of the dialogue, we seemed to have different visions and it was not clear they would be compatible. Although I did not realize this in that moment, overtime it became evident that we wanted different things. Yes, we all had good intentions of being inclusive of the diversity of experiences and perspectives, and we wanted to help in some way; but at the end, some of us would later end up feeling left out.

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Deportees also “Feel the Bern” south of the Mexico-US border

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will be at a San Diego rally this evening, only 42 miles away from the renovated San Ysidro Port of entry.  Despite the proximity, there is a group of supporters in Tijuana who will not be able to join the crowd at the San Diego Convention Center this evening because there is one thing that gets in their way – the US-Mexico border.

Last week I had a chance to meet members of the Dreamers Moms USA-Tijuana and the US Deported Veterans. Although I have visited Tijuana several times since I left in 2013, I avoided getting near the San Ysidro Port of Entry since. I really hate it. It is hard enough to see the border fence along the roads I used to pass by on a regular basis, so I usually limit going to the pedestrian crossing when I meet my friends visiting from Los Angeles. But this time I was invited to join these groups of deportee organizers I had heard so much about. They were planning a rally at largest crossing point in support of Bernie Sanders.

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San Ysidro Port of Entry/Tijuana ©Mundo Citizen

It wasn’t hard to find them. The pink T-shirts, the large white banners and the loud chats made them easy to identify from a distance. From the Mexican side of the border, the drivers heading to U.S. would see the group holding their “Women for Bernie”/“Feel the Bern” signs shout and chanting:

 

Bernie, Bring Deported Moms Home. Bring Them Home

Bernie, Bring Vets Home. Bring Them Home

 

…Not one more, deportation

Reunification, Not Deportation

 

… Ningún ser humano es illegal (No human being is illegal)

¿Que es lo que queremos? Regresar a casa (What do we want? To return home)

¿Cuando? ¡Ahora!¿ Cuando, cuando, cuando? (When?, now! When?, When?, When? Now! Now! Now!)

Sin Papeles, Sin Miedo (No Papers, No Fear)

 

Today, they will gather again at the border. Although they won’t be able to cross it, they hope their demands will.

I myself don’t “Feel the Bern”, nor any of the U.S. presidential candidates. Unfortunately, I know that supporting a campaign for a candidate who claims to support immigrants doesn’t translate into just immigration policies. I learned that the hard way after campaigning for Obama.

However, I do support these brave and resilient groups and their demands to return home with their families. They represent the voices post-deportation that need to be listened to not only by a presidential candidate but also by a movement in the U.S. that has failed to give them a space in their advocacy agenda.