Brenda

Interviewee

Anne Preston

Interviewer

June 7, 2019

Mexico City, Mexico

Missing her family

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*To hear more about Brenda listen to the playlist above

Anne: Maybe you could start by telling me how you ended up going to the US, how old you were, what the motivation was, what your first impressions were, something like that.

Brenda: Sure. My dad left for the US when I was about two years old. He was there for about half a year, a year, before my mom, my brother and I went to join him. I was three when we went over there. So I was very little. I just remember he would call, and he would say like, “Are you going to be good? You sure you guys want to come over there?” Because my mom still wasn't very sure if she wanted to move over there.

Brenda: I loved my dad so I was like, "Yes, I will." It's like, “You have to learn English and you have to do all this stuff.” I'd be like, “Yeah, of course I will learn it." So, I would go all around the house speaking mumbo jumbo—no one understood—thinking it was English. I was like, “I'm practicing my English for when I get there with my dad.” So, me being like, “Mom, you have to go, we have to go!” Ended up with my mom being like, "All right let's go."

Brenda: We crossed the border and I don't remember feeling any shock or anything. I remember getting there and I think my mom had gotten behind at some crossing. So, we got there a little bit before her and my dad took us grocery shopping. I remember my brother and I being like, "Oh we eat all of these cereals" and they were brand names cereals and my mom would never buy us multiple cereals.

Brenda: He was like, "Okay, are you guys serious?" Like, "Yes, we eat all of those." “All of those?” “She buys us five cereals every time we go to the grocery store so you can buy those as well.” It was like, “All right.” So, I just remember being like, "Oh my gosh, this is so nice." Everything was, it seemed at least I think in my head, cleaner and I was with my dad and we were all together. So, I was just really happy when we got over there.

Anne: Where did you settle?

Brenda: When we first got there, we lived in California for about a year, year-and-a-half. Then we moved to Arkansas when I was about four, five—I was in preschool, kindergarten, everything there. I was about to start middle school, we moved to Oklahoma and I finished out the rest of my school there.

Anne: So why all the moves?

Brenda: I guess he was trying to find better job opportunities. That's why he went to California because he had an uncle that was there already. Then at some point, he moved towards that zone and I think he was just looking for a better job, better things. He had been doing, I think, construction for a while and when he moved to Arkansas, he started working at restaurants as a cook and as a dishwasher and he liked it a lot. Once I was in middle school, they decided they wanted to start their own restaurant. That's why we moved to Oklahoma, because there was a lot of competition in that area in Arkansas. We moved about an hour away and we were in Oklahoma and they started a restaurant and that was the main reason.

Anne: In which town?

Brenda: It's called Tahlequah. It's a very small town in Oklahoma.

Anne: Did that work out, the restaurant?

Brenda: Yes, for sure.

Anne: Was it a Mexican restaurant?

Brenda: Yes. Tex Mexican restaurant.

Anne: Did your mom work during this time too?

Brenda: Yes, she went back to work when I was about ten or so. Before that, she would sometimes make meals and sell them to mechanic shops or garage shops, anything nearby. A lot of men that didn't have homes or whatever. So, she would make a lot of food and go sell everywhere. So as long as I've been aware, she's always been working and she went back to work officially when I was about ten, she started working at the same restaurant as my dad as a waitress.

Anne: You said you came with your brother?

Brenda: Yes.

Anne: How old is he?

Brenda: Yes, my brother is twenty-four. He's twenty-four right now.

Anne: So, he's older or younger?

Brenda: Younger.

Anne: He's younger?

Brenda: Yes.

Anne: So, what was family life like for you guys once you get to the US?

Brenda: I felt it was good. I know when we're pretty young, up until a certain point, we did struggle financially a lot. Sometimes we lived with multiple families or a lot of our family that were coming over from Mexico. So little by little—I think I shared a room with my brother until I was ten or twelve until we finally were able to get separated into our own rooms. But overall, I just remember always being with my parents and always feeling very, I guess happy they were together, and everybody was there. There was always a lot of people everywhere.

Anne: What about school? Is that where you learned English?

