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 a 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 an U.S. immigration officer; honestly I have a disliking to 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 that 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 a 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 good-bye to family members and friends, time to reassure them that I would find a way to pick myself up, 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 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 I 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 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’ve 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 a piece of relief that I didn’t notice initially, and that is knowing that all I have is the right 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.

In these times, let’s not forget migrant rights advocates

These are trying times for many of us. It can be difficult to find hope as we continue to live through the challenges and uncertainties of our realities. It seems we were going from one crisis to another, and for some, it is a crisis on top of another. In Mexico, just looking in the area that I work in, we have seen worsening conditions for migrants and persons in need of international protection, confronting inhumane walls that continue to be fortified- the physical ones (borders walls), human ones (contention practices by immigration authorities and national guard) and the bureaucratic ones (inability for people to begin their asylum procedures or access any public services).

We had a humanitarian crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic and as we are in the middle of adjusting to a “new normalcy”, we can already see it is harder for people in mobility to rebuild their lives in such an unfavorable scenario. You know whom I also see tired and in despair? Migrant rights advocates. Day in and day out, they work in precarious conditions and sacrifice their wellbeing to fill in the humanitarian gaps that our governments (national and local) have been unable (or negligent) to address.

I’m not in the frontlines as many of my friends are, working in migrant shelters and organizations that provide direct services. It is tough work, particularly when there is a lack of capacity and resources to respond to a growing need. The political pressure from the U.S. under the Trump administration for Mexico to contain migrant flows has meant that migrants, asylum-seekers and other displaced persons have been forced to stay in a country that (as I have know for over a decade) has lacked mechanisms to receive and integrate its own deported nationals. U.S. elections are around the corner and people hope that a change in the administration could help alleviate this situation for migrants and displaced persons in Mexico. I’m not holding my breath on that one as we also know that on migration, the tendency has been to contain it. But maybe reversing some of the harmful policies that limit access to asylum in the U.S. (including the Migrant Protection Protocols) could help move us in that direction.

What I do know is that my friends and colleagues working in NGOs that aid migrants and displaced persons do this work in constant burnout and with no sign that this is going to get better anytime soon. How often do we think of them as they carry out such important work in times of pandemic? Many of them have lost loves ones to the COVID-19 pandemic, and others are also fighting for their own lives.

This past Friday a friend sent me a GoFundMe fundraiser for a mutual colleague (Sire) who lives in Tijuana. I was unaware that she has been battling a life threatening condition and that because of the pandemic, she is unable to receive the care she needs from the public health system. I can also attest to the difficulty in receiving regular and specialized care as my dad was recently hospitalized after a heart attack. If you are dying, you are not getting care, and when you do, it can be too late. (My dad is now stable and we are awaiting for his surgery to be scheduled).

Sire is the co-founder of one Casa Arcoiris where she coordinated the medical, mental health, legal, social and housing services for over 150 LGBTQIA+ migrants seeking asylum in Tijuana. I had the pleasure of meeting with her last year in an NGO network and I always appreciated her insights and fight to ensure those spaces were inclusive in all respects. Through her, I also had an opportunity to see first hand the services provided by Casa Arcoiris and it is truly amazing and much needed. Her dedication and passion for protecting LGBTQIA+ has been so evident to me. Now, she is the one in need of help so that she has fighting chance for recovery. I hope you can join me in supporting her to meet her fundraising goal.

For information, check out the Surgery 4 Sire, Tijuana LGBTQIA Shelter Co-Founder campaign.

Credit: Surgery 4 Sire, Tijuana LGBTQIA Shelter Co-Founder GoFundMe Campaign

Sire, we send you much love and wishes for quick and full recovery.

Mundo Citizen resumes

I had not realized how much I missed writing until I began drafting this post. A year ago when I had decided to put this blog to rest, I was certain that I was ready to find other avenues for expression, but life took its course and I had to place writing on the back burner. Work has been all consuming and it kept me busy navigating diplomatic and political spaces where I had limited avenues for expression (at least my honest feelings and opinions about the state of migration in Mexico). Maybe that is part of the reason that now feel compelled to come back to this small concern of virtual space to let myself just be.

Also, looking at my most recent post, I realized I was also feed up with things. I had accumulated grievances along this post-deportation journey and was unclear on what to do with this blog. Also, just the thought of investing limited time to plan and create content became a deterrent. Taking a break was probably a good decision at the moment as I was also dealing with many changes. I will admit that during the last year there were times where I thought –This would be something interesting to write about in Mundo Citizen. But it was easier to plan on just keeping this blog an archive of the first decade after deportation. And so time passed by and well, here we are a year later.

But I came to admit to myself that this craft is something I want to continue to work on, and maybe there is a way to resolve all the issues that led me to take a break. Maybe writing can be more than just ramblings and frustrations on the post-deportation fight and struggle. I won’t know unless I try. Putting myself in the shoes of a reader that has come to this blog with a genuine interest in knowing about the life of a deportee, I would ask – What are the aspirations of a person that has rebuilt her life after all this time? What are the lessons learned of this journey she has taken? What’s next for her? I certainly wished I knew the answers to all these questions; perhaps with intentional introspection and more writing, I might arrive at this answers with newfound joy and inspiration.

Hope to see you in the next blog post.