Leaving the “Dreamer” politics behind

A friend once asked me, “When will you stop being a deportee?”

Although I can’t recall what I answered, I still remember this question because it struck me as an odd one. Being a deportee is not a state of being or as fluid as my emotions. It is more like a permanent label that I have slip into as a result of political and legal systems. It is a fact that I was detained and expelled from a country and that will never be erased from my past; but I hope my deportee status earns me some karmic brownie points with the birth lottery system in my next life. But I digressed, going back to the question… If my existence in Mexico and my work around activism, migrant rights, and my current career path as a migration scholar were all propelled by a label that has become a part of my identity – can I live without it? Has my quest to dignify this stigmatized label constrained my existence post-deportation?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
© Mundo Citizen

 

To complicate matters, I have attached another identifier to this label by calling myself a “deported Dreamer” as a way of acknowledging my own experience as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S. and connecting it to my struggles here. It was also a strategic choice for me as I wanted to convey the message that I was still part of political movement in the U.S. propelled by (what I call) the “millennial Dreamers”. I mean, we are of the same kind. I have much in common with them, we all arrived as a children in the U.S. and growing up in the country that would later become home as undocumented immigrants. The main difference was that I was part of a generation who lived mostly in the shadows. We were also not as organized as the millennial Dreamers are today, and of course since 2009, I’m no longer in the U.S.

Being a Dreamer on the south side of the border (I thought) was part of extending the immigrant right’s struggle to Mexico, because being a returned migrant in Mexico is no walk in the park, as I have tried to illustrate in most of what I written here since I started blogging in 2012. My new found purpose was wrapped around a fight for recognition in a country that won’t have us back, that doesn’t want us back. Four years later, I find myself at a crossroads and I have made a decision others in U.S. Dreamer movement have made – to drop the label. I am no longer a Dreamer.

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Mexican Secretariat of Education (SEP) is far removed from the reality faced by Dreamer returnees

The requirement of revalidation of foreign studies is the greatest obstacle faced by Dreamers as they seek full recognition of their U.S. education in Mexico

It was five years ago when I encountered a bureaucratic monster that I did not know existed. Upon returning to Mexico due to a deportation, I learned that my entire academic and professional career I built in U.S. as an undocumented immigrant would not be recognized in the country where I could prove to be a citizen. It had already been difficult to survive one of the worst type of rejection I had experienced – the expulsion from the country that I lived most of my life. Even more painful was to arrive to a country which I am told is supposed to be “my home” and where I “belong” simply because I was born there, but where I would also encounter countless obstacles when I attempt to use the education and knowledge I had acquired “abroad”. In other words, according to government agencies like the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) in Mexico, my education from the U.S. is worthless.

Revalidation: The de facto invalidation of foreign studies

Even though I completed a career in Business Administration from an accredited U.S. university, Mexico has only recognized my high school education as a result of its revalidation requirement, and this was only possible due to the support I received from my friends in Los Angeles to secure the documentation required by SEP. To obtain these documents, I had to ask a friend to go to my school in Los Angeles to request them (luckily, my friend was someone who had attended the same school which facilitated this). However, in Mexico, it was not enough to have an original copy of my diplomas and transcripts.

An Apostille of my school records, which can only be obtained within the US, was also required. I handed over my diplomas and school transcripts to another friend that thankfully lived within close proximity, I was Tijuana and she lived in San Diego, so she could go directly to the closest office of the California Secretary of State. With an Apostille on hand to certify the legitimacy of the document (only the authenticity of the signature and its origin but not its content), I had to find a licensed professional in Mexico to translate these document from English to Spanish. I was clueless as to how I proceed in finding and verifying if a translator was “licensed” as this is not something provided in an information sheet nor a guide by a Mexican government office. A guide like this does not currently exist. However, I made use of my technological skills and with the help of my faithful friend Google, I came across the website of Judiciary of the State of Baja California which had listing of the licensed translators in my area.