Brenda: Yes, as soon as I got into school, I remember I took preschool twice because I started at three years old and the next year I still wasn't old enough. So, I did it again. I remember the first year and not understanding a lot when I first got there. Then I recall the second year when I first started preschool being like, “Oh my gosh, I understand everything. I know what they're saying, okay!” And just being really happy that I was understanding because I had promised my dad I was going to learn English when I got there.

Anne: How did you like school?

Brenda: I loved it. I was always happy going to school anywhere that we went, and I always did well grades-wise and I always did a lot of extracurricular activities.

Anne: What were your favorites?

Brenda: I did theater—I love theater—and I did marching band and choir. So those three, I did all through high school and some middle school and I loved those a lot.

Anne: Which instruments did you play?

Brenda: Clarinet.

Anne: So, you had the ideal American childhood and education?

Brenda: Yes, as much as I could.

Anne: Was it hard to move around?

Brenda: Yes, my parents did drive. Move around like state-wise or?

Anne: Yes, like when you started in California and then you went to Arkansas.

Brenda: I think I was always just like, “Well that's what my parents say what we're doing, so that's what we're going to do” [Chuckles]. In Arkansas, we moved around a lot because it was a big city. So, you moved over a couple of blocks and you ended up in a completely different kindergarten. It would usually happen with like, “Okay, we're living with this family. We're not having good boundaries, whatever. We're going to switch or we're having an uncle come over, we're going to go somewhere with another room maybe so they can be in their own separate room.” So, we would move a lot in the city.

Brenda: I remember there was one time where I was like, “Oh, I go to a different school now I take two buses to get to school.” They were like, “No, you don't. That's the same bus but it's one way and then one way back.” I was like, "You guys, no, I go to a different school now." They're like, "Brenda that's not true." They were explaining and it wasn’t till months later when they realized I had gotten switched schools during one of the moves. I was taking one bus to one school and—

Anne: They didn't know?

Brenda: They hadn't realized that all. I'm sure they signed the paperwork, I'm sure they signed whatever needed to be done. I'm sure they signed the bus—

Anne: Did you finally say, “Okay, they don't know?”

Brenda: I was like, "All right they don't understand. That's fine. [Laughs]. I'm going to another first grade, it's okay.” Little things like that would happen, but I always made friends very easily. So, I would be like, "I miss these friends" but I would start—

Anne: Making friends.

Brenda: —making right away.

Anne: We've talked to a lot of young women who come over to the States from Mexico and for whatever reason they end up getting pregnant when they're like fourteen or fifteen. So why do you think that is and why do you think you didn't? Well, I don't know if you didn't, because I didn’t ask you but—

Brenda: No, I didn't. I don't know, I think it happens here too, up to a point. It can be like a cultural thing. I have discussed it with my friends and sometimes it's like, “Oh, you're not leaving the house until you're with somebody and with a man and with whatever.” So, sometimes there is a lot of cultural influence all around—and ignorance on sexual health and taking care of oneself and contraceptive methods. Here it's just like, “Oh no. If you pray, you're not going to get pregnant and etc. That's not true and it also it's like, “Oh, once you get pregnant, I guess now you can leave, now you're a woman and that you can do all these things.”

Brenda: My parents got together when they were pretty young, not that young, but pretty young. My mom was like eighteen, nineteen. My dad was nineteen, twenty, and so my dad always instilled like a lot of fear like, “You better never get pregnant, you better not whatever.” There was never any discussion of like what I was supposed to do to avoid getting pregnant, but it was just in my head. It's always been like, “All right my parents said not to do that so I'm not going to do it.” But I think sometimes it's just that it's like, “what else are you going to do,” or “how else do you progress into being a woman” unfortunately like other than with a child or with a partner even though it's by mistake.

Anne: How about your brother? How did he do?

Brenda: He did well. My brother has autism, he's on the autism spectrum. So, when we went to California, about a half a year in he got diagnosed because he hadn't started talking and he wasn't really very communicative with us. Then we moved to Arkansas. We made sure he always got into a lot of programs and got a lot of help, as much as he could. He always went through all special Ed. throughout school and he seemed to enjoy it. He seemed to like it a lot. They did a lot of activities I think otherwise he wouldn't have done. Throughout high school he started getting more grumpy and like more hormonal and sometimes he wouldn't want to join in with stuff, but overall he enjoyed it a lot.

Anne: Is he still in the US or is he back?

