Lions and Tigers and Activists, Oh My!

It has been a busy year and part of the reason for writing sporadically is because activism has become a priority in my life.

I wished I could have written more about my work in the past year, perhaps in the future I will, but in Mexico, we experienced “Momentum”[i] in our advocacy work this past year. To give you an idea, I briefly describe some of the projects that kept me busy in Mexico City since June 2014:

  • Education: I completed my Master’s program in Global Migration and although I did not attend my graduation in London, I received my diploma via mail a couple months ago. I hope to have made proud those that supported me on my campaign #DreamsWithtoutBorders which made it possible for me to pursue my dream of completing grad school. Unfortunately, as is the case for my U.S. Bachelor’s degree, this Master’s is not recognized in Mexico (read more below on education revalidation requirements).
UCL Diploma

UCL Diploma

  • Research in Interculturality and Transnational Advocacy: My newly completed “formal” training in migration studies jump started my career as an emerging scholar with “transborder experience” (wink, wink) and <i worked on two projects; the first one included a research project which resulted in my first institutional publication (Spanish) for the Mexico City government to analyze access and visibility of the population subject to rights through the Law of Interculturality passed in 2011. In the second project, I supported the planning and organization of a transnational conference that propelled transnational mobilization of youth migrant activists. Below is a link to the recorded “Talk Show” (Spanish) that reviewed the objectives and outcomes of our conference and a closer look at the stories of some of the 29 youth activists that participated.

  • Education Inclusion in Mexico: In collaboration with the nonprofit sector and allies, we increased visibility of the barriers faced by Mexican-American children who return to Mexico with their deported parents as well as young returned and deported Dreamers in accessing the educational system in Mexico, which has become discriminatory to those with a foreign education. The political pressure we have been exerting translated into recent legal changes that will facilitate the resinsertion of children and youth who want to continue their education in Mexico and need their school revalidation (only applicable to education up to high school; higher education continues to be an issue). I have also lead efforts in creating a working group with the Secretariat of Public Education to have a dialogue about the implementation of the normative changes recently adopted as well as additional actions required by SEP to facilitate recognition of foreign studies for Dreamers with a college education. Some articles I have written or co-authored on the subject (Spanish and/or English) with further explanation and analysis on this subject:
    • La exclusión de los niños que retornan a México, Revista Nexos, August 1 2015 [English translation to be available soon]
    • How do I go on DREAMing when Mexican gov’t says my U.S. college education is worthless, Latina Lista, May 18, 2015 [translation of Spanish Animal Político article]
    • La no validación de estudios como “política” de educación en México, Animal Político, April 14, 2015 (Spanish)
Mundo Citizen story in three books

Mundo Citizen story in three books

#Dreamers in the Land of Oz

The Los Otros Dreamers, The Book played a central part role in the advocacy work I become involved with since my relocation to Mexico City last year.

Besides the book launch coordinated by the co-authors, I helped organize a conference that brought together the returnees/deportees featured in the book to continue to build and strengthen this informal community of returned youth. We are not a movement yet nor a political community in my opinion, but they are many of us who have engaged in political activism to demand concrete programs and initiatives aimed at facilitating the reinsertion for returnees.

Almost six years since my deportation, three of which I have dedicated to advocacy work, we still lack an adequate response from our government. Agencies such as the Mexican Foreign Affairs (SRE) would rather spend time and resources trying to convincing a binacional audience of public officials and scholars of their services and programs they offer to the Mexican Diaspora in the U.S. at every conference they host while they fail to support programs to help the “Mexicans abroad” who are now back in Mexico. Additionally, SRE easily pays for trips for DACAmented Dreamer delegations to propel a “Dreamer friendly” image, while at the same time making the real #DreamersInMexico (those of us who live in Mexico) invisible. And there are also the Mexican politician delegations that visit the U.S. that explicitly lie to U.S. Dreamers about their efforts to help and employ Dreamers when they return to Mexico, when we know they are non-existent (we have asked around). And there are other DACA Dreamers that come with academic institutions and end up producing films to document their journeys back to Mexico, making them the protagonists in the story of the Mexicans that no longer has roots in their country, but yet they are able to return back to the U.S. while we stay on this side of the border, indefinitely. It is one bad experience after another, of feeling dismissed from so many angles, even by people you would expect solidarity and support from. But we carry on our with struggle as we fight for our own recognition here and abroad.

