The end signals a new beginning

After 7 years of blogging*, I am deciding to give Mundo Citizen a rest. It has been a good run, sometimes sprinting with many long pauses in between. Much has come to pass since my first post with a copy of the letter I addressed to the Obama administration or that blog series where I narrated my own story of detention and deportation.

This past September 1, 2019 marked the end of my 10-year US-reentry ban (Just look at that counter to the right). And although I still have many other hurdles to overcome to be able to legally return to the US (including a permission to reapply for admission in addition to the normal visa), there will come a point where I will engage in that process. It is just crazy to think that 10 years later, legal migration has not been facilitated and yet, we are asked to try our best against all odds. This is the reason why I consciously made a decision to wait until I was ready to deal with this. I don’t want to be emotionally nor financially drained because of it and I am in no rush to return. It will happen in due time.

The road one day I’ll be able to take. Tijuana, Baja California. 2019 (C) Mundo Citizen

10 years after deportation, does feel like a new phase in my life, which entails giving closure to this current one. The healing process I have engaged in the past months (including therapy) has allowed to give myself permission (the good kind) to let go of things that have been grounded in my deportation trauma. This blog is one fo them. I will miss it, and the identity I had created around it. Mundo (World) Citizen is an uplifting concept and when I initially picked it as a name for this blog was because I knew it could transcend a story of deportation. And it a way it will. Although this blog ends, I will continue to find platforms for expression through writing, I just do not want it to be in a platform where my voice is not given its due credit. My not-so-great experiences with other activists, civil society organizations, and academics (both in Mexico and the U.S.) where my story and content gets used without proper acknowledge (or permission) has made me wiser in searching for other ways to create and contribute to dialogue without feeling used, exploited or becoming a subject to the extractivism of lazy & opportunist people and institutions who can’t do their own work to contribute to the migrant rights conversation. (No more freebies for y’all).

You need a migrant story/expert POV for your scholarly article? Invite me to collaborate, don’t just ask me for an interview, focus group or to give you access to other deportees (do your own field work as I do my own!). You need a testimonio for your next journalistic piece? Tell me how your article is going to tell migrant stories in a dignified way rather than just being vehicle to your next story deadline. Also, don’t ask me to retell my deportation story I have told too many times because I’m done with that (hint: this is what closure looks like). And I am likely to decline to participate in documentaries or other migration projects where I don’t have a say in its direction or it is not done collaboratively (I also mean compensation).

I’m done being a passive subject and being used by others to give your work credibility when it lacks it in substance and rigor. I rather create my own content and even if it doesn’t have the same resources and reach as other platforms, at least I can be assured that I take control of how my story and my work is shared. This is reminder that my story is my own. Reclaiming it is part of what I will be prioritizing in my post-ban phase.

Even when I’m redefining how I would like my story to take shape in the public sphere, I also would like to acknowledge that others writing my story has served its purpose. But mow it is time I write my own. When I first I started blogging, I thought maybe it would lead me to write a published memoir. That hasn’t happened yet and it is an indication that I should do the necessary work to make that a reality. Blogging has been a good training ground, but I will need to be more diligent about developing in this craft. It is certainly a personal project I will work on at some point. Also, in it’s due time. There is still a life to live that is worth writing about, because I’m more than a deportee. I am a Citizen of the World still transcending boundaries with much more to say and experience.

For the time being, this blog will remain online and hopefully I can curated it foto serve more as an archive and for followers and visitors to be able to find content I have previously published. I will also add links to other pages where people can stay posted on projects and research/advocacy work I’ll continue to be working on. It won’t be the last time you hear from me (**smiley wink**).

*My initial post mentioned that I had 5 years of blogging. I created this blog on October 8th, 2012, which means I have been at this for 7 years.

Week 48 to week 44 (Sept 30 – Nov 3): The rise of fascism a decade after Obama’s election

It has been a challenge to write these past couple of weeks. Sometimes I encounter the usual chaos, trying to do more things that I can handle (yeah, I am working to fix that). But there are also times I just feel too overwhelmed by the state of affairs to sit down and write. Where do I start? Especially when I am so invested in two countries that have problematic stances towards migrants. This is worse living in a border town; I often feel swallowed by the political and social turmoil going on “en ambos lados de la frontera” (on both sides of the border).

In the past couple of weeks we have seen a misguided public discourse on the Central American caravan which has been disheartening and painful to watch. It’s not only our political leaders, but people at large who have access to social media platforms to propel their ignorant opinions as “valid” arguments for closing borders and legalizing cruelty. I expect that from xenophobes but to see “people from the left”, “Catholics” and “progressives” reject the idea that we can create inclusive societies, especially for people who are in need of humanitarian assistance is an indication that we continue to lose our way in this post-truth era. Now, we have to worry about navigating conversations and digging through piles of rubbish to understand what is happening around us, especially when we live insulated by our privilege.

Today, as the news are covering the mid-term elections results, I am having a flashback. Exactly 10 years ago, I was just a few miles away from where I am sitting right now to writing this post. I was in downtown San Diego after a long day of GOTV efforts, hopeful for an Obama victory. As the night went on, we started to experience the excitement of what showed to be a historic win for Democrats, for those of us who pledged to progressive policies on many issues, including immigration. Little did I expect I would be deported under his presidency a year later. Yes! Let that sink in… particularly for those of you in Blue Wave or the so-called “Resistance.” Having a Democrat in office didn’t mean much for immigrant communities, and I am willing to bet this won’t change much even as you try to pin racism and xenophobia to the Trump administration. Right, he may be re-engineering aspects of immigration policy, but he is not completely wrong to say that he is just implementing policy as his predecessors have set forth. Racial profiling (remember the Patriot Act). Not New. Deterring immigration. Not new. Detaining children and family separation. Not new. Deporting hard working immigrants. Not New.

