June 2, 2019
Mexico City, Mexico
Being detained and deported
1 of 2
*To hear more about Erik listen to the playlist above
Anita: How old are you, Erik?
Anita: All right. So, let's talk a little bit more about some of the things that sort of are here. So why in the middle of a psychology degree did you decide to go to the US? Why did you give up your studies?
Erik: Because right here in Mexico, you can have a degree, you can have an education, but you don't get paid for. I used to make the same kind of money being just a laborer or working in a factory. You know? And it's not that I don't like to be a psychologist, it's just that economics is a big motivation to keep studying. You know what I mean? And well, I don't volunteer, but I've been working a lot of psychology issues like assisting people working on rehab centers. Like, NA, Narcotics Anonymous. And being listen their problems, and talking to them, and tell them how I left the drug issues and all that. So I just get tired of psychology, you know? [Laughs].
Anita: Because you're working with people as a psychotherapist.
Erik: You're right but getting one point of a good therapy is just tell you have to take your own decisions, man. I just don't understand your feet on the ground, man. I mean, cheer up. You got to take your own decisions. That's basically what a therapist would tell you. You need to make your own decisions. So, there's not much I can do. That's why I don't see much hope in the therapy, you know?
Erik: Because at the end, every person need to reinvent themselves and make their own decisions. The good, the bad. You know? I don't know if that makes sense.
Anita: No, it does make sense. Did you like living in the U.S.?
Erik: Yeah, I like the region. I just lived Georgia. It has like mix of modern and the country.
Erik: I like to live out the country, besides the big city like this one. Go to the lake, fishing, hunting, or you know? Or, like right now, I got a big backpack cause I got to swim and then go to jog. But I got to do it in the gym. Right there, I can go to the lake or go and jog in the woods. That's what I like. So is basically what I miss. You know?
Anita: So, the outdoors?
Erik: The outdoors, yeah.
Anita: Is there anything else you miss?
Erik: Yeah. The last town, you know? You don't be so anxious about losing your job, or you don't feel too much pressure about that.
Anita: Did you ever face discrimination in the US?
Erik: Of course. Yeah.
Anita: From who?
Anita: From who? Tell me about that a little bit.
Erik: From either person. I mean, I just believe if you talk about discriminations just talk about [inaudible 22:26], people with narrow mind. It could be a white, it could be a black, it could be Hispanic. It could be people from India. We are tribal beings. And if you do not belong to my tribe, I going to feel afraid of you. I going to set back. And all those fears is part of the discrimination. So of course you always experience it. I was deported by a black police officer supporting Trump. [Both laugh]. You telling me I'm not facing discrimination? Of course, but you see the same here in Mexico. People discriminate Indians, or not in Mexicans. You know? Or they discriminate you if you don't have money, or they discriminate you if you don't have a good job. You name it.
Anita: -As a returning migrant, as someone who lived in the United States, have you faced discrimination here?
Erik: Sure. You got to hide. Like, for example, I don't like to speak English because people treat you weird, you know? They, even my own family, say “you act funny. You was born here, you supposed to act like you been here.” You know? So, it's one kind of discrimination, but I just lift my chin up.
Anita: Do you think it's for the same tribal reasons?
Erik: No, it's more like a cultural thing. Because some people who's been there—you know how everyone talks about USA and say that the first country of the world? Many people do because envy, you know? And many people do it just because. You just different.
Erik: And some people don't want to change. I work in a call center and we do technical support. And you always talk with old people and say, "I'm an 80 year old woman. Do not expect me to do no troubleshooting." People resist those changes. So, I believe part of the discrimination is because you are different. Either you act different, either you think different, you know? Or you have just different customs.
Anita: Do you think the U.S. changed you then?
Erik: Habits. Like for example the habits of my family. You know? If I stay on my family, and they going to make a party, they might even don't have money and they spend it all. I say, “Whoa whoa whoa whoa, hold your horses. I split the bill.” Or something like that, you know? I don't know if you get me. There's like a cultural thing down there. The city I used to live, it was clean. And you complain about seeing trash on the ground and nobody likes you. I don't know if that makes sense.
Erik: Is how you feel different, or... You got to do your dishes, or…. For example, like here people is more independent into the U.S. You know?
Anita: Here, in the U.S. people are more independent or here?
Erik: In the U.S. people are more independent than here.
Anita: What does that mean? How are they more independent?
Erik: In the case like, I don't know the word in English but in Spanish they call [Spanish 00:26:19]. Which means the mom take too much care about their kids, and sometimes that don't let you grow up. You know what I'm saying? And that is very different between one and another culture.