These are some important highlights of the work I have lead/collaborated in Mexico. It has been tough, tiresome, thankless, and unpaid work in this rollercoaster ride as an activist and deportee, but at least I feel comforted by the gratification I feel from working on issues that have affected me personally. Definitely a Dorothy-like experience of trying to find my way back home, lost in the Land of Oz.

On my way to Emerald City

Now, after almost six years of work in rebuilding a life #postdeportation, I am taking a break to focus on myself to reflect on which path on the yellow brick road I will take. Be it my restless nature or desire to learn and grow by going out of my comfort zone, I decided to submit an application for a training program (abroad, once again), designed to train young professional from rising powers on global issues.

As a result, today I already find myself in Germany, freshly arrived from an 18-hour flight (given the creative route I have to take to avoid connecting flights in the U.S. because I would get in trouble if I stepped a foot on U.S. soil). Participants for this program come from emerging economies in the Global South, three of us are from Mexico and my American upbringing sort of is infiltrating U.S. presence). I am also the only participant with a focus and “expertise” in migration studies. In the following months, I will be crossing more borders in Europe, learning about international cooperation and about being a global leader and citizen, as well as expanding my vision of myself and my work.

I’m ready for this new chapter of my life, which I begin by documenting the conversations I had with immigration officers I encountered along my flight to Germany.

Officer: What is the purpose of your travel?

Nancy: For academic purposes.

Officer: What is the program about?

Nancy: It is a program on leadership and international cooperation?

Officer: Do you know anybody in Germany? (he asks as he continuous to inspect my passport suspiciously)

Nancy: (debating whether to say yes since I am yet to get to know the other participants): Well, yes I could say.

Officer: What kind of work do you do?

Nancy: I am a researcher.

Officer: In what field?

Nancy: In migration studies

As fix my gaze for a reaction, I felt a sensation that was new to me, an unknown sense of empowerment, experiencing for the first time a fearlessness in interacting with immigration officers. Given my past, immigration check-points had become a dreaded experience from the anticipated suspicion and antagonism we often are are subjecct to. However, there was nothing they could do or say to intimidate me.

I stood there, sort of defiant, waiting to see if the immigration officer would proceed to continue a line of harsh questioning, take me to secondary inspection or simply let me proceed to my flight which was getting ready to board passengers. Part of me felt that the officer knew I was not the only one being observed. The “migration expert” was also “at work”, witnessing the implementation of the law at immigration check-points in its discretionary fashion as immigration officers filter through passengers to filter out those that could be a risk to national security, whatever they are supposed to look like. I was expelled once from the U.S. for being one of them, but now I travel to other places sponsored by a government that values what my education and trajectory has to offer, in contrast to the Mexican or American governments. I am now viewed as an actor in “co-shaping the process of global transformation and managing the interface of domestic and international policies”. I don’t take this responsibility lightly.


[i] “Momentum” is a term used by my friend Carlos and his Movement Mastery team who specialize in training organizers and activists looking to further a social justice agenda. I met Carlos in London at a training he facilitated and subsequently he also trained Los Otros Dreamers in our conference we organized in September 2014 which took place during the book launch.

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2 thoughts on “Lions and Tigers and Activists, Oh My!

  1. Cecilio Aguilar says:

    Nancy, you’ve come a long way during your six years of being in Mexico. As a Mexican-American growing up in southern California and traveling and living in both the U.S. and Mexico I can empathize with you in your struggles with the bureaucracy you have encountered in the process of adjusting to life in Mexico, being expelled from your U.S. upbringing in Southern California and being forced into a system stacked against you with infinite obstacles to overcome. You are a warrior and I am very proud of you. Your activism is paving the way and making it a lot easier for future generations of Mexicans with U.S. connections to adapt and fight for basic human rights, such as access to education, revalidation and recognition of U.S. university degrees etc.iI predict a very bright future for you, you found your true calling.

    • Thank you Cecilio for the kind note and encouragement. The struggle for belonging “aquí y allá” is one that has inspired me to turn this struggle into my life mission. ¡Saludos!

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