by Cristina Hernandez
Maggie Loredo was born in San Luis Potosi, México and at the age of two years was brought to the United States when her family migrated, undocumented. After her high school graduation in 2008, Maggie was forced to return to Mexico where she has been living for the last decade. However, Maggie’s story is far from unique. Etziba Alvarez lived in Florida for 14 years. In 2009, at the age of 16, she discovered her undocumented status and returned to Mexico, in fear of the repercussions under American immigration law. Maira García Saldívar was born in Mexico City but relocated to Knoxville, Tennessee when she was just five years old. In 2008, during the pre-DACA era, she voluntarily returned to her native Mexico. Victor Hugo migrated to the United States with his family when he was just three years old and spent the next 15 years in Las Vegas. A week after his 18th birthday, his father was detained and ultimately deported, prompting Victor and his mother to move to Mexico with him to keep their family united. Maggie, Etziba, Maira and Victor are just a few among a plethora of people who are forced to return as a result of the United States’s strict immigration laws.
There is no one archetype for the Mexican returnee. This is what Otros Dreams en Acción (ODA), the non-profit that Maggie co-founded in 2015, aims to address. Through ODA, Maggie, Leni, Maira, Victor and a number of others have been channeling their personal experiences to build an organization dedicated to building a safe space for deportees in Mexico and demanding that deportees’ rights be respected on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border—offering support and solidarity to those who are living in exile. UC San Diego hosted Otros Dreams en Accion, where the five aforementioned speakers provided a room full of people with a powerful presentation where they shared their personal stories and promoted what they have been tirelessly advocating for in Mexico City.
While deportation is popularly viewed as the worst possible outcome for immigrants—and is arguably the abrupt point where American discussion on immigration ends—ODA aims to inform that there is a future post-deportation. Much of the work they do is to ensure that the lives of affected individuals after that critical juncture can continue to grow and remain dignified. Arguably, the biggest goal of ODA is to address the necessity of greater mobility for those who were forced to return to Mexico—the biggest roadblock in achieving this mobility being the difficulty in obtaining a VISA to return to the United States, even if only for short-term travel. In fact, two of ODA’s members who were meant to speak at this talk were unable to obtain a travel visa, which forced them to stay behind in Mexico. At the event, a video was shown where both members explained their background and went on to narrate their experience being refused a travel visa and denied the chance to speak to U.S. audiences.
One of the major features ODA deems necessary for improving the situation of returnees, is greater communication between American and Mexican institutions. For one, the general education program that many of the speakers completed is not presently recognized by the Mexican government, which acts as a major disadvantage in their process of educational relocation. They elaborated on how a variety of official documents are recognized or administered by one country but not accepted in the other, resulting in an overwhelming institutional dissonance between the two nations that leaves returnees in a distinctly vulnerable position. This “limbo state” was echoed by all of the five speakers. They detailed the specific hardships they and their families endured when adjusting to a life back in Mexico and candidly discussed the stigma attached to the experience of deportation. One of ODA’s specific tools for erasing this stigma and targeting the emotional and mental health of returnees, was the creation of a safe-haven where all those going through the process of return could turn to for support and fraternity. This came in the form of “Pocha House”—a safehouse located in Mexico City—where returnees have the ability to gather and work to cultivate a supportive and inclusive community. ODA explained that the purpose of “Pocha House”—and arguably the ethos of the organization—is to create advocacy through art and culture.
Perhaps the greatest goal of ODA, however, is to obtain a greater visibility in both the United States and Mexico. If you would like to assist them in their mission, you can contribute to any of ODA’s efforts or simply find out more about what they do in the following links: