Claudia Ojeda


June 1, 2019

Mexico City, Mexico

Crossing the border

1 of 6


*To hear more about Ilse listen to the playlist above

Claudia: I guess the first question I have for you is how old were you when you went to the United States? Why did your family leave Mexico?

Ilse: I was nine years old when I left Mexico to go to the United States and basically left to reunite with my dad, who had left first. He saw an opportunity and thought that it would be better for us. So, we packed our things and then my mom, brother, and I, we went over to meet my dad.

Claudia: So, your dad, how long did your dad leave before you?

Ilse: Two years. He was gone two years, yes.

Claudia: And did he go for economic reasons, for violence, for what specifically?

Ilse: My dad left Mexico because of economic reasons. I've always been very mature, I've always been very aware of situations and what's going on, and I could tell that they were having a really hard time. So, my dad leaves, I stay with my mom and my brother, and yeah, it was hard because my mom alone, and things like that. But when my dad saw that it would be better for us to be over there, then I had no other option but to go with them.

Claudia: Right. And do you remember your first day in the United States?

Ilse: Definitely! [Laughs]. You see, I was very angry from the time my mom told me that we had to leave Mexico. I was happy in Mexico. I have a lot of friends. I mean, I was only nine, but when you're nine, especially I think prior to this generation, you're very aware; at least, my mom always made me like that. She'd educated me to always be independent, and to always work hard at everything that I did. Obviously, at that time, I only went to school, right? But I also sold candy outside of my house so I could help my mom out a little bit, and I did so well in school, you know? I was so happy. I actually got a scholarship being in Mexico so I could keep going to school. I had straight A's. You know?

Ilse: And just out of nowhere, my mom coming up to me and saying, "You're going to have to leave everything behind because we're going to go see your dad," that was just so shocking for me. And then, the whole journey to get to the US, which I'll never forget, and it's... I really pray that no nine-year-old ever has to go through that type of stuff. And then, getting to the US and not knowing anyone, and feeling totally out of place, and that first day was just so awful for me.

Ilse: I know I was going to see my dad, but I was mad at my dad. I was mad because he made me go through all that, you know? So, my first day was so depressing. [Chuckles]. Although I tried to be happy for my parents because they were back together and because the family was back together, it was just so hard having to put up with all these changes. And the people, they look at you like if you were some kind of alien, because they've never seen many Latins, you know? Because we arrived to a really small community in North Carolina, and it was kind of, like, hillbillies, and they're pretty racist. [Laughs].

Ilse: And, yeah, it was difficult, you know? I arrived to the US when it was still summer vacations, had two weeks left of vacations before I started going to school. But at least I had a chance to kind of accept it, in a way, and not feel as weird when I went to school, but still. It was a rough day, that one day.

Claudia: And so, how did you cross the border with your mom and your siblings, with a coyote or did you just go by yourselves?

Ilse: My dad had a friend in the States, and he had family in Guerrero. So, they're like, "So you guys won’t come alone, meet up with that family, so you can all come over." And so, we met this family. It was a mom with a son—he's older than me for about two years, I think, and a girl. She was, at that time, she was like five, I think. She was so small.

Ilse: My brother, he was seven at the time; so he's younger than me. And so, we met up in the city and we traveled to the border. The plan was to cross the border through the desert, all of us, with a coyote. But my brother and the little girl were too young. I was too young, too, but I didn't want to leave my mom. So, they separated us.

Ilse: My brother went with this other family, who took care of him, and he crossed the border asleep in a car, which was... it was, I want to say easy, but after hearing his story, and how he had to suffer because these people hit him, and you know, abused him, because he couldn't do anything. People were just mean to him, and he was trying to protect the little girl, that then I understood that it wasn't easy for him, either.

Ilse: And so, I was left behind with my mom, and the woman with her son, and we tried to cross the border through the desert. But it was awful. Even being at the border, waiting for the instructions to go ahead and start the journey, you know? And seeing so many people, and kids, and women... It was just so bad, you know? And those images are so vivid in my head still. Then after that, we were lost in the desert for three days. We ran out of water, we ran out of food, we ran out of everything; the coyote got lost. And there was a point... when it rains in the desert, it's so bad. Like, the thunderstorms are so, so bad. I'll never forget how this woman that was traveling with us, she was like hallucinating, I guess. It was so bad that it was raining and that there was a thunderstorm, and she thought that this one cactus was a person.

