Meet Fredi, who shares with us his experience as a returned Dreamer. I talked about him in a previous post, the Dreamer I met at my “Coming Out” in Tijuana during the book presentation of Dreamers.
Fredi: Thank you for your courage. My hope is that this continues to inspire others who are here in Mexico willing to “come out” about their experiences.
It was May 2, 2011. It was also my sister’s birthday and it would be unthinkable for me to leave and not stay to spend time with her. But I had to depart in order to meet the deadline set by the immigration judge four months earlier. The deadline was set for May 4. Prior to my immigration court date, I had talked to my family and decided on a “voluntary departure”. It was the most difficult decision that I’ve ever made in my life. This meant not seeing my parents and sister, and moving to a country that I barely remembered from 20 years ago.
That day, I found myself returning to Tijuana. Early memories of Tijuana were from the day we crossed the border as undocumented immigrants… the helicopter was hovering over us. We were covered with cardboard and all I could see was the high beams of light. Man, it was a miracle because the helicopter (or “mosco” as we called in Spanish) moved away without detecting us.
That early Monday when I was scheduled to leave, I woke up early to pack my clothes and some books. My close friends picked me up. I hugged my mom and reassured her that everything was going to be OK. It was heartbreaking! I told her about my plans of working hard and pursuing my PhD. I told her about my plans to return to the U.S. as an international student which I’m still working on. Those last words gave her peace. She knew that I would work hard. Prior to that day, she had witnessed those long sleepless nights while working to finish my Master’s Degree and it paid off. I was able to complete it prior to my “voluntary departure”.
As we drove to the US-Mexico border, I was thinking about my life of 20 years in the United States and how I saw it changed in so many ways. I lived 45 minutes away from the border in Vista, CA, located in North San Diego County. Flashback memories crossed my mind; buying a soda can for 25 cents at the ampm gas station for the first time or even hiding every time I would hear a helicopter because I thought that they were chasing after us. I also remembered those first days of high school and how challenging it was to learn English. I had memories of my experiences of racism when students did not want to work with me because of my accent or when a white student threw a whiteout at me and laughed about it.
We crossed the border with mixed emotions. I was sad to leave my family but was happy because I was about to see my brother who had been deported two years earlier. My life at that moment was filled with uncertainty, not knowing what was to come.
I felt lonely and hit rock bottom with days of depression. I thought I was the only Dreamer who was forced to return because I was not able to find a person with a similar situation. I was wrong. I began to hear stories of Dreamers and other deportees. But to this day, I still don’t feel like I belong. I feel out of place. Some people make fun of my word usage and can tell that I’m not from here. To this day, not many people know about my experiences as a Dreamer because of the stigma of being labeled as a “criminal” or “illegal.” People have a huge misunderstanding of returnees and all feed from mainstream media.
There is much more to say about my experiences back in the U.S. and here in Mexico. I know there are many who I can relate to and who share similar stories. I’m taking this opportunity to let it out because it has been hidden in depths of my heart and soul for too long. Hope to continue with this and be able to share who I am. For now, this is it. Thank you to those who took the time to read my story.
Much love and respect,
One thought on “Guest Voice – The “Voluntary Departure””
Thank you for gathering the courage to share your story.