Deportation to Shattered DREAMs: Friendship Has No Borders

Posted date: November 28, 2012 | LatinaLista

 By Nancy Landa


(Editor’s note: Third post in a series focusing on DREAMer Nancy Landa’s first-hand experience of removal proceedings by US Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS)

I set foot on American soil as I got off the bus which had arrived at the San Ysidro-Tijuana border. U.S. Immigration officers were standing ready to hand over to each of us a small brown bag tagged with a label imprinted with our names. When I opened mine, I notice that it contained my belongings I had with me when detained: my purse with just a cell phone and a small amount of cash I was carrying for the day.

I was then escorted by the U.S. agent to a gate where a Mexican immigration officer was waiting. He asked me a few questions to verify if I was Mexican. But with no ID to prove I was one and with a spoken Spanish that seemed to be foreign, I was concerned the immigration officer would doubt my nationality.

I was now only a deportee with no identity. I tried to keep myself calm as I answered each question. After withstanding the suspicious stare of the officer, he decided to let me pass.

Border crossing walk San Ysidro-Tijuana (Photo: Nancy Landa)

It was past 8 pm and I was on my own. With no time to reflect that it was my last moment on the side of the border that had been home to me for almost 20 years, I walked toward the first revolving door that welcomed me to Mexico. But unlike most tourists that pass through these gates on a daily basis, perhaps with a sense of exploration of what they expect to be a sightseeing adventure, I was beginning a fight for survival in unknown territory, with no family or friends living here whom I could call for help. I began to doubt whether I could endure the danger that was present in a town recently plagued by an outbreak of violence.

I continued to walk down the corridor and noticed about 50 meters away was a second gate which I presumed was signaling the end of this transitory space. I was not yet ready to cross this gate, as I felt somewhat protected here. I needed some time to figure out where to go next.

I noticed that some of the deportees that were on the same bus with me were forming a line at a small bungalow closer to the first gate I had exited. The sign above the entrance read Grupo Beta. After a brief conversation with some of the people waiting in line, I learned that this organization provides protection to migrants. One of their services available was a free phone call for each deportee so they could reach their family members.

As I get in line, I remembered I was carrying my cell phone but was unsure if I could use it for calls. I then make a test phone call to one of my friends, and to my surprise it goes through!

In a brief conversation, she informed me that three of my friends were driving to Tijuana to find me and ensure I was in a safe place to stay.

At that very moment, I realized one thing: Friendship Has No Borders.

Despite having a physical wall separating me indefinitely from the world I had known, my friends where there for me and were unwilling to let me face this situation alone.

Although many challenges laid ahead as a result of an abrupt deportation, I knew I was blessed to have a community of friends that did everything they could to help in the transition. For at least a week, I had food and shelter in a relatively safe environment as I figured out how to get my feet off the ground.

Unfortunately, I cannot say that the hundreds of individuals that get thrown out on a daily basis through the same border I crossed, will have the same luck. Sadly, this type of safeguard I received is not institutionalized by neither U.S. or Mexican authorities. Both play a role in a system of detention and deportation that, if scrutinized carefully, can hardly be perceived to follow due process or international standards of humane treatment that they have agreed to comply with.

In the meantime, we continue to have an exodus of hundreds of deportees on a daily basis, trying to figure out how to survive this night.

Nancy Landa is a deported honors graduate and former student President of California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Nancy resides in Tijuana since her deportation in 2009 and has shared her story to highlight the need for comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. You can follow Nancy on Facebook and Twitter@mundocitizen.

Deportation to Shattered DREAMs: “Something is wrong with the U.S. immigration system”

“Something is wrong with the U.S. immigration system”

By Nancy Landa

Posted 1 Oct, 2012

Published in LatinaLista

(Editor’s note: Second post in a series focusing on DREAMer Nancy Landa’s first-hand experience of removal proceedings by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

I sat for hours in that cell at the detention facility with a blank face staring at the colorless walls.  Occasionally, I would glance over at other detainees and wonder about their personal circumstances that led them to be in the same room with me.

One could easily differentiate between the detainees who had been locked up for sometime from those who had been recently apprehended, as they were wearing their orange prison uniforms.

I heard the sobs of the woman I saw earlier that morning seated next to me in the van that transported us to the detention facility. She had been arrested in front of her U.S. citizen daughter when she was about to drop her off at school.

She was a single mom and her child had a mental disability. The worst part of it was that she had an immigration case in process to adjust her legal status and was unsure of what prompted ICE to apprehend her.

I continued to listen to the stories many of the women began to share and one thing became clear to me…something is wrong with the U.S. immigration system.

Some of the women were legal residents placed in removal proceedings due to minor nonviolent offenses, clearly not “criminals” as defined by the Department of Homeland Security. Others had been waiting for a review of their cases by a judge, but instead of being released to wait for the review, as they should have been, they had been locked away for months.