Anita: Yeah. And that's something you liked about the U.S.?
Erik: Yeah. They independent, yeah. I lived on my own. If I am grumpy, it's okay to be grumpy. I mean, I want to be grumpy. Everybody gets grumpy. You know? I like that. Not that I need to please everyone, or I have to smile even though when I don't want to.
Erik: You know, I like that.
Erik: Or yeah, it's what I like. And more likely too much independence that becomes because the social opportunities you have. Meaning if you can pay your bills, you don't rely too much on your dad or your mom. Like right now, I live in a three-story house. Belongs to me, but I share with my mom. In the U.S., I have the option to say, “I’m going to pay my rent. Even though this is my house, I just going to move.” Right here, I can’t do that because economics. I got another house—it belongs to me—but is in a neighborhood that is no safe. People rob, and kill, and stab. So I stay with my mom. [Laughs]. So that's the difference. And the economics give you that independence. You know, well, I can rent another place. Is not a big deal.
Anita: So, what happened to you? How did you get stopped by the police? What's the story?
Erik: I was on my AA meeting. I was on the work, and before work I have a AA meeting, so I was driving without a seatbelt. I was pulled over by a police officer, he asked me for my driver's license. I have driver's license for another state. Then, he made it no valid which was a violation. I know it was illegal, but I was trying to stick as much as I can to the law. So I have a driver's license from another state. For which, the police officer is supposed to give me only a ticket at the most—you go to the court, the court told you no, you have a valid license, you don't have this. But the police officers knew if he locked me down then they going to interview me with an ICE officer. So he knew what he was doing. But, it was, well, just driving without the seat belt.
Anita: Wow. But, were you living in Maryland?
Anita: Did you have a Maryland license?
Erik: Yep. But, if you go to Georgia, they ask you for green card and social security which I don't have. So I was driving with my Maryland license.
Anita: Got it. So then, he turned you over to ICE?
Anita: And then what happened.
Erik: I went to the judge, and the judge say, “Well, you don't supposed to be here because you have a valid driver's license. But, you do not belong to me. You belong to ICE court, or immigration court.” So they moved me over to immigration center.
Anita: What was that like?
Erik: It was like, the press... I never feel scared because I'm a big guy, I'm not afraid. But I mean, it was just luck. Just sitting there, doing nothing. Getting big. They feed you all the time. [Laughs]. You don't have nothing to do but eat and watch TV. And like right now, I go to swim. I jog a little bit. You know? That's what I do. I used to do that.
Anita: But you said you would think about going back to the States?
Erik: Not thinking going back, not really. It's not my priority. But if I would… There is a slight possibility. I have a girlfriend, and she is becoming a citizen. And she wants to marry and fix my documents. If that happens, yes. But if not, then I would not.
Anita: So you've managed to keep your girlfriend in the states?
Erik: Not really, because I never did in the past because even though when I try—not try because I have the chances three times—I never feel like I just going to marry because I want my document. Now, somehow, I do regret, like, “Man. I should do that.” But it was my decision. At the time I thought, “Well, I ain't going to be married if I don't love this person.”
Anita: Did you have any hopes and dreams that sort of ended with your deportation?
Erik: Of what?
Anita: Of what you were going to do with yourself in the States with your life. How did you imagine your life?
Erik: At that time?
Anita: Yeah. Before you were deported.
Erik: Oh yeah.
Anita: What were they?
Erik: My hopes?
Anita: Yeah, your hopes and dreams.
Erik: My hopes and dreams, it was like, well, I have good conduct. I don't drink. I don't drunk and drive. I quit drugs. Never been in the United States been using drugs. I been doing social work. I used to go to church, so they going to see that this is a good guy who does not deserve to be deported. What was the reason, work is what he do. That was my hope.
Anita: [Affirmative noise].
Erik: On the Obama's presidency, the immigration laws, they have a—I don't know the terminology, but they considered morals. You have morals? You don't have a criminal background? You don't have felonies? Which, I don't have even a criminal record. It was only a driver’s license offense. It was like going to jail for steal Doritos. [Laughs]. You know? But that's it. So, my dreams, it was like, “Well, if you go to court, when you go to court, supposed to be... Justice, no? And if you see a judge...” [Laughs]. I could even see, on the judge face, “I going to fuck you up, but I don’t have to.” I could see that on the judge face when he give me the sentence. I’m sorry for cursing, but I could see that on his face. Like, “I going to deport you but.” He has a face like he is doing something wrong. [Laughs]
Anita: He knew he was doing something wrong—
Erik: He had that face, but—
Anita: But he wanted to mess with you?
