Writing because no one in the “movement” listens

This week I dedicate my blog post to my dear friend Azul. She recently wrote about experiencing loss*, one that I cannot fully comprehend. Not only did she have to endure the pain that comes from losing a loved one, but also the indignation that stems from U.S. immigration law preventing her from returning to the U.S. to be present at her nephew’s funeral. How can mobility restrictions like these be considered just?

Azul’s story is one of many postreturn/postdeportation experiences of struggle that unfortunately immigrant activists on both sides of the borders forget (or deliberately leave out) in their fight and narrative. There are those that want to portray a return to Mexico as an opportunity to continue (what I call) the “American Dream” disguised in a Mexican flag, as well as the the U.S. immigrant advocates who have limited their campaigns to the immigrants north of the Mexico-US border. Forget about the 2 million deported (and counting) under President Obama that may never be able to return to their families. Once you are back “where you come from”, nobody cares, nobody listens, nobody fights for you.

Azul on #TogetherWithoutBorders campaign**

Maybe you get a “Like” on a blog post, or a Retweet here and there if people accidentally notice your existence in social media (at least there are no borders there). If you are lucky, then you are included in a book or featured in a local news article or segment that still doesn’t give justice to your entire experience, especially the painful parts. Azul’s story may never make it in today’s national or international headlines because she is not a refugee from Syria or one fleeing from the generalized violence in Central America. Few will deem her case urgent, important, or part of the humanitarian crisis the media around the world has been overzealous to include in their fragmented coverage lacking any depth. At best, Azul may get a visitor on her blog or a post on her Facebook page with a note or comment of sympathy. But that will never give back what was taken from her.

I then start to ask myself if there will ever be true solidarity and support so Azul doesn’t have to continue to be in exile from her true home in the U.S.

Her struggle is not one I see included by immigrant rights movements because their narrow and shortsighted fight is not about justice for ALL. It appears to me that if you don’t fit in the right category of migrants that is deemed worth fighting for, then I guess you are SOL.

* From Azul’s blog “Guide to Belonging Everywhere”

** For more on #TogetherWithOutBorder click HERE

Updated 13:30 hrs: Added picture of Azul with footnote in addition to gramatical corrections.

Dream9: The Dreams that speak for the 1.8 million deported

If you have not heard of the #Dream9, then I taken upon myself to tell you about this group of young Dreamers (undocumented youth). They are part of the bigger movement of youth pushing for humane and comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S.

On July 22, 2013 in an attempt to challenge the Obama administration deportation policy, a group of nine Dreamers, three of which crossed the border into Mexico, attempted to ask for their lawful entry through a request of humanitarian parole at the Nogales, Arizona port of entry.

This action alone resulted in their detention as Department of Homeland Security reviews their requests. 11 days have passed and they continue to be locked up, with difficulty in communicating with their families and even placed in solitary confinement. This is the treatment that young organizers who pose no threat to national security are receiving by immigration authorities. Unfortunately, their experience is that of many that are trapped in the detention system.

I know what it is to be detained, but my stay did not last a day as I was expediently removed from a country I knew to be home for almost 20 years. I can only imagine what it is to be locked for a prolonged period of time. Indefinite detention is what these Dreamers are facing.

Dream9 Marching to the Nogales, AZ Port of Entry | Photo/National Immigration Youth Alliance
Dream9 Marching to the Nogales, AZ Port of Entry | Photo/National Immigration Youth Alliance

Criticism has arisen from a faction within the immigrant movement about the actions of Dream9, even calling it a “diversion” and a “publicity stunt”. Call it what you may, I finally feel there is a group within the immigrant movement that has addressed our plight, those of us that were forcedly uprooted from our homes and communities. Public debate on immigration reform has only focused around the 11 million undocumented immigrants that currently live in the U.S. but tend to forget about the rest of us; the only difference between us and the 11 million is that immigration reform will have come too late.

These Dreamers are experiencing legal challenges with their request to return, thus highlighting the inadequacies of an immigration system that is incapable of addressing individual circumstances of its non-citizens. Why did the three Dreamers cross the border into Mexico knowing they would not be able to return? To remind us that the U.S. immigration system is broken and reform is needed now. Although for Dream9, it could come at a high price. Some of us have already experienced this loss.