Ilse: So, she almost fell, so she thought she was going to grab onto someone, and she grabbed onto the cactus, and all her body was left with the little pikes. It was so bad, and then being lost…

Ilse: We knew that they were going to be looking for us, obviously, or someone out there, so we just decided to wait. We waited it out. But before that, when it was raining, too... This was like a breaking point. There was a little, small creek, or little river, I guess you could say. When there's a thunderstorm and it's so dark, the thunder and then you're blacked out, you're blinded because of the light. And then, we lost track of the people. So, my mom and I got lost, right?

Ilse: So, we had to cross the little creek thing, and then my mom just slipped, and she was about to just keep going with the flow, and I was so... God is amazing, because I just can't believe He gave me the strength, you know, to save my mom. And this man came back for us. It's just so crazy, because who does that, you know? Who actually comes back to check on people when you have to take care of yourself? He helped us, we crossed it, but we were still lost. So, once again, we got to a point where, like, "Okay, we're going to wait it out."

Ilse: But it rained so hard, and it was so hot, and we didn't have anything to eat or no water, and then I was just like blacked out. My mom says that I was gone for hours, and I was hallucinating, and literally, she thought I was going to die because it was so bad. So, the men that were with us, they went out looking for water or something, and they came across this—they said it was kind of like a pond kind of thing, but it was more like animal pee and, I don't know. So, they brought that back. My mom still had some limes, and my mom put lime in it, and she kept trying to get me water, and that's how like, I came back apparently. That's what she said. I don't remember anything about that.

Ilse: So, the coyote comes back, and he's like, "Okay, I found out a way. We're good to go. We just got to keep walking." And that was the third day. And so, we kept walking, and I don't know where we hear the helicopter, and we hear the vans, and dogs, and they caught us, you know? We were so close. So close. And yet so far, literally.

Ilse: So, my mom just hugged me and she's like, "The first thing you're going to do is you're going to run to the water." And, yeah. So, they caught us, and they said that we're violating US laws. They were so rude, so rude, I swear. And then they were like—I mean, I know I was a little girl, but I could understand what they were telling my mom, you know?—and they were just like, angry at her, too, because, "How could you ever even think that your daughter... and she's so young..." Apparently, I looked really sick. [Chuckles].

Ilse: And so, they just got us on the vans, and we went to the border prison. I was in prison for some time. Well, a day. [Chuckles]. And then, they took us back to the border and we had to start all over again. And it was just so sad and depressing, because the way we tried and everything we went through. That's why I was so angry when I got over there, because no human being should have to go through so much just so they could change their economic status, or just so they could run away from problems that you can't control.

Ilse: So, then we found out my brother was over there already. He was in Texas, I think; I don't even know. And my mom was like, "We have to do it again. We have to try because your brother's over there, because your dad's already waiting for us." So, we didn't have any money, we didn't have anything, but the woman that we were with, she still had some money. So, we went over to a motel—and this is where I'm always grateful, and God is like... or I have this huge angel or something.

Ilse: The owners of the motel kind of heard the story when my mom was talking to my dad on the phone, and they said that they knew these people that faked the visas, or passports, and we could do it with them. And so, my mom talked to my dad and everything, and so, we were in training for two days, learning somebody else's identity. Name, everything, you have to know everything about the person, or at least the basics. It had to be in English, and I didn't know any English, or my mom didn't know any English—she's so bad at that. [Chuckles]. So we kept practicing and practicing, and I finally got it, right? So, I was good to go. And then my mom, she had a really, really hard time. Really hard time.

Ilse: The day came when we had to actually do it. A slight happy moment that I had was when they brought me clothes, because you have to look good, you have to look like you were normal, I guess. So, I got new clothes, and I was so happy because it had been three horrible weeks before that, and then just getting that was really nice. And the people were so nice to me, so nice.

Ilse: So, we get to the border on a van, and they're like, "Okay, so, everyone's going to separate, everyone is going to go their own way, and we'll see you guys when we cross." So, we were on our own. And I remember asking my mom, "Mom, just tell me a little bit, what's your story?" And she just blacked out. She didn't know anything. Like, she just went blank, her mind went blank. I was like, "Oh, my God, no. This is going to be so bad."

Ilse: So, this is again where God is amazing, or whatever, because when it was going to be our turn where you give the papers and they ask you these questions, the guy in front of us was caught. So, a bunch of officers went over to him, and started asking him all these questions, so I just grabbed my mom's hand and I'm like, "Mom, let's just go."