Erik: Yeah, probably. He has others.
Anita: So he felt bad, do you think?
Erik: I could see on his face he knew he was doing something wrong. [Chuckles]. I don't know what he think. I don't know if he is Republican, or Democrat. But, I can see on his face, Like, “Are you sure?” “Yes.” “Because if you married with your girlfriend and she has papers, maybe you can get a bond and stay.” “Yeah, but I don't want to stay here for a whole year like many people been locked down. I mean I'm a free person, I'm a working man. You lock me down for months. I hire a lawyer, it didn't work for me. So, what it makes sense? It makes no sense to be trying to give my money to the lawyer for him to do nothing. And at the end, I still on your hand. And you don't see him, or you don't look willing to help me. So let me go.”
Anita: So, if you had a message, my last question, for Trump supporters, about the way in which they viewed immigrants, undocumented immigrants... If you had the opportunity to be in a room with them?
Erik: I mean honestly.
Anita: What would you tell them?
Erik: Nothing because, honestly, I don't want to be like a crybaby person. I took my own decisions. I mentioned I had three chances to marry, I didn't. You know? I don't put blame on nobody. But I will tell the Trump supporter, I don't know. You ever read the—It was the French philosopher? He meant every country deserves their government. They deserve it. [Laughs]. It’s what they want. It's what they deserve. It's what I think. The same of Mexican people. We are corrupt, we have corrupt government.
Anita: But we're trying... Our project is to try to allow Americans to hear the voices of migrants.
Erik: Well, the Americans who’s going to hear that is the ones who want to hear. But I don't think Trump supporters will have that wish. [Laugh.]
Anita: I see.
Erik: You know, more likely to be on a real scenario.
Erik: But what I will tell them, like, “Wah, do not punish me.” No, I mean I don't cry. I pay my dues.
Anita: Yeah. And what would you tell the Mexican government, and Mexican society about the way they treat returning migrants, and what they should do?
Erik: The Mexican government, what I would tell them, not about the migrants, but the whole society. We live in a rich country which, from the conquerors until today, they come to administrate the government and only take out, and take out, and take out, and do not give nothing to the people. I don't know if that makes sense. It's not like, only to the immigrants, society. Mexico is rich. We produce oil. And we buy gasoline? It's ridiculous. You know? I would tell the government, go to the United States and you want to regret those... They call the tratamientos - [trade]
Erik: The trades from Bucareli. It's like a secret treatise where American government do not let the Mexican government to be self-sufficient over the country. So we can’t. I would say cancel those treatments because they belong to secrecy and develop the Mexican country. We don't have to be and make the country rich; we can make our own country rich.
Anita: Yeah. But do you think, as someone who has lived in the United States, you bring something that could help Mexico? Just, your experience in the United States, has that changed you in a way that you can contribute positively to Mexico, and to the kind of changes you've outlined that Mexico needs? And people like you, who've had that experience in the United States?
Erik: I do not get your question.
Anita: As somebody who has lived in the United States and has had these experiences that you've had in the United States, do you think that you have a contribution to make here in Mexico? What do you bring to Mexico?
Erik: What? What I do bring to Mexico?
Anita: Yes. Special skills, or knowledge, or... How has that experience changed you in ways that would be good for Mexico to say, “Yes, migrants are a good resource?”
Erik: For Mexicans?
Erik: For Mexicans or for Americans?
Anita: For Mexicans.
Erik: Well I don't know. I just take care of myself. My contribution is what I would learn from United States, just take care of myself. Be responsible for myself. I mean, and it's how society change. And it's how—you ever read Melody Beattie?
Erik: Well, I suggest if you found a book from Melody Beattie, he basically teach, write about a lot of co-dependency.
Erik: To erase co-dependency, basically, everything starts over when you start to take care of yourself. So, whenever I take care of myself, everything around me is fine. I don't know if that makes sense.
Anita: I do get it. It makes a lot of sense.
Erik: It makes sense what I think. The best value to me is take care of myself. If I want to do a contribution to my city, I need to start for myself. Keep my room clean. Keep my bathroom clean. Keep my house clean. Do not throw trash on the street. Be responsible in my job. Pay my bills. Besides contribute, do not be a load, or do not be a charge.
Anita: So, from the US, you've brought self-sufficiency, you'd say?
Erik: I would say, yes.