Brenda: No, I left when I was eighteen and a half and then I left because we had an immigration process going on and I was told I had to leave before, I guess, my time illegally started counting. So, I left with my grandparents and came back here. Then about a year and half later, we had our appointment in Ciudad Juárez and he drove down with my aunt and that's when they told us, it wasn't completely closed, it wasn't completely rejected, but it wasn't going to go through at that time. So, he had to come back with me here in the city. So, right now, he's here.

Anne: So, you went all the way through high school, you graduated from high school. Did you start college?

Brenda: No, I got some college credits through some exams that I took. But no, I didn't start college.

Anne: Advanced placement tests?

Brenda: Yes.

Anne: Did you apply for DACA?

Brenda: No, I left I think a year, two years before DACA took off, so that was a whole other thing [Chuckles].

Anne: So, you graduated from high school and then what were your plans?

Brenda: When I was going to graduate, the town that we lived in, Tahlequah, had a small regional college and Northeastern State. My plan was like, “Well maybe I can just get a job at the restaurant, whatever, save up money,” because they did accept people without any papers. But obviously, you paid a lot more money. I was like, I guess I’ll do that, or I'll figure out what to do. Eventually, as the time got closer and we knew I was going to have to come to Mexico, I was like, “Well maybe we'll see.” I just kept saying like, “We’ll wait and see,” because I did want to do my college in the US because that's what I knew up until then.

Anne: So, what happened for you all to come back?

Brenda: We started the immigration process when I was fourteen, I think. My aunt adopted us, she is a US citizen, and the whole thing was supposed to be super easy peasy. She adopted my brother and I, and legally we lived with her because she lived across the street—we lived with my parents, but she was across the street and formally she was our parent. It was supposed to be like, “Here, you're her daughter and you get papers right away.” It was not that simple or easy. Our attorney just said, "You do have to leave the US" and I was like, "But when?" I was already eighteen. I was like, "When?" It's like, “Oh, I don't know.” No one ever included me in the process of what had to be done. So, I had to look it up myself and see at eighteen and I don't know how many days old, your time starts counting as an illegal alien. I was like, "All right. So, no one's checked on this. I have months till I have to leave.”

Brenda: My grandparents would visit us once a year and one time they visited us by surprise in October and they were just going to stay for two weeks. My grandpa took me aside and he's like, "What's going to happen? What do you have to do?" I was like, "Well, no one's paying attention to me, but I have to leave by November fifteenth, sixteenth of this year." He's like, "What are you going to do?" I was like, "I don't know. I guess they're going to buy me a plane ticket. I'm going to go, and you guys are going to pick me up when I get there." [Chuckles]

Brenda: He was like, "[Sigh]. I don't like that." And he was like, "All right, we'll extend the trip two weeks more." They stayed a month. “You'll go back with us. But we're going back on a bus,” because they had gotten all the way there on the bus because of prices. It's like, “You're going to go back on a bus. I'm sorry, but my adventure of traveling cross country via bus is not going to be ended because you want to go on a plane.” I was like, "that's fine." So, I came back with them to the city.

Anne: So, they just had a visa to come and travel?

Brenda: Yes, they had a visiting visa, so they would always go at least once a year to come see us.

Anne: So the adoption proceedings required that you go back to Mexico before?

Brenda: It turns out they did not [Chuckles]. We just had a very badly researched attorney, I guess. He had gotten one of my uncle’s citizenship—and funnily enough, not the uncle that was with that aunt. He didn't end up being able to get residency or anything, and I don't know why we went with him specifically. But he just kept saying, "You have to leave." I remember telling everybody, “Okay, outside of having to leave at this time, I keep seeing that a lot of people that do this immigration process, in particular, don't leave the US. They never leave the US, they stay there.” Everybody goes, "I know, but you don't understand it's different." I was like, "It's really not, it's adoption-based immigration process.” So, I'm always like, "No one listened to me, so that's why [Chuckle] this happened." So, we left because that was what was supposed to happen. I was supposed to come here and then we were eventually going to have a meeting at the consulate in Juarez and then be able to go back at some point.

Anne: What happened? Why didn't it work out?