Ilse: We walked, and they didn't ask any questions, nothing. We just walked, and we were in the US. And that was a relief because I didn't want to go through the other thing all over again. [Chuckle]. To this day, I swear I don't know how that happened. And I'm just so grateful because, I mean, we were able to do it that easy, you know?

Ilse: My mom's always telling me this. When you do good things in life, and you're a good person, good things happen to you. And ever since then, I've been so grateful for that opportunity that I just try to be good to people and I just try to do good things, you know? So, I guess that can come back to me? And yeah, but that's how we got to the US, and then we got on a van...

Ilse: Well, then we met up with my brother. That was the best moment, when I saw my brother, because he's always been everything to me, always, and just being able to see him and hug him and everything, that was the best moment. And then, we got on the van, and it took us around three days, two days, I honestly don't remember, to get to North Carolina. And, yeah. Then united with my dad, and that's it. That's the story of how we got there.

Claudia: Wow.

Ilse: Yeah.

Claudia: The perseverance is just amazing.

Ilse: Yes.

Claudia: Where you have to keep going…

Ilse: Yep.

Claudia: And so, how did you learn English? Did you go to school?

Ilse: I was very lucky too on that perspective because, like I said, when we got there, it was a really small community, and my school only had a few Latin people. But the school actually had teachers, English teachers. They were so nice to me, and I was able to get one-on-one classes, and it was so personalized, and they were so committed. Even my regular teacher, she was Ms. ___, and I'll never forget her. She was so nice to me, and she would help me so much. I've always been a really good student, and I always wanted my grades, and do good in everything. And I was really good in math, obviously because it was numbers, and I was always top in that area, in that subject. But then when it came to reading and everything, it was kind of complicated, so she helped me so much. She paid so much attention to me, and thank God, I was able to learn the language in a few months thanks to them.

Ilse: And thanks to my dad pushing me, too, because there were things that we had to do, and he didn't have a translator. So, I had to do it for him. That helped out a lot. So, I would say I learned in nine months tops.

Claudia: Wow.

Ilse: Yeah.

Claudia: And so, were you able to maintain those grades that you had had in Mexico?

Ilse: Yes. Well, fourth grade, obviously, my first year, I had a couple D's; I never had an F ever, ever. But, yeah, I tried so hard. I've always tried so hard.

Claudia: So, how did you end up back in Mexico?

Ilse: Because pretty much, like I said, I tried so hard, but my biggest dream growing up and going to school is I'm going to school and I'm going to do so good because I want to go to college. I want to have a degree, and I want to be able to help people. I want to represent Mexico because just—I love the States because of everything that it gave me, but the way that it happened, it was so hard on me, and I always wanted to prove that Mexicans can do good, and good things, you know?

Ilse: And so, going to high school, I tried really hard, I had really good grades, I graduated third in my class. I was so into volunteering, I was in the student council, I did sports, I did everything. I wanted to be perfect so I could get scholarships. But it got to a point that I finally understood that it was never going to happen because it's so expensive. I couldn't go to a community college, I couldn't go—which was never my idea. I couldn't go to a four-year college because it was so expensive, and the scholarships are limited for people like me who were undocumented. When I finally got that, it just broke my heart because I was like, "I've tried so hard. I've given it everything, and I'm still not going to be able to stay here." So, one day, I talked to my dad and I said, "Dad, I really, really want to go to college."

Ilse: And he's like, "But I can't do it. I can't pay for it. It's too expensive." And he's like, "You either stay here and work, and try to go whenever you save up, or you go back to Mexico."

Ilse: And I thought about it. I was like, "Well, Mexico's my country, my dad's telling me to pretty much leave and he's not going to support me, so might as well just leave." So, right after college [means, high school] I graduated June 11th in 2011, and I was back to Mexico July second in 2011. And I just decided to leave, to start over.

Claudia: So, you pretty much just came by yourself? You made that decision?

Ilse: I did. I was 18, and I said to myself, "If you have this one dream, you're not going to be limited as to where you are. If you want to be someone, you're going to be someone anywhere in the world." So, I just said, "Okay, I'm going to leave." And I left my parents and my brother, and I've been here in Mexico for almost eight years now.

Claudia: For almost 10 years?

Ilse: Eight years.

Claudia: Eight years? Eight years, wow.

