Week 50 (Sept. 16- Sept. 22): Does “returned migrant” status have an expiration date?

I have often heard, mainly from policy makers, that you cannot be a returned migrant forever. There is some debate in Mexico as to where the line is drawn between deportee/returnee vs. citizen. Is it after a year, three years or maybe five? At what point are you integrated?

Although you can have theoretical discussions about integration/reintegration, which term you use and what type of factors facilitate or hinder either, I actually don’t care much about those discussions because often times they are so removed from our own migrant perceptions and experiences. What I care is when someone, particularly when it comes from public servants who design policies to assist deportees, say things like “after some time, you cannot be considered a returned migrant.” I hear that line quite often and I know where it comes from. It is designed to set an arbitrary line on eligibility criteria for receiving public assistance. And to some extent I get that; governments have limited resources and they must set priorities on who they consider to be in most need.

At the same time, I would prefer to hear honest discussions on why people like me don’t deserve assistance rather than placing the burden on me for my integration in this country. Because I know that as I hit the 10-year mark, I still don’t consider myself fully reintegrated. In my time in Mexico, I have never been assisted by any returned migrant program (thus my criticism of them) and I continue to see bureaucratic red tape across government agencies that make it difficult for returnees to access their rights in this country. Additionally, I am still affected by deportation and other issues that are more long-term such as eligibility to social welfare, including retirement benefits, which we’ll face as we reach old age. The length of time we were absent from our country of origin will catch up to us at some point.

So there is more to integration that meets the eye. My two cents… it’s not for anyone else to determine the conditions by which a deportee/returnee should be considered integrated or should be integrated. That process is different for everyone. Many of us don’t cease to be returned migrants because it’s convenient to some. I certainly continue to be a deportee, and I have forever been marked by that experience. I am not going to allow anyone to dismiss or diminish it in any way.

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