Guest Voz: If a Deportee Could Vote

Posted date: November 05, 2012 | LatinaLista

By Nancy Landa


Over the past few months, I have been on a personal vendetta against President Obama for his broken promise on immigration reform and on the record-setting deportations under his administration.

There has been very little proof that the majority of children, youth, and families that have been deported are high priority cases or that this is in any shape, way or form improving the security of the US contrary to what the administration states.

The Great American Boycott and 2006 U.S. immigration reform protests, on May 1, 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you have any doubts, you just need to look at my personal story.

In 2008, I had actually signed up to volunteer on the Obama campaign not too far from my now hometown of Tijuana, just across the border (or as we say here,en el otro lado) in San Diego. We were hoping to turn around the conservative vote there, not only for the presidential ticket but also for local candidates.

I remember that Tuesday night during the election rally, after working tirelessly on Get out the Vote (GOTV) efforts, we were glued to the monitor waiting for the election results. And the rest was over, we were celebrating with joy President Obama’s victory.

The first thing I said to myself was: “I really hope that the legal limbo that I found myself in would be resolved” not only for me but for the countless of DREAMers that believed in the HOPE he represented for comprehensive immigration reform.

But now four years later, all we have is over a million deportees and a short-term fix (Deferred Action) which allows only a temporary relief to undocumented youth that are yearning for an opportunity to be productive members of society in a permanent way.

The question for me now is, would I still support President Obama if I was in the states?

Well, before I can answer it I had to revisit why I even care now. I no longer live in the U.S. I should pay attention to Mexican politics right? Well, in a way I am. I have not gotten around to being involved in campaigns as I still have much to learn about Mexican politics (a whole different animal) but I did vote in our elections this past July, my first-ever vote in presidential elections.

But having lived in the U.S. for almost 20 years, with close ties to friends and relatives that live there is enough for me. Not to mention that we in Mexico should care about the elections in the U.S. as our relationship with our neighbor up north is very relevant to us.

Having said that, I return to the main question. And on this matter, yesterday I had a debate with my dad about the elections and just realized for the first time in my life since I recall discussing politics with him, he is favoring a Republican!

My hardcore staunch Democrat dad is holding Obama’s promise for immigration reform against him. And I understand that, it is very hard to be forgiving about this when you experience deportation.

And I also have the right to adopt that view. At the same time, when I take a look at the bigger picture and compare the candidates in what I see in the news, hear in their speeches, read in the newspapers about their views, all in light of their party’s political platforms, I am not too certain things will be better for the immigrant community with Mitt Romney.

I agree with the criticisms against the Democratic party as they are the “party of whips” that do not take strong stances on issues and cannot get their votes aligned to make things happen. And I do believe they are are ‘cop outs’ when they use the “we do not have enough Republican support” as an excuse for ineffectiveness around the immigration issue.

What is also obvious to me is that the Republican party has taken a much more antagonistic stance toward undocumented immigrants. Romney has stated he supports self-deportation, does not support continuing with Deferred Action, opposes the DREAM Act and is more concerned about securing the border.

Actually, I think he is much worse than Bush Jr. on immigration. He will not be the reincarnation of former President Reagan as many Republicans, especially in the Latino community, would like to believe when they state he would deliver comprehensive immigration reform.

The truth is, both parties have failed the immigrant community. I lived in the U.S. during four presidents, representing both parties and during that time, there were no immigration law changes that could have helped individuals like me become legal permanent residents.

And although a temporary solution is not what we expected from President Obama four years ago, it is much more than we have gotten from any other president on this issue in two decades. Romney will pose to be a risk to all those DREAMers that are slowly coming out of the shadows to apply for Deferred Action.

The last thing we need to see is for those borders to continue to be flooded with deportees, especially of young immigrants, because of the inability of either party to revisit immigration laws that have been inflexible for so long and do not work anymore for our current reality.

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.