Ilse: Yes.

Claudia: And this, I'm just going to go back for a second. Did you ever think about applying for DACA?

Ilse: DACA was not available at the time.

Claudia: Oh.

Ilse: DACA was implemented in 2012, and I came back 2011.

Claudia: Yeah. Okay.

Ilse: [Laughs]. Everything happens for a reason, and I'm so sure about that.

Claudia: And so, you've been back eight years. How has being back in Mexico been? How was that transition coming in, what did you do, who did you meet up with, what did you do or what are you doing now?

Ilse: Well, I came back. One of my aunts, my dad's sister, greeted me. She opened her doors to her house, and I lived with them for six months. I came back July second and I had a job in August. Pretty much everyone, the only opportunities that we have here as returnees and everything, is call centers. So, I started working at a call center. I had a really hard time. No, not this one, Tevista. Telvista was the first call center I went to.

Ilse: It was just a relief being able to find a job so fast, but it's not something that I loved. It was really tough, but it was a relief at the same time because I was going to be able to meet people and everything.

Ilse: When you come back from the States and you went to high school, and you want to validate that you actually finished high school, you have to do certain process in Mexico. I knew that before I came back; I tried to get all my documents ready and everything, but the system here is so slow, and I still had to lose a year of college, and I couldn't go because my paperwork wasn't turned in.

Ilse: I was able to apply to a public college, Instituto Politécnico Nacional. I made it, but the classes and everything didn't give me time to work, and at the time, I had agreed with my dad that I wasn't ever going to ask for any help, like monetary help. So, I decided to decline that, and look for a private college. And I did. I found a really good college who allowed me, they allowed me to work full-time and go to college full-time. So, I majored in international business and commerce, my dream career, and I went to college for four years while working.

Ilse: When I was in Telvista, I started as a CSR, just answering calls, and became mentor, and then I was a supervisor at 19, which was really hard experience—it was so tough—but at the same time, it helped me so much and it gave me the basics to work and be able to do what I do now. Then I worked for the Western Union Corporate, the one that they have here in Mexico. I was in Telvista for two years and a half, then Western Union for a year and a half, and then I was sick and tired of call centers, I didn't want to do that anymore.

Ilse: And, I'm so persistent, and my tenacity is always up here, you know? And I was like, "Nope, I'm done with this. I need to do something that involves my career." So, when I was in sixth semester, I tried to look for a job regarding my major, and I was able to find a job. But it was more like an intern job, so I was so blessed because I had savings, you know, so I was able to take it. But they paid so little! [Laughs]. It was awful!

Ilse: But I'm so grateful for that opportunity, because that company that hired me, it was a fusion. They were two companies, a company that was based in China, in Shanghai, for inspection services, and an international logistics company that took care of [inaudible 00:26:06] and the customs clearance and everything. When I first got there, I went to the logistics one, which involved me selling international transportation. I had no idea; I had no training. I tried so hard but honestly, I did a really bad job. [Laughs].

Ilse: But the other company's director, he saw how pushy I was, how dedicated I was—I mean, I'm talking about, the normal hours to come into work were at nine, and I signed my contract to go from nine to four, but I would always get there at eight. I would organize my calls, and at nine, I was calling, prospecting, and everything. And he saw my dedication, and three months after my hiring, he offered me a position at the inspections company. And that was just life-changing because after that, he obviously raised my salary.

Ilse: He is an amazing boss. He's still my boss until today. After a year and a half, been with both, the fusion of the company, he decides to separate. So, we went from being the company department to being a company. So, I've been able to help him out with the whole... from logo, from everything. Everything regarding the company. And I'm just so grateful, I'm so happy there, you have no idea. I've been able to travel to China twice already. I travel in Mexico City so much. I've met so many people, the China chamber, the Mexico City chamber, so many important organizations, so many important people, so many important... Forever 21, for instance. We're trying to do services for them.

Ilse: And it was just so amazing. Everything happens for a reason. I know that maybe I wasn't supposed to stay over there. Maybe it was just a little help, to try and be to where I am today. But still, I know there's opportunities in Mexico. I barely learned about New Comienzos a month ago. And I just want to tell people and help them understand that we don't have to be over there. We can do so many things here. And we can prove that they're missing out! [Laughs]. Because I could have done all this for a company that is based over there, but obviously, well, that was impossible, so I'm here.