For over 10 years, the Dreamer movement has grown out to claim what has been denied to them; to be accepted as contributing citizens. They have protested in the streets, organized massive rallies, confronted police and immigration agencies, staged sit-ins in legislators’ offices, and even lobbied Congress. But after every election cycle, they have nothing to show for it; mostly a consequence of the inadequacy of Washington D.C. to address the issue rather than the effectiveness of the Dreamer mobilization. If I were to make a wild guess, I think this is the reason why Dream9 took it upon themselves to challenge a “system of expulsion” that keeps separating families. For these families, waiting is no longer an option.

Regardless of the outcome from this act of disobedience, I join those who believe it to be “one of the most powerful protests in immigration reform”.

As a member of Los Otros Dreamers, I stand in solidarity with Dream9 and ask the Obama Administration to do the right thing and let these Dreamers join their communities and homes in the U.S.

Mr. President, the action that your administration takes on this issue will be a reflection on your real stance with respect to the immigrant community.

Click here to read letter we addressed to President Obama.

To listen to our recent Spanish radio interview with Ruben Tapia in Enfoque Latino KPFK 90.7 FM about Los Otros Dreamers actions in solidarity with Dream 9, click below:

Updated August 3, 2013

Yours Truly, A Tijuana Dreamer

I’ll like to post a version of an email I sent to my friends this weekend, sharing with them (and now with you) something I am very excited about: Having my story being featured in the book Dreamers.

Dear friends,

Some of you I have known for a long time, others I have met recently since my “transition” to Mexico. More than three years have passed since, but it seems and feels as if it was yesterday when I lived in my Los Angeles hometown.

Today I was remembering my first week in Tijuana, in particular, the day I attempted to reconnect with my life in the U.S. I was on a mission to find a place with Internet access. After walking many blocks in downtown TJ, feeling disoriented, confused, and lost… there it was, a cyber café near Revolución Blvd. I reserved my spot, logged into a computer and my email account, and I started typing emails to all my friends to tell them about what had just happened – an abrupt deportation that had left me stranded in my native country I had not seen for almost 20 years.

Thanks to technology, we have been able to keep in touch. Some with more frequency, others with an occasional email or a status update in the social media world. But regardless of whether communication is constant or not, all of you have a special place in my heart and thoughts.

What has happened since? So much that I am not able to cover in one email but there is one thing I wanted to take the time to share with you. My experience of deportation is beginning to shift from being a personal tragedy to a story of the collective immigrant experience; a community in the U.S. that that continues to push and advocate for immigration reform. Instead of being one more statistic in the “Out-of-sight, Out-of-mind” list, I have the opportunity and  responsibility to be a voice for so many that may lack the resources or support to be able to share their stories of struggle.

Since I made my story public last year, I have been blessed to have many that are interested in listening and understanding the complexity and dysfunction of an immigration system that led to my forced removal. As a result, my experience will be shared to a wider audience as it is featured in the book Dreamers (Spanish Edition) by Mexican journalist Eileen Truax which will be available to the public this month, in the U.S. and Mexico.

Dreamers is a book that helps us understand the state of U.S. immigration through the experiences and voices of young undocumented immigrants. I am humbled to be included among eight courageous Dreamers who have redefined what it is to be undocumented and have led a successful movement that we hope will translate into policy changes.

Dreamers by Eileen Truax released May 2013

Eileen Truax will be presenting the book at La Feria del Libro (Spanish Book Fair) Los Angeles at the LA Convention Center, next Saturday, May 18, 2013.

Currently, the book is only in Spanish but with a successful launch, we hope that a translation will be made available so that our stories can be shared with the English speaking community.

A border might prevent me from being there physically, but I will be there in spirit. I would love to hear from you if you happen to have an opportunity to attend.

I conclude with a note of gratitude because it is very clear to me that without you, my story would have remained a tragic one. Whether it was in the form of a call/email of encouragement, shelter and food, a visit to Tijuana, a letter of recommendation, or sharing my story with others, it all made the difference in turning it into one that is now filled with renewed hopes and dreams.


A Tijuana Dreamer

Published in La Prensa San Diego on May 13, 2013