Dreams and trauma

This past Thursday I had the type of dream I hadn’t had in years. I was running errands with the family and as I was lingering in public, I became aware that I had lost my passport. It was an ICE agent that approached me to tell me I had dropped it and returned it to me. In the dream, I was stunned to be interacting with a U.S. immigration officer; honestly, I have a disliking for them for obvious reasons. But soon I realized the agent wasn’t there to be a kind Samaritan. She told me I had a removal order and 30 days to leave. The weird thing is that in my dream I knew I was in Mexico, but somehow, it seemed the border boundaries had crossed me once again and I found myself in the predicament I faced in my waking life over a decade ago. I had to leave and I was unsure where I was headed. Why was I reliving this again in my subconscious? Feeling displacement in such a vivid manner made me realize one innate ability I have – not only in my dreams but in real life – and that is my resilience and ability to turn the switch on the problem-solving mode in times of crisis. These are part of my survival toolbox.

In my dream, I remember telling myself that I was going to figure this out. I had already survived deportation and being thrown in the middle of nowhere the same day I was appended (I was recalling a real-life event). So having 30 days to plan this out was enough time. Perhaps I could relocate to my childhood neighborhood which was not far away. I told my parents that I would be OK there. I had time to say goodbye to family members and friends, time to reassure them that I would find a way to pick myself up, and continue with my life even when deep inside I knew there was nothing waiting for me there.

As I was getting things ready for my departure, I was trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. How is it that an ICE agent had found me here? I asked myself that question as I was heading to the immigration office to file some paperwork to proceed with my removal process. I learned that my passport had not been lost. That the immigration agent that gave it back to me had targeted me to initiate the removal. She is the one that followed me and in a moment of distraction, reached into my purse to take away my passport (I guess my subconscious was reminding me of how sneaky they are in real life). That is all the agent needed to gather my personal details and initiate a removal process. I found this deceitful part of the process maddening. I began to question the legality of it all, why me? why was I being kicked out once again even when I was in territory where ICE had no jurisdiction? why….

And that is all I can remember before waking up.

Most dreams I forget by the time I wake up, and the majority as I go about my daily routine. But not this one. It gave me this weird feeling all day to the point where I had to sit down and write about it. It seemed like that type of dream that is trying to tell me something. Is it that I still have unresolved issues related to my deportation that I should look into? Or is it trying to tell me that something is going to pull me away from the place I currently reside? It sort of feels like the latter because this dream felt like a premonition. I had these types of dreams while in the U.S. I dreamt about my deportation many years before it happened. I saw places similar to those I ended up living in Mexico after I was forced out of the U.S. Then again, post-deportation, I have recurrent dreams about being back in the U.S., at times smuggled back, other times I entered legally, going through airports and immigration security points and given authorization to stay for one day, leaving feeling rushed to see all the people and places I wanted to visit and reconnect. That hasn’t happened in real life. I really don’t know what to think of this particular dream, just that I had it a day before Biden’s immigration plan was unveiled, which of course, is triggering for me. Another proposal that has come too late and will never address the deported.

Nonetheless, the one thing I a sure of is that in my 11 years after deportation, I still feel hunted by U.S. immigration policies. The effect of deportation is still present. It has taken me a while to free myself from the chains of the undocumented life and the deportation trauma I have carried to feel like I have a fighting chance to pursue my aspirations and goals I would like to achieve to feel fulfilled and self-realized (still, a work in progress). Maybe the dream is a reminder that there is a deeper fear still haunting me; that of seeing your life fall apart in an instant. Given state of the world, it’s hard to rule out that possibility. Nothing is guaranteed, not your health, your safety, nor your security, even when citizenship is not an issue. Reflecting on this dream leaves me with a piece of relief that I didn’t notice initially, and that is knowing that all I have is the now and to continue to learn to trust myself. I already have a track record of resilience which has allowed me to survive all the hardships that have come my way, particularly those related to my migrant experience. Maybe this is what I need to hold on to and embrace along with my fears.


9 thoughts on “Dreams and trauma

  1. Thanks for this very powerful post. It goes beyond the anger I’ve read in others over the years to a real exploration of how your experience has shaped your inner life.

    1. Thank you for reading the blog and commenting. I certainly have many angry posts in this blog, but as I work through grief and anger, it also allows me to explore other aspects of my life which are not only based on those emotions. I hope to be able to transmit that as I am starting to work on an autobiography.

  2. Hola Nancy,
    Primero quiero agradecerte por el blog, me hizo entender mucho de lo que pasa con las personas que sí tienen DACA pero ahí está la posibilidad de que sean deportados. También, estoy de acuerdo con todo lo que dijiste en la carta para el Presidente Obama; yo pienso que los de ICE no tratan a las personas como humanos y esto puede afectar a una comunidad. Yo soy ciudadana gracias a que mi mama obtuvo su ciudadanía pero yo tenía amigos que eran del programa de DACA y sus padres indocumentados. Uno de mis compañeros fue afectado, de la manera que sus padres fueron detenidos por ICE pero la forma en que lo hicieron fue tan cruel ya que los detuvieron en el medio de la calle y dejaron a su hermana menor sola en la calle llorando, unos días antes las redes sociales hablaron sobre este caso y la forma en cómo sucedió que los dejaron libres rapidamente. Pero blogs como los de usted me hace pensar que tal vez, si somos escuchados algún día, vaya a ver cambios. Yo quisiera ayudar con este movimiento pero no se como empezar o qué hacer. ¿Que recomendaciones me puede dar para ayudar a mi comunidad?