Claudia: You didn't receive any help from the government when you came back?

Ilse: No.

Claudia: Any help from any non-government?

Ilse: No. Nothing.

Claudia: Nothing. Okay. I'm assuming, but just let me know, is your family still in the States?

Ilse: Yes, they are.

Claudia: Have you seen them?

Ilse: I have not seen them in eight years.

Claudia: So, tell me about that, if you feel comfortable.

Ilse: It's tough, it's so tough. I've always been so close to my mom and my brother, you have no idea. The first few years, I guess, because I was always so overprotected—my dad was overprotective of me in the States, and I wasn't able to go out or anything—honestly, the first year, two years, I was free, you know? [Laughs]. I could do whatever I wanted, I lived on my own, you know?

Ilse: But then it just got to me. The third year was so bad. So bad because there was a point in time that I had economic issues, and had to reach out to my parents, and I was like, "Help me out a little bit?"

Ilse: But it was more than not having enough money or whatever, it was just not having my mom by my side, telling me everything was going to be okay. And I mean, so far, I never tell them my problems because they can't do anything about it, you know? I can't call my mom and tell her that I'm sad or that I'm... I don't know, because she can't do anything. She's so far. [Emotional]. I'm so sorry.

Claudia: Don't worry. Take your time.

Ilse: And my brother got married a year ago. I wasn't able to be there. You know? [Crying]. I'm so sorry.

Claudia: Don't worry.

Ilse: He's always been my everything, and it was so hard not to be there for him. And, well, he's going to be a dad. And I'm not going to be able to see my little niece. Oh, sorry, it's just like...But I know we'll be together someday, and I'm working so hard because I know I'm not a bad person. I think that I should be able to get a visa to be able to go back. I'm not going to stay, you know? I just want to see my family. I'm so sorry. [Crying].

Claudia: Don't worry. It's totally okay.

Ilse: Yeah. But, yeah, it's hard.

Claudia: So, their plan is to stay in the States?

Ilse: Yeah.

Claudia: Yeah.

Ilse: Yep. Sorry. [Chuckles while crying].

Claudia: Don't worry. We can take a few minutes.

Ilse: No, no, it's fine.

Claudia: You're totally fine, it's normal.

Ilse: Yeah.

Claudia: And thank you for sharing.

Ilse: No, it's just like... I don't talk about this at all, you know?

Claudia: I can't even imagine. I guess right now, I'm going through the period where I've been separated from my family for the longest, because I'm studying in the States but I'm from Puerto Rico.

Ilse: Oh, yeah.

Claudia: So, I'm the only person in my family who's in the States right now, but I just can't even imagine being separated from them for that long. I also have, I'm the oldest of three, so it's also feeling like you have that responsibility towards your siblings—

Ilse: Exactly, yeah. Yeah, true.

Claudia: And you want to help out your family, and so, that's why I'm studying over there, and all that.

Ilse: Oh, that's so nice. That's amazing. That's amazing, yeah. But you kind of understand. [Chuckles].

Claudia: Yeah.

Ilse: Yeah.

Claudia: But I know that you're going to see them again, and I'm sure that they're so proud of you, because honestly, everything that you've told me so far is just so amazing. Like, damn, girl!

Ilse: Oh, thank you...[Chuckles].

Claudia: So, do you consider yourself Mexican or American?

Ilse: If you had asked me a few years ago, I would be confused, but I can tell you now that I'm Mexican.

Claudia: And you mentioned a little earlier in the beginning that you were angry of leaving the US because you loved Mexico and you wanted to stay here. Do you still feel that way now that you're back?

Ilse: I was angry when I had to go to the US because I had everything here, you know? And then, I was so angry because they took me over there, and I tried so hard, and I wanted to stay over there, and I had to come back. I've had to change. I'm not trying to be like, "Oh, poor me," and people feel pity for me or anything at all, but it's just like, why can't a person just live, and be where they want to be? That just gets to me. It’s not like I'm mad at the US, or I'm mad at my parents because they took me, I'm just mad that people have to go through that, you know? Just to run away from things, as kids. Because I know there's millions and thousands, thousands, of kids that have to do what their parents tell them. But I'm happy in Mexico, I can tell you that. It was probably the best decision that I could have made. I don't know what would have happened if I had stayed over there. Who knows?