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But it seems that some of you needed an openly racist presidency and the rise of the Alt Right to see what millions of us have already experienced. You cared little for the pain caused by racist immigration policies and practices that were operating behind the politically correct discourse. America is now turning fascist, but I hope that you take a moment to reflect on how the Dems have contributed to that. Perhaps because you have sold out on progressive values when you had the chance to change things while the right keeps embracing theirs and actually delivering on that when it was their turn. On immigration, you thought that if you deported people like myself and looked tough of immigration you would deliver a “comprehensive” immigration reform. The Republicans fooled you. They never cared for it. Unfortunately, Democratic party continues to fail immigrant communities and it will continue to do so until it actually reforms itself so that it takes real stances aligned with progressive values. There is no middle ground anymore. Doing the right thing was never something that should have been delayed until it was politically viable. If we have not learned that in the first two years of the Trump administration, then it is hard to stay hopeful. A win for Democrats has done little to advance immigrant social justice. Let’s not kid ourselves.

Week 49 (Sept 23 – Sept 29): Reclaiming my own story

Lately, I have been ignoring requests for interviews. Be it from reporters working on stories or audiovisual materials of deportee experiences, academics who are looking for “subjects” to interview for their research projects, or “experts” that want time to “pick my brain.” This is mainly a decision that arises from the entitlement to my story I have perceived from people that clearly are here to further their own work, whether there are consciously using people like myself or have convinced themselves that they are contributing to the cause.

I am certainly thankful to the people that in the past few years have extended their platforms and have offered me empowering ways to tell my story. Early on in my “coming out of the shadows of deportation”, I encountered the two extremes of the ethical scale when it comes to using migrants stories, on one end where your agency to tell your experience is respected and on the other, when it is plainly used to silence you. I have been subtle about this in my writing and I feel I need to be more open about it.

Media publications like El Nuevo Sol and Latina Lista were instrumental in giving me the courage to write publicly. They encouraged me to process my own experience through my own voice. Along the way, came Eileen, who from the initial interview she had with me to document my deportation/post-deportation experience, always saw herself as a medium to tell my story which would be included in her book Dreamers: An Immigrant Generation’s Fight for their American Dream. I participated in book presentations in Mexico which eventually helped me find my own voice and words to describe what had happened to me.

At the same time, I did not anticipate that the aftermath of having my story public would entail encountering the type people who lacked these noble intentions.

Post-deportation Journal 49.jpg

The first of these experiences was with the book project “Los Otros Dreamers.” In 2016 I had expressed my frustrations and the reason why I was no longer involved with this incipient effort to organize deportees and returnees in Mexico. However, there was another aspect that would later became a reason I no longer trust researchers, mainly because my story was no longer labeled as my own. Details of the book such as how the authorship would be registered was not collective decision although most of us had written our own stories, we shared our networks and resources to raise money for the crowdfunding campaign and helped with the distribution of the book. If you look at who is cited as the author(s) of the book, it becomes clear that our stories where appropriated and are now someone else’s intellectual property. My story was used to further that project, but when I started to question the approach to organizing around post-return/deportation, I was told the way I do advocacy is wrong and divisive. It’s always the excuse for people who want to avoid accountability.

This experience would continue to repeat itself in other ways, when researchers from both Mexico and the U.S. would treat my story was as if it out for their taking because it was public. I would later find my deportation experience being cited in some education blog, article or book without my knowledge or consent. And even when I tried to ignore it, perhaps expecting for all of this to lead to some common good, I realized that it didn’t do anything for me. It wasn’t about making our lives better or contributing to alleviating our post-deportation struggle. At the end, it was to further someone else’s academic career or expertise. Most of these researchers never gave anything in return, neither knowledge that was useful nor tools to further the advocacy projects I was engaged in. Often times, I felt robbed of my insights, ideas and work. I often wonder how much of what I have written on this blog has been appropriated by others.

I have also encountered journalists that ask the same recurring questions: ” Tell me about you arrived in U.S.? How was life as undocumented migrant? Why and how were you deported? What happened after deportation?” To put it simply, I am asked to relieve my trauma. Additionally, some of them do not even bother about the accuracy of the details or care to read any of what I have written. I just become a tool that helps them get through their reporting deadlines. Others lack the courtesy to tell me if they ever published the story they interviewed me for. Not all journalists are like this, but in my experience, it is the majority.

I have also been used to gain access to the deportee population and to insights that you are rarely going to have about our experience unless we let you in. I am just tired of this. I am tired of others feeling like they can exploit my story, voice, and understanding of the issue instead of using their resources and privilege so that people like me can share our own experiences in our own voices; to actually help in sharing our perspectives instead of chopping our stories in quotes that support their story angle.

This is partly the reason why I will continue to be unresponsive to email requests for interviews, whether you are a reporter, researcher, or a policy expert. If your interaction is mainly to extract, rather than to find reciprocal ways to collaborate, I will ignore you. I prefer to keep my work limited to this small corner of the Internet than seeing it distorted or misused in mainstream media. Perhaps it is time for people like us to start creating and propelling our own platforms, those that at least have ethical consideration and reflections of how our voices, experiences and intellectual contributions are used.

As I get closer to ending my 10-year ban, I feel like my story has already been extracted of its journalistic use. It is a documented national case study, it has been overused for research purposes. I have already endured the research burden that a subject is supposed to be exposed to (I know, I have studied research methodologies and ethical approches to research). I no longer have a need to retell my story for these purposes. Anything else that remains to be said, I want to do it on my own terms.

Let me remind you. My story is mine and I will fight to keep it that way.