Brenda: We waited a long time. It was about a year and a half because everybody was like, “It's going to be about three or six months, three or six months.” And that passed, we were finally stuck there and it was because of the Hague Convention—if I'm not mistaken—which is like an international adoption thing that a lot of countries sign into to try to avoid human trafficking for children. Everything that we did with my aunt, which was technically live with her for two years, begin the adoption process before I was fifteen. All of these things that we did, we were supposed to have done them here in Mexico. And we tried to dispute it because we were like, "We've never lived in Mexico and my aunt's not from Mexico. Why would we go to Mexico to do this?" So they're like, "No, but you can keep appealing it. But that's the process, you were supposed to do all of that in Mexico." The point is that we didn't want to, there was no reason for us to go to Mexico. We've never been there, my brother left when he was one and I was three. So, we were always in the US and so it didn't get declined completely, it just got, I guess, on hold and it's been like that for the last—when did this happen—like five, six years? So on my end, I'm good being here. I like being here, but it's because of my brother and his autism and he's very much in his own world of his habits and what his plans are and everything. It was really hard for him to come.

Brenda: It was a complete disruption to his routine. It was a complete—like being away from his parents, being with people he didn't really know that well. Being in a different country, like language he doesn't speak as well—everything was hard. So, I don't touch that process because I know it's technically still going on and the hope is that one day he can go back. Me, I'd be happy to just go visit once, maybe often. But for him, because for him, it's so important to go back to the US.

Anne: Do you live with your grandparents?

Brenda: I did. I lived with them since I got here in 2010. Just last year I moved out to live with my boyfriend, but about that whole time I lived with them.

Anne: Does your brother live with them?

Brenda: My brother still lives with them, yes.

Anne: When you get back here and you're waiting around, did you go back to school? What did you do?

Brenda: I wanted to. I remember being like, “Maybe I could try school and I could see if I like it here. Then worst case, I get my papers, I do school here and I go back over there—especially, economically it might've made more sense.” My mom was always like, “No, three more months, next month.” So, [Sigh] it went like that for a year and a half. When I came back, my brother, I would try to take him out as much as I could. He always chose American places like Chili’s or whatever places. I was like, "That's fine, but it costs a lot more money." So, money that my mom would send me that would last me months, in one outing with him, I would use it all because I wanted to make him happier, have him be calm. So, I was like, "This isn't going to last." So, I was like, "I need to get a job." That's when I started working.

Anne: So, what kind of work did you do?

Brenda: I started at a call center that's not too far from here. It's called Televista. I was there for six years, almost six years. I started out as an agent and I went through different levels.

Anne: Are you still there now?

Brenda: No. I left last year, the campaign I was working with—T-Mobile—left for another company and so all of us were without a job. I am currently at a tech software company called Hootsuite and I've been there since last July.

Anne: What kind of work do you do here?

Brenda: It's customer support.

Anne: Similar?

Brenda: Yes, it's over the phone, computer chat, emails.

Anne: Do you like it?

Brenda: Yes, it's really interesting and stuff I didn't know mattered. I check Facebook, I check Instagram, but there's so many things that cause things to not work and people are very upset about it and their whole work depends on it. So, you understand it but you're like, “Whoa, I didn't know this could affect someone to this level.” So, it's been a learning experience. It's something I didn't know anything about previously. I always liked that, learning things.

Anne: Are there things that you miss about the US?

Brenda: I think it's mainly my family. My parents are still over there and my siblings.

Anne: You have other siblings?

Brenda: Yes, but they were born over there, so it's different. When I left, they were three and five. Since I couldn't work and I couldn't drive or anything, I've always babysat them. I was their mom up until some point because my mom worked most days and so that was really hard because now the oldest is fourteen and the next one is twelve so it's a whole world of difference. The three-year-old when I left, he thought I was his mom. My mom told me that when I left on the bus he was like, "Brenda come back, I'll be good. I promise." He was just crying and crying. [Emotional]

Anne: I'm sorry.

Brenda: It's been a while and now it's just … One is a teenager and she had to deal with my family drifting apart when us two left. A lot of things happening because my mom had a hard time dealing with half of her children being here. So, the oldest is very straightforward, very grumpy sometimes. It's always weird because I think about her when she was five and now, and I'm like so much responsibility fell on her when I left. [Emotional] And the little one [Chuckle], he always says “Hi” to me, but he doesn't remember me as well anymore because he was two or three when I left. So, I think them too, they're the hardest part [Sniffles].