Ilse: But I think it was a good decision, and mainly because I was so dedicated, and I always knew what I wanted, and I worked so hard for it. I didn't give up. I think that's the difference. And bumping into so many amazing people who have been there for me, who have helped me. Like my boss right now, sometimes he's kind of like my dad, you know? He knows my story, and he helps me so much, and he tells me, "You're going to see your parents again, and I'm going to make sure, and I'm going to help you, and I don't know what we're going to have to do, but you're going to see them again."

Ilse: And just bumping into people like that is just amazing, and I'm just so grateful. I always say that I'm so overly blessed, honestly. I really am. And I'm happy here. I'm happy in my country, I'm happy being free; not being scared that at any given time someone's going to come and take me. I'm just free.

Claudia: So, just I guess hypothetically, if you could have stayed in the US, what do you think you would have done?

Ilse: I would have went to college, obviously. I actually wanted to go to Salem College. I don't know if you've heard about it.

Claudia: Yeah.

Ilse: I tried, and they tried to help me so much so I could go, but it was still very expensive. [Laughs].

Claudia: So, you got in?

Ilse: Yeah, I was accepted.

Claudia: You were accepted.

Ilse: Yes, I was. But again, I couldn't stay. And I would have gone to college, same major, that's what I wanted, and worked for an international logistics company, and do what I do. [Chuckles]. And be happy. And obviously, being close to my parents—not even, parents are obviously important, but my mom and my brother who are like everything to me, you know?

Claudia: Obviously, now that you're back, you've already done so many amazing things, but what are your dreams? What else would you like to do while you're here?

Ilse: Okay, well, right now, one of the things, meeting New Comienzos and everything that they do, I want to help people. I know how tough it is to come back, I know everything that you have to go through. I want to be someone who helps them out. I don't know how, but that's one of the things right now.

Ilse: I'm working on establishing my own company. I'm really excited about that. I want to have something of my own, and I'm talking about short-term. I want to start it already because I know so many people, I have all this knowledge, I have everything. I just need to do it, you know? [Chuckle]. And that's one of my objectives…dreams. It's always been a dream to have my own company, but now, I have to make it a reality, and I have to work up to that.

Ilse: I want to get married someday. [Laughs]. I've been single ever since I came back. On a personal note, that would be amazing. And right now, I'm just working so hard, I want to try and see if I can get my visa and be able to visit my parents.

Claudia: Tell me about this company! What would your company be?

Ilse: [Laughs]. It's going to be, we call it a trading company because I know a lot of brands nationally that need to be expanded. And I also do a lot of business with China, and we import 80% of the things that we have in Mexico. There's a lot of people who have the money, they have the people who they're going to sell to, but they don't know, they don't have the knowledge on how to do it, how to import, process everything. So, I want to be able to help them out. So, not even just for me, but help brands grow, help other people develop their business, as well. Yeah.

Claudia: I'm excited to see, in a few years, how that comes across, and that's going to be incredible.

Ilse: Thank you. It has to be. It has to be amazing! Yes.

Claudia: You're literally right now... like, oh, my gosh, you're an inspiration for me right now. [Ilse laughs]. I'm just going to start my third year of college now, and I can only dream of being where you're at right now.

Ilse: Oh, girl, thank you so much! And it's just like, you have to do what makes you happy. That's the only thing that I live by, you know? What makes you happy, and not like joder a las personas. Just do you, and help people out, and amazing things will happen. So, what you're doing right now is amazing. Thank you so much. I hadn't talked about my story of how I got there, not many people know, because it's weird and not people relate to it at all. They wouldn't understand.

Claudia: I just have a few more questions that are more just of a reflection. The first, I guess in talking about returning, and the lack of government assistance, what do you think that the Mexican government can do to help returning migrants reintegrate into Mexican society?

Ilse: First of all, from the experience of being at the border…Because they deport people, you know? I think a few years back, they had flights to Mexico City, but they canceled that with the Trump administration. So now, they pretty much dump them on the border, and they have to see how they can find help. So, I think one of the things we have to strengthen is our part of the border. Help people in the border.

Ilse: When I left, I remember how the Mexican government, the Mexican officials, they gave us a talk. Like, "Oh, you're about to do something that's not right, but if it's your decision, we can't force you or stop you from doing it." Why not change that speech? Why not say, "Don't leave. How can we help you so you won't leave?" I mean, we could fix a problem from the root, why they're leaving. And then, when they do come back, analyze the people, make a profile—there's a lot of people that are being deported that have so much knowledge.