    1. Hola Emma. Gracias por compartir sobre las experiencias que has observado. En este contexto, creo que lo más urgente es visibilizar los efectos de la deportación. He visto como esto se ha invisibilizado en años recientes y hay una necesidad grande de impulsar voces y experiencias para que estas sean integradas en la narrativa de derechos de las personas migrantes, la cual generalmente se centra en las personas con situación irregular pero no ha incorporado una reflexión sobre lo que significaría la justicia social para quienes han experiementado una deportación, y los efectos que esto tiene en ellas y sus familias.

  3. Hola Nancy,

    ¡Gracias por compartir con nosotrxs su experiencia migratoria!

    Al leer su blog, me pareció sumamente interesante cómo se manifestaban las secuelas de la deportación en sus sueños, en especial porque la escena del sueño que describe es México. Añade que parece como si la frontera la hubiera cruzado de nuevo lo cual lo interprete como su posible pérdida de esperanza en el sistema migratorio de EEUU. Sin embargo creo que en el sueño se muestra demuestra cierta ímpetu por seguir adelante, lo cual es muy admirable. Adicionalmente menciona que en su vida en EEUU, tenía pesadillas sobre su deportación. Como resultado, me atrevo a preguntarle si acaso ¿cree que sus sueños presagian su futuro migratorio?

    1. Hola Cecilia, gracias por compartir sus impresiones sobre el blog, me parecen muy interesantes. Respecto a su pregunta, sí soy de la idea de que el subconciente tiene la capacidad de prepararnos para afrontar posibles escenarios que se nos pueden presentar. Estará por esperar si ese es el caso para un posible retorno a EE.UU.

  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Although it was just a dream, this demonstrates how traumatic the experiences and obstacles that come with being undocumented can be, such that it transcends from reality into one’s subconscious. As a daughter of immigrant parents, I know how that fear can really take a toll on you. I remember when I was younger my parents would not want to out unless it was for groceries or other essential errands for fear of encountering the authorities. Even now, if there is ever an emergency, unless someone is absolutely dying, I will not dial 911 that is actually the last thing I will do because I was always told they could possibly ask for my parents’ documentation and take them away. I did not become fully aware of this unconscious thought process until three weeks ago. My friends and I moved into a new apartment and decided to cook some salmon. We started to preheat the oven but a few minutes later we noticed lots of dark smoke coming from the oven. We immediately turned it off, opened all the windows, and ran outside for fear it was carbon monoxide. Minutes passed, the oven was still smoking and we felt lightheaded, so we all asked ‘What should we do?!’ And my white friend called the firefighters. Although that seems like the obvious thing to do, I would have not thought to call 911 simply because it’d be the last thing I did in a household with my undocumented family members.

    1. Hello Nancy,
      First of all, thank you for being a strong individual and for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I imagine that it can not be easy to have a traumatic past, and the dream and still being resilient enough to write about it. Your dream shows that after a traumatic event like being deported it never leaves you. People constantly have to live with the ongoing fear and no matter how much they do; I imagine it to be impossible to deal with. How do you deal with something if you can’t change anything about it? Just like you, I’m sure there are many people who have been deported who have to live with the constant reminder of the cruelty of not only the us government but the ICE officers. In class we have studied various stories of people who had been deported and how hard it was to start fresh in their country of origin yet foreign to them. All these people along with you are not only very strong individuals but role models to the many others who sadly are going through something alike. Thank you for all you do.

  5. Hola Nancy,
    En primer lugar, gracias por ser una persona fuerte y por compartir sus pensamientos y sentimientos. Me imagino que no puede ser fácil tener un pasado traumático y el sueño y seguir siendo lo suficientemente fuerte como para escribir sobre él. Tu sueño muestra que después de un evento traumático como ser deportado, nunca se te ve el sentimiento de ser cazada. La gente tiene que vivir constantemente con el miedo y me imagino que será casi imposible lidiar con eso. ¿Cómo lidias con algo si no puedes cambiar nada al respecto? Al igual que usted, estoy segura de que hay muchas personas que han sido deportadas y que tienen que vivir con el recordatorio constante de la crueldad no solo del gobierno de EE. UU. Sino también de los oficiales de ICE. En clase hemos estudiado varias historias de personas que habían sido deportadas y lo difícil que fue comenzar de nuevo en su país de origen y, sin embargo, ajeno a ellos. Todas estas personas, junto con usted, no solo son muy fuertes, sino modelos para muchos otros que, lamentablemente, están pasando por algo parecido. Gracias por todo lo que hacen.

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