Anne: I’m sorry.

Brenda: It's okay.

Anne: That’s tough. So, you haven't seen them since you left?

Brenda: No.

Anne: Or your parents?

Brenda: No.

Anne: It's a long time.

Brenda: It's about to be, in November, it'll be nine years.

Anne: Have you thought about getting a visa and trying to travel?

Brenda: Yes, this last December, I went with my boyfriend to Tijuana for Christmas with his family. And it's so weird over there because they cross over all the time. They all have visas and it's like, “I'm going to go grocery shopping”—they go to San Diego. I couldn't join with them on anything so I would stay home. His mom's boyfriend was like, “Well why doesn't she get a visa though?” It's like, “Because she's in the immigration process and she just don't want to move there.” “But so am I.” I think his cousin, or some family member, did this whole immigration process to ask for him to be a resident a long time ago and he's been in that process forever.

Brenda: He's like, “But I still do my visa every year. Whenever I need to renew it, they just ask, ‘Oh, you're still on this process?’ ‘Yup, Okay.’ And then it's through. So why don't you have her try? Her thing's still going to be there.” So, we are thinking my boyfriend's visa needs to be renewed this year. So, trying to at least do that to visit.

Anne: Have your parents gotten papers yet?

Brenda: No, I don't know. I guess my sister will be eighteen in a few years [Chuckles] and maybe she can request them hopefully. I didn't think that much time was going to go by. But I guess she might be able to in a few years, hopefully. If not, I know they're kind of thinking of, at least my dad is thinking of coming here to live. Just because they've had … They were doing really well, and they've had a couple of years like not so great over there.

Anne: What were your dreams when you were there?

Brenda: With all the performing arts things I did, I really wanted to go into theater and major in theater and live in New York and that kind of thing. My parents would be like, “No, if you end up going to college and we end up having to pay for it out of pocket, you need to get something that's a real job. [Laughs]. That's nice, but not like a real job.” I was like, “All right, well, I'll figure it out.” So, I think that's what I mainly wanted to do. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to have the whole American experience of university and eventually move out and go to a big city. We had visited New York in one of the trips, I think a band trip during high school, and I liked it so much and I was like,
“I want to move here, and I want to, whatever.” So, I think that's what I mainly wanted to do.

Anne: Do you think being in the States for those sixteen, fifteen—

Brenda: Fifteen years.

Anne: Fifteen years changed you or well—they made you, because you really hadn't been formed—So, do you think being in the States for those fifteen years made you a different person than you would have been if you had grown up here?

Brenda: Probably. Sometimes I have very optimistic ideas about certain things. I think that—not as a judgment towards anyone—I'm a good kid over there. Sometimes a lot of it was because of fear of if you get in trouble. You need to hang out with good kids, and you can't be like … I was always told not to hang out with other Hispanic kids because eventually too many of us would make people nervous or something. So, don't do that. Don't get into trouble. All of these things made me a very anxious person growing up. But I was always like, “No, because if something happens to me or the police were to find me for whatever I might be doing, apparently, it would involve everybody. We'd all be in trouble.” Here I think I would still do the same because up until a couple of years ago my grandpa was like, “You can't go out.” I'd be like, “Okay.” I'm still very obedient. All right, I don't want to get in trouble, and I don't want to get into arguments with anyone.

Brenda: I just do as I'm told. I think it would've been similar, but maybe have … I don't know, I probably would have started working a lot younger helping my family out and such. Over there because I couldn't work, it was mainly to stay in at home babysitting my siblings. I think those kinds of things, I wasn't as exposed to a lot of the world as I was—or am now, here. I think that would have been different with my exposure.

Anne: What are your dreams now that you're here?

Brenda: I do want to go to school. It's been something for the last few years. At my last job I had to work, I had a day of like ten and a half hours and then I had two-hour commute. So that ate up most of my time, and I was just coming home to sleep basically. But I loved my job very much. I was like, “Oh, I don't need school right now. I'll figure it out eventually.” And five years went by and right now I'm like, “This is kind of the perfect job for school because it's so relaxed.” I am off on Fridays, I'm off Saturdays. I work from home a lot of days. But it's a lot of stuff that I have to ask my parents to do over there to go get my documents and stuff apostilled—I think it's called—or certified and then I have to translate them.

