The Diary of Joaquín Magón Entry 23: The Deportation Chronicles, Part 2
Mayte: The Haves and the Have Nots of Immigration
One of the greatest fears is driving. With Operation Stone Garden Police officers were able to ask for citizenship and it became commonplace to have police officers radio in immigration officers to pick up the slack if the officer believed the person was undocumented a la Arizona.
This is how Mayte, 21, sees the world: She graduated high school in 2009 and was accepted to UC Irvine, UC Merced, and UC Riverside but opted for College of the Desert, a local community college, because of cost. But now she can transfer to a four-year university but fears she won’t be able to afford the cost. That reality seeped from her hands onto paper when she wrote her university personal statement.
“My dream is simple: I want to have an opportunity to have a dream that could actually come true. My world, a world that is made of people who belong and people who are excluded, a world that divides human beings into two categories, legal and illegal, this world makes it difficult to really have a dream.”
Mayte is among the thousands who applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). “The moment that President Obama announced DACA,” says Mayte, “I was watching the news…I started crying. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to go to the university and I didn’t want to stop there. It gave me a lot of hope.”
Mayte was born in Churumuco, Michoacan, Mexico and was brought to the Eastern Coachella Valley (ECV) when she was 10 years old. Her mother is a farm worker whose story is much like other farm workers in California — exploitative conditions, long hours, cheated out of over time, no voice in the workplace, and the realization that she will one day be replaced by someone younger and faster. To this, Mayte responds with the dream of becoming a lawyer that specializes in labor and employment law.
“I continue because of [my mother],” she says, “and that’s why I chose the career I chose, because I’ve seen how my mom has been treated in the fields and I truly want to change that.”
Mayte remembers little of Mexico. She learned she was undocumented when she was applying for college.
“It was terrible,” says Mayte, “but my mom always said, ‘don’t give up, you don’t want to end up like me. Working for almost nothing, and then you know how they treat me, I don’t want you to end up like this.'”
And like others in the ECV she shares a common fear that at any given moment she, or her mother could be deported, yes even with Obama’s promise not to do so. It is often difficult for people who are not surrounded by a perpetual threat of deportation to fully grasp its nature just as it’s difficult for those who are surrounded by the news of deportation to know that this should not be this way. There is a militaristic feeling in the ECV when it comes to the constant raids, checkpoints, and peace officers you cannot trust. For Mayte, it’s a common feeling.
“Families are separated because of the raids that were happening at that time. My mom never gets home late. The latest she gets home is 7 p.m. After that, my hearts just pounds so hard that I wonder where she’s at. And she doesn’t have a phone. I’d just stay awake nervous. It’s terrible for families.”
She asks in her personal statement: “A young woman like me, born Mexican, female, and poor what kinds of dreams are available to her? …A young woman like me is not looking for a handout, but rather, a chance to have a dream that could really come true.”
Estela: The Non-Eligible
For now Mayte can only wait for her DACA approval or denial, a process that could take a few more months.
It is estimated that 1.7 million youth are eligible for DACA. But Estela (not her real name), 17, is not one of them.
To be eligible for DACA, the applicant must have arrived in the United States before June 15, 2007. Estela arrived one month later.
Estela’s story mirrors Mayte’s in so many ways. She was brought to the US when she was 11. She lived in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Looking around and seeing all her friends getting ready to continue their education is a bit frustrating.
“They say the end of high school is very overwhelming,” says Estela. “And it is! But I feel like it is a thousand times more for me. It gets me very frustrated, the fact that I can’t apply for many things. In a way, my future is hanging in the air. I don’t know what my plan is, but all I know is that even though it is hard, I will keep on trying to find a way to make it.”
Naturally, a spirit like Estela’s cannot be crushed so easily.
In perfect world, her dreams of pursuing a career in Mass Communications at CSU Fullerton would be without any more or less obstacles than her peers. But her reality is different. Like other undocumented youth, deportation is a fear that has a permanent apartment in her mind.
“It’s something that, even though I try not think about, is always on the back of my head. I think it makes a person very insecure most of the time. You want to hide…not because you are ashamed of it, but because of fear. You never know the kind of people you are dealing with and they could affect you if they wanted to just by knowing you are not legal.”
It’s a perpetual fear, it’s a strange situation — she can’t go back, she doesn’t know Mexico, she wouldn’t know if she would be able finish high school over there, and here she has more obstacles than dreams, but her dreams are bigger and so she’ll continue to fight in their name.
Coming Wednesday: The story of Raul, a deported college student who has been adjusting to living in Mexicali since 2010.
Previously: The Deportation Chronicles, Part 1
“The Diary of Joaquín Magón” is written by Jesús E. Valenzuela Félix, a reporter from Coachella living in Salinas and working for the United Farm Workers Foundation. He contributes regularly to Coachella Unincorporated.