After comparing prices and taking into account the limited financial resources I had, I hired a translator whom I paid close to $200 dollars for translating all the diplomas, transcripts and the Apostille itself. Finally, I submitted these documents to the regional SEP office (of course after paying an additional fee) to process the high school revalidation. From this point forward, the revalidation process was completed in a couple of weeks. However, obtaining all the required documents can take months, as it did for me, years for many others or perhaps impossible for many deported and returned youth or who lack that resources to assist them with obtaining the required documents and lack the information to start the process.

The recognition of my university degree is another story; it remained filed away in cabinet with my diploma and Apostille after I decided I would not proceed with the revalidation (to revalidate a degree, all prior education levels need to be revalidated first). This was an informed decision I made after meeting with representatives of four universities in Baja California that made me aware of the SEP equivalency requirement that I would subsequently know as Agreement Number 286 (2001). In its Section 25.1, this agreement stipulates that the course plan of a foreign degree must match 75% with a similar academic program in Mexico, a requirement which makes full recognition of a foreign degree technically impossible.

In the end, it was the opinion of each university representative that in the best possible scenario, I would have a partial revalidation and it was very likely I would be required to take additional courses to obtain a B.S. degree in Mexico, the same degree I had already completed in the U.S. Having neither the time nor financial resources as I worked in a call center at the time, proceeding with a partial revalidation of my university degree and taking more courses was not a viable option. It also seemed absurd that I had to be required to take additional classes to accredit a career that in no shape or form required a specialization (like medicine or law) to exercise it. Over time, the company where I worked promoted me to a position that was a better fit for my skills and knowledge. In the private industry, my university diploma was accepted, the same one that was not automatically recognized by the SEP in Mexico. Later, I would become much easier to travel to the other side of the world where a revalidation was not required to continue my studies. To enroll in a postgraduate program, a school application and a U.S. diploma was all that was required. It was there, in an educational institution of a foreign country where my U.S. degree was valued and accepted without a senseless bureaucratic requirement.

Continue reading “Mexican Secretariat of Education (SEP) is far removed from the reality faced by Dreamer returnees”

Otra Dreamer in London

Six weeks have passed since my move to London; the start of new journey, a new dream. It is the first time in my life that I made the conscious decision to migrate. I did not have that choice at the age of nine when I was brought into the U.S. as an irregular migrant child, nor did I choose to return to Mexico when I was deported four years ago.

The excitement still lingers alongside a sense of exploration as I am afforded certain level of freedom to be able to reside in a foreign country legally to pursue a graduate degree. It took overcoming very difficulty challenges, but I did not do it alone. An entire community supported me along the way to be here. It is a privilege that I do not take lightly as well as a responsibility to represent the collective challenges of migrants who have gone through similar experiences wherever I am.

There was a point that I began to feel a bit stressed shortly after my arrival, partly due to the insurmountably pressure I feel to do well in my graduate program. I had also underestimated the challenges of relocation. Although I navigate the English language and British culture with ease, the small things like learning to move around the city and finding where to purchase basic personal items at reasonable prices was incredibly stressful (after all, it is London).

Understanding the transport system in London Photo: Nancy Landa
Understanding the transport system
Photo: ©Mundo Citizen

Arriving alone in a new city and having to start a social network from scratch was overwhelming. But slowly, I have been able to find help along the way. Meeting new people that have became a support system (thank you hall buddies and classmates!!!) and having friends from abroad that had introduce me to their friends living here has helped make this transition smoother.  Now that I feel more stable, I hope to be able to keep my readers up-to-date on a regular basis with my experiences abroad.

October was a great month for visibility and exposure. The media continues to be interested in my story and that of Los Otros Dreamers. Take a look at the following articles recently published:

The IndependentThe Americans deported to a country they don’t know: ‘I didn’t know the city or the language’

CSUN Daily SundialDreamers continue to fight for immigration rights and reform

NPR Latino USALos Otros Dreamers

Published in Pocho.com on 4 Nov 2013