Anne: All your education documents or transcripts and all that stuff.

Brenda: Yes. So, I can eventually go to school here. Then there's this fear of like, "Oh my God, what if I don't get into any of the public schools?" Because I'm like, "No, I want to go to one of the public universities" and if I don't, that's another cost and now it's like I don't want to leave work because I like working and I'd have to do it on the weekends. Then in my head, I'm already like, "Oh my God, am I already not struggling through to balance a schedule I don't even have yet." I'm just already stressed about it [Laughs]. But I do, basically, it's to go back to school because I do miss it a lot and I do enjoy it.

Anne: What would you study? What are you thinking? Theater?

Brenda: I think here it's harder, I took a course a couple of years ago. It was like a Shakespeare course and it was all in English and I remember being like, “Oh, this is the luckiest thing I've ever found.” I took it and I liked it a lot. But I know when I would try to speak to some of the other guys in Spanish, it was hard. My Spanish has gotten better, but it's still hard to communicate certain things. So probably not theater. I like cooking a lot. So maybe something like gastronomy or I looked a lot into sociology, insight, and psychology. I like those for all being interesting.

Anne: Do you think having lived in the US, if you start a family, you'll raise your children differently than is more of the norm here in Mexico?

Brenda: Yes, probably. Mostly because of my boyfriend since he's from Tijuana he grew up very Americanized. I guess because he was so near the border. He's never lived in the US, but his English is as if he had lived in the US. We're both very sure we don't want to start a family, which is already kind of outside of the traditional or cultural expectations. But I do know that when we discuss if we were eventually to have children, I think I would still speak to them in English. It'd be a weird Spanglish mix that they would learn. I do that to my dog now and he learns [Laughs]. He's like, “All right, just feed me, I don't care what language you do it in.” So, I do think we'd teach them different things or outside of the cultural norm if it came down to it.

Anne: If you could change immigration law in the US, how would you change it?

Brenda: I don't know. I think it's just tough because I don't think it can be—what is it they call it—like a blanket solution of “okay, let everyone go through” or “give everyone automatic resident status” or whatever. I remember there was a few things that I saw I think when John, I forgot his name, was really opposing Obama during his second re-election. But a lot of things that I saw were like, “Oh you have to go through schooling.”

Anne: John McCain?

Brenda: Not John McCain—maybe I'm thinking of George W. Bush the second time he went through. But I remember it was a lot of like, “Oh, the men going through a military training or going through school or making sure that you've gone all these years without any law-breaking and stuff.” I was like, “That's fair because most immigrants are trying to stay out of trouble.” I can attest to being scared of … “No, we have to be sure that we're good and making sure going to school or getting a job” and I think that's just normal basic things to ask for.

Brenda: But I think those would have been great. It's harder now. I don't see the appeal right now in the US, sometimes it's a struggle because of how the political climate has been going since I left. I left when Obama had just gotten into the White House. So, it was really hard to see that transition completely the last few years. But I definitely think a system has to come up because I feel like it keeps getting pushed aside. We'll do it later, we'll do it later. Definitely for the people in the DACA program now that they've never known anything else.

Brenda: I think I would've loved it if I had gotten that opportunity or hadn't left before it was installed into place. But definitely towards children and teenagers that went there as children and had no idea what they were doing. That's the only home they know. My parents, my mom she used to be, I think when I was younger, very much thinking about coming back at some point. Since then there's times we talk and she's like, “Oh, I wouldn't want to go back to Mexico.” I'm like, “Mom your English isn't that great. I don't know what you're trying to do here” [Laughs]. But she's gotten accustomed to it and she's gotten used to it and she's certainly used to a certain life at some point that I don't think she would've gotten here if she had stayed.

Brenda: My dad's more traditional and he's always been like, “One day we're going to go back to Mexico.” I was like, “I don't see anyone planning for it in the long-term.” It's something I’ve talked with my grandpa about, he's like, “None of your uncles or your dad have ever sent money to buy a house or buy a land plot or do something for their future and they're always talking about coming back. I don't know where they're coming back to because you guys have their rooms now, so I don't know where they're going to stay” [Chuckles]. I'm like “That's true, they lost a lot of time when they had really good profits coming in.”