Ilse: I just met this one guy who worked in interior design and construction all his life, and he has so much knowledge that he could help people out. We have kind of buildings all over the place, and there's always been something done in construction-wise. We help them out, you know? Lend them a hand, give them the tools to have their own company, to have what they had over there, and not make them feel restrained, or not make them feel that they're not part of the country when we're in the same boat.

Ilse: I think we have to work on that. We have to work on having work opportunities not only in call centers. There's a lot of people who are too good to be in a call center, but that's all they can find because maybe they don't have a college degree, but they have experience. And I can tell you, and it still happens to me, when people... When I'm working, I do have to speak English sometimes, but when I'm in meetings with clients and things like that, it's just Spanish. And when they hear that I speak English or they talk about the States or something and I say that was there and things like that, and they ask me why I'm here, and just telling them, "Oh, well, I came back because I wanted to." And then, them looking at me weird, like, "Why would you come back if you were over there?" Or when they ask, "Did you have to come back because you were illegal?" Dude, well, yeah, I came back because I couldn't stay over there, but you don't have to treat me differently.

Ilse: And the type of people that I meet are people who have visas, who go back and forth, and they don't understand; "Well, why don't you get a visa? Why did you leave without a visa?" “No...” And I think changing that mindset, too, from the people that are here— the people that were born here and everything—there must be a way to make them understand that we're still Mexican. It wasn't our decision most of the time, why we had to leave. You know?

Ilse: I mean, I've been here for eight years, and it still happens sometimes. People just look at me weird because I came back. And I think the government has to have this type of organizations like New Comienzos so people can relate, so people can get out there. New Comienzos is amazing and everything, but a lot of people build their own community, and they're just together and not meeting other people out there. Maybe having a workshop or a hiring fair or exhibition for people that come back to find companies who need bilingual people specialized in certain areas. I think that would help, too. Just giving them more opportunities, I think, would be perfect.

Claudia: And kind of along that same line, it's, what can the United States government do to help Mexican deportees and the family that they leave behind? What do you think?

Ilse: Well, for one thing, a lot of people that are deported don't even have a criminal record. They don't have no background or anything that says, "Oh, you're a bad person, and you can't be here." Maybe just really giving them a chance to—especially when you deport the dad, or the mom, and they leave their family behind. Like, why would you separate families? I mean, that's not even humanly fair. It's so unfair. It's so, so unfair.

Ilse: I understand their ground, I understand that “Why would they be invaded by Mexicans?” But they also have to understand the situations here. Maybe work along, like I said, fix a problem from the root. I don't know. Both governments have to sit down and talk about this. Like right now, the importing tariff that was imposed of five percent on all the Mexican products being exported to the U.S. unless we stop the people crossing over. But if we had more opportunities and the governments both worked together to make the economy grow here and have more chances for them not to even think about leaving, it would change a lot. So, we have to analyze why people are leaving, and try to fix that problem. And they should work together. It sounds so easy, right? But it's so complicated. [Laughs]

Claudia: Yeah! I guess those are really all the questions that I had specifically, but I want to give you the chance now to say anything else that you think you may not have said, or anything else that you might want to add, if you want to.

Ilse: Well, I just want to say thank you to you and everyone who's here to try to gather information to try and do something about the situation. I think that's so amazing, and I just... I don't know what we have to do. People who come back, or people who are thinking about coming back because they're not comfortable in the States, should be able to do it without a problem and feel safe that they are welcome here with open arms. And that they see that there's opportunities outside of the US, and that we can build a better economy here if a lot of people were still here, or people went to college.

Ilse: I met this one guy who studied, well, he went to college in Texas, and he's working here for an HR company, but now he's going to work for Uber in Mexico. And I asked him, I'm like, "Okay, you're from over there..." He's Mexican, but he came back to work here. And he's like, "Because I make dollars here. I spend in pesos. And it's a lot cheaper. I already bought my own apartment, I have my own car, I have all this," and it's like, yeah, we can do it here, you know? It's not impossible. I'm so grateful. My commissions are in dollars, and I spent pesos, too, so it's different.

Ilse: I think we have such amazing people, and a lot of workforce. We just need to be given that little support so we can do amazing things, and I just think that people should be able to be free, mainly. Be free wherever they are, and that's something that a lot of people who are undocumented in the States can't do. Yeah, that's pretty much it. Thank you so much for your time.

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