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.

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. You don’t need hypothetical deportees when there are over 2 million real ones

Do I really exist?

This happens to be the existential question I ask about myself when I read about the type of U.S. campaigns launched in favor of immigration reform, because they completely disregard my existence.

As I was weaving through the headlines in Mexican and U.S. publications of what appeared to be a Pope Francis vs Trump fight over the pope’s comment of the unchristian-like campaign of the leading Republican candidate, I stumbled upon the following NBCNews article that began its headline with ‘You Deported Me’. I immediately thought, “wow, FINALLY!” we start hearing about the stories of deportation in the immigration debate in mainstream media, and coming directly from deportees.

But my excitement was short lived when I read the rest of the headline “… Campaign Highlights Undocumented Asians” which reinforced what I know about the immigration advocacy efforts in the U.S. We don’t exist for them – but this is a new low. Now they resort to talking about hypothetical deportees because they lack perspectives of real ones.



To give them some credit, as you read the rest of the article and learn about the pro-immigration campaign, you understand that the underlying message is about what it means for undocumented immigrants to live under fear of the threat of deportation. Yes, it is a real one and I definitely understand it, I lived under that fear for 20 years.

However, there is an astronomical difference between living under the fear of deportation and actually going through one. To speak of these two as if they were the same and at the same time fail to include the voices of the deported, it shows a disregard for the over 2 million people and their families that have been affected by the deportation policies under the Obama administration.

Please stop talking about hypothetical deportees and get closer to real life deportees.

Leaving the “Dreamer” politics behind

A friend once asked me, “When will you stop being a deportee?”

Although I can’t recall what I answered, I still remember this question because it struck me as an odd one. Being a deportee is not a state of being or as fluid as my emotions. It is more like a permanent label that I have slip into as a result of political and legal systems. It is a fact that I was detained and expelled from a country and that will never be erased from my past; but I hope my deportee status earns me some karmic brownie points with the birth lottery system in my next life. But I digressed, going back to the question… If my existence in Mexico and my work around activism, migrant rights, and my current career path as a migration scholar were all propelled by a label that has become a part of my identity – can I live without it? Has my quest to dignify this stigmatized label constrained my existence post-deportation?

© Mundo Citizen


To complicate matters, I have attached another identifier to this label by calling myself a “deported Dreamer” as a way of acknowledging my own experience as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S. and connecting it to my struggles here. It was also a strategic choice for me as I wanted to convey the message that I was still part of political movement in the U.S. propelled by (what I call) the “millennial Dreamers”. I mean, we are of the same kind. I have much in common with them, we all arrived as a children in the U.S. and growing up in the country that would later become home as undocumented immigrants. The main difference was that I was part of a generation who lived mostly in the shadows. We were also not as organized as the millennial Dreamers are today, and of course since 2009, I’m no longer in the U.S.

Being a Dreamer on the south side of the border (I thought) was part of extending the immigrant right’s struggle to Mexico, because being a returned migrant in Mexico is no walk in the park, as I have tried to illustrate in most of what I written here since I started blogging in 2012. My new found purpose was wrapped around a fight for recognition in a country that won’t have us back, that doesn’t want us back. Four years later, I find myself at a crossroads and I have made a decision others in U.S. Dreamer movement have made – to drop the label. I am no longer a Dreamer.

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