Brenda: I was like, “Hey, let's set this aside just in case, for an emergency.” So, I think it would be great if people could really, or the government I guess, see how difficult it is once you get here because it ends up like, “Oh, this is also not my home.” I know I'm very, very fortunate because I've heard some of the stories from my coworkers and friends who live with a far, far, far away family member that they're barely related to and that's the closest thing to family that they have. They've gotten robbed, it's just they have a room and that's it and they're lucky to have that. Or they live so far away from their job, like the commutes here are crazy.

Brenda: So, I was so lucky to have my grandparents and people that I actually knew and remembered, and I talk to regularly. And I never had to worry about “what am I going to eat? How am I going to eat? How I'm going to ask for food?” Because my Spanish was okay—my parents made sure we spoke it growing up. But it's so … I've seen people get here and they just can't adapt because it's so hard. I struggled with being, I'm never going to make friends here, I'm never going to be able to make myself be understood or be heard.

Brenda: As cheesy as this, all the call center jobs that are everywhere and people are like, "That's the only job you can get?" Well, yeah, but it's people that … It's a good pay for all you have above anyone else is English. There's a lot more educated people than me without jobs here in Mexico—that’s the only thing they don't have, English—and I might get paid twice as much. And that's all the friends that I've made through the call centers through English, bilingual jobs. I’ve been very fortunate because it's people that I can talk to in Spanglish with each other and that understand me culturally, which is another thing.

Anne: How about the Mexican government? What kind of programs do you think they should be thinking about in terms of helping returning immigrants?

Brenda: I think being a little bit more … From what I've seen it's to become a little bit more accessible. But the program or all the stuff that they have going on for people if they want to go into school—I have so many friends who are like, “I started it and I still haven't finished. I'm getting all my stuff translated, getting whatever”—having it be more like, maybe, have someone help throughout the process or more available to help throughout because it sometimes feels like a secret like, "Oh, I can go to college here, I didn't know." That's a really hard thing and I think a lot of people would love to go to school if they could.

Brenda: Job wise, you never know what half of the documents are that you're asked for, like, “A social security number, I didn't have one there, now how am I going to have one here?” Then you find out you can just go in and get one. Surprisingly a lot of this stuff, what I found out when I got my first job—I remember just going one day I'm like, “I'm going to go see if I can find something.” My grandma was like, “Okay, good luck.” I went on a Wednesday and by Friday it was like, “You're hired, just get all of these documents.”

Brenda: My grandpa drove me around to get everything and I was surprised by how easy it was because I was just with my birth certificate and my ID or whatever. I was like, there's a lot of people that sometimes don't know when they get here, “what do I need or what will I need to get a job? Or where do I go?”

Anne: Or they may not have a birth certificate.

Brenda: Or they might not have a birth certificate or have no access for someone to send their birth certificate or have no idea where they were born here or live in like a tiny little town—it's like, "I don't know how to get there." So, it's hard, and I think just having that maybe be a separate process for people returning or having been able to get help from people that maybe have gone through the same thing would be great. A lot of people struggle.

Anne: We hear a lot about that, very much so. So, we're towards the end of the interview. Is there anything else you'd like to share with anybody who's listening to your story about your experiences with the system? The system itself?

Brenda: I guess that I was very thankful to be in the US with my family and that it did shape me into the person that I am—how I think and how I assume things are going to work out even here in Mexico. I would love that someone could understand. People understand—just see that a lot of people, how much they struggle and how much they want to be in the US legally.

Brenda: I know for me I've never wanted to go back again illegally. Why am I going to struggle again or get in trouble or be anxious all the time, an anxiety I can't describe? It affects you in so many ways and your mental health and your mental well-being. But I think, and I'm sure a lot of people feel that same way coming back here, just for the sake of at least mental health and overall well-being, taking a second look at a lot of people's stories or how it affects them leaving the only place that they've known for their whole life consciously. And how it affects families splitting apart because I know my family has been in the downfall since we both left years ago.

Brenda: I can't imagine going back to that family, that's not a family I recognize quite anymore. It affects a lot of people that you might not assume get affected. People that are there illegally and siblings … But just that, how much it can affect in so many ways.

Anne: Thank you so much.

Brenda: No, thank you.


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