The majority of these detainees lacked proper legal representation, to ensure fairness in review of their cases. I had often read and heard of ICE practices of expediting removal proceedings without due process and that day I witnessed it in the stories told by these women.

As for me, I was unsure about my own legal predicament. About a year before, I had discovered my legal case had been filed fraudulently by the notary who had been working with my parents for almost 10 years in our family application for political asylum/cancellation of removal.

As much as I sought legal counsel to do something about my case from the time I found out, all the attorneys I consulted were consistent with their assessment: I had no legal basis for re-opening my case since I didn’t qualify for legal relief.

I spent eight hours in detention, continually waiting for a sign of hope. It was around 4 pm when I was notified I had a visitor and was directed to a private office.  It was an official from the Mexican Consulate who arrived per request of my friends who learned about my detention earlier that morning when I had a chance to make a couple of phone calls to my family and friends.

I quickly briefed him of my situation thinking there was something he could do to aid my plea and perhaps I could have a judge review my case. But that hope was short-lived.

The immigration officer interrupted our conversation to tell me it was time for me to board the next bus to Tijuana. The only thing the consular officer could do for me was to notify my family that I was going being sent back to Mexico that same day.

I got on the bus which I estimated could hold about 40 people; it was almost full. I quickly took my seat at the front which was reserved for women. There were only two of us among the rest of the male passengers. The feeling of anticipation that had been with me all day as I awaited my fate faded and was replaced by fear as I sat on that bus which was now heading south to a border town where I knew no one.

Nancy Landa is a deported honors graduate and former student President of California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Nancy resides in Tijuana since her deportation in 2009 and has shared her story to highlight the need for comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. You can follow Nancy on Facebook and Twitter @mundocitizen.

The Road Much Travelled — From Deportation to Shattered DREAMs

Posted Sept 4, 2012

By Nancy Landa

Published in LatinaLista

It is a typical weekday morning.  As usual, I wake up 30 minutes after my alarm clock goes off and I am forced to hastily get out of bed, get quickly dressed and rush out of my apartment. I hit the road and as I drive my daily route to work, I get caught up in late morning traffic. I stop at a traffic signal which just turned red and I have a moment to think about my day ahead. It only takes a few seconds of self-reflection to start remembering a morning just like this one, when my life took a completely unexpected turn.

It was a Tuesday morning in September 2009, when I was stopped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while driving through my neighborhood in downtown Long Beach. At the moment I was being pulled over, I immediately assumed it was Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) officers.

Perhaps I had unknowingly incurred a minor traffic violation. One of the officers approached me and as she walked over to the passenger side of my car, strangely she looked familiar. “Are you Nancy Landa?” she asked, to which I responded affirmatively. The officer continued, “Do you know why we are stopping you?” But before I could answer, she began to say those dreaded words “We have an order for your removal.”

As I step out of the car and begin to regain my composure from the initial state of shock I found myself in, I recognize the female ICE agent and couple of officers standing just behind. I had seen the three agents the day before inside my apartment complex. We had coincidentally crossed paths in the center courtyard as I was heading toward my car garage. Apparently, they were not aware it was me they were looking for and it didn’t dawn on me that they were sent on a mission to capture me.

Before I knew it, I was locked inside the back seat of the ICE van. As it started to take off, I turned around to get a last glimpse of my car now stranded in the middle of the street left to be towed as we were headed to the detention facility in Los Angeles.

En route, the agent driving asked me, “What did you do to get a deportation order?” I did not have an answer.  All I knew was that my parents had worked hard to adjust our legal status since I was nine years of age without any luck.  Growing up, I tried to live my life in what is considered to be of “good moral character.” Unfortunately, we had become victims of an inflexible immigration system and fell prey to notary fraud which led to the issuance of my Order of Removal without my knowledge.

No explanation was necessary. Any answer would not change the fact that I was being labeled a criminal and treated as such. Instead of replying, I sat quietly and tried to remain calm but in thinking of all the unknowns that lay ahead, I was overcome by a sense of panic.

I worried about my family, my parents and my younger brother.  How was I to communicate with them?  Had ICE gone after them as well? Was I going to be able to halt my deportation or will I find myself in a country I had not set foot in almost 20 years?

Upon arriving at the detention facility, I was subjected to the routine questioning. The officers took my photo, got my fingerprints, and then locked me in a cell to be held under custody with other detainees as I waited for them to decide on my fate.

Now, three years later, the stoplight turns green and as I drive past the traffic jam in the streets of my hometown in Tijuana, I continue to ponder: How different my life would be if President Obama’s Deferred Action plan had been in place before ICE had come for me?

Nancy Landa is a deported honors graduate and former student President of California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Nancy resides in Tijuana since her deportation in 2009 and has shared her story to highlight the need for comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. You can follow Nancy on Facebook and Twitter @mundocitizen.