November 6, 2019
Mexico City, Mexico
Second crossing as an adult
1 of 3
*To hear more about Ivan listen to the playlist above
Anne: Okay, so this is Anne again.
Ivan: Hello Anne.
Anne: And I am interviewing Ivan.
Ivan: Nice to meet you Anne.
Anne: Nice to meet you. I want to thank you for coming to talk to us. I understand that it can be painful when you tell them your story and I'm sorry you have to go through it, but I think your story is important.
Ivan: Great. Thank you. And thank you for hearing us.
Anne: Yeah. So start from the beginning. Like when you first came to the United States, what the circumstances were behind it, motivations, your impressions, how old you were, all that stuff.
Ivan: Okay. So I was 13 years old when I first got to the United States. At that time, my mom was already in the United States. She'd been living in the United States for about two years by then. And the circumstances why we moved to the States, just seeking better opportunities because by that time, we didn't have like a lot, what would you say that ... Here in Mexico, we didn't have a stable life. We didn't even have the needs, we didn't even have a house. So my mom moved to the States and after two years, she brought us to the States. When I first got to the States, it was a whole new thing, different language, different people, different culture. And not just one culture, it was a mixture. You don't only have people from one region, it's like a lot of races, if I can put it that way.
Ivan: So I was amazed like, how could this country be like this? Because it was so different from what I was used to. I was so surprised I had a bus taking me to school. I was like, what, this is so cool. I was impressed by that. And having a good meal at school, that was surprising as well. I was like, what, I'm getting burgers every single day. That was pretty nice as well.
Ivan: And learning a new language, that was definitely a challenge. It took me about three years to fully understand the language. I think most of the difficulties had, it was like I was shy. I was shy speaking another language. I'll always think like, “Oh maybe they will not understand me.” That's something that always kept me not moving on. Because I was always shy. I was always afraid, but I don't know. One time, I just started talking, that's when I started working. I was like, well, I have to communicate. So I started not being shy anymore. And school was a really good experience.
Anne: So did you start in high school or middle school?
Ivan: I started high school. It's funny because here I finished elementary school and I went one year of middle school and that's when I moved to the States. And when I moved there, all my paperwork was not ready, so I have to wait around 12 months for me to go to school in the States because of my paperwork. By that time I, I was 14, so I cannot go to middle school anymore. So you can say I skipped middle school and I went straight through to high school. That's what happened to me. And what else?
Anne: So I'll backtrack a little bit then go back to high school, because that's really interesting. They put you ahead when you didn't even know the language.
Ivan: Mm-hmm. (affirmative) Yeah.
Anne: But when you left at 13, was that tough to leave, had you been living with your grandparents?
Ivan: I was living with my grandparents here in Mexico.
Anne: And your family and your friends, was that tough?
Ivan: Well for me it was not hard just because I was going with my mom, I was going to get reunited with my mom. So I was so happy.
Anne: That’s true.
Ivan: Yeah. I missed her so much. So I was like, no, I don't like here, it didn't interest me. Not even my grandma or grandparents. They were fine, but I miss my mom.
Anne: And your dad, was he not in the picture?
Ivan: No. He was never in the picture. Since I was like five, six, he was not there.
Anne: Any other siblings that you had?
Ivan: I have six siblings.
Anne: Wow. Did they all go with you to the states?
Ivan: No. But that time it was only three of us and we were born here in Mexico. But then when she moved down to the States, she married again and she had more. My mom had four more kids. So I would say they're like half siblings, but they’re my siblings, I consider them like my full blood siblings. Because I live with them, I watch them grow.
Anne: It's a full house.
Anne: Was family life fun in the US, was it fun or did you feel like you had to work a lot to take care of the kids?
Ivan: Well, it was up and downs. I had to work. I had to go to school and take care of my siblings because my mom was working all the time. So I would go to high school but the time I went to 10th grade, I started working, part-time. So I would go to school, work, and the weekends take care of my siblings. But my mom managed to take us out from time to time. So she would take a day off and just go out to the water park. And that was new to me. Like everything in the States, everything I would go. Especially the water park, when I went the first time, I was like, “Whatttt!”. Yeah. I didn't know things like that, the slides. That was so incredible. So I will say that it was up and downs. Definitely when I drove to work, I always afraid because I might get stopped or anything.
Anne: When did you figure out, or maybe you knew from the beginning that you were undocumented and that would put barriers on what you could do?
Ivan: Well, I knew I was undocumented, but I started realizing I was in danger when I started driving and working. But that time I was like, I need to be careful all the time. I'm not getting stopped or anything. When I was in high school, all the school process, I was happy. But whenever I had to go to work, that was like, I need to be careful. Those are the times I realized, this is not my country. I was not born here. So if I do anything wrong, I will be sent back.
Anne: Was school really different in the US than in Mexico?
Ivan: Yeah. So different, the school system, the education system is so different. At least they will teach you stuff, they show they care about you, you're learning something. Here in Mexico, it was just whatever, if you're doing fine, you're good. If you're not, well, we don't care about you. But in the States, I had a counselor, that was new to me. And they always looking after me, okay, so how you doing, what do you need help with? So school, it was pretty fun. It was a whole new experience, I actually started learning stuff. Yeah.
Anne: What did you like in school?
Ivan: What I like, all the programs they had. I was on the Spanish club. We made up a club for dancing and they even teach, how do you say when they teach you to drive?
Anne: Drivers Ed?
Ivan: Yeah, that was something cool for me as well. So I would say high school, it was the most amazing experience I had in the States.
Anne: That’s great. That’s great. Did you make lots of friends?
Ivan: Oh yeah. Definitely. That was something interesting too as well, because the school I went to, it was mostly Afro-Americans. I would say 60% of the high school students, it was Afro-Americans.
Anne: This was in North Carolina?
Ivan: This was North Carolina. And then let's say 30% it was Caucasians. And then like the other 10%, it was just Mexicans, some Asians, Middle Eastern. So we were like a minority when I first started. And I had a hard time making friends because the only people that I would get along and because of the language, it was Latin American people. But the Mexicans in my school, they're all from the countryside and I was from the city. And they think so differently. And just the fact that I like rock music, they didn't like me. Yeah. My own people. I was like, what? And I would not be able to talk to some other people, because I didn't know the language. So I was alone all the time.
Ivan: I started talking more when I went to 12th grade. I started making friends and a lot of people who like my own music and it was more so Caucasians. So I would hang out with them and Mexicans even hate me more, because I will hang out with the Caucasians and not with the Mexicans. But interesting thing is by the time I graduated, it was 50% of Afro-Americans and then 40% of Hispanics.
Anne: It changed?
Ivan: So the population grew. It was a big difference and a lot of Caucasians moved out to different schools. It was so interesting. Like it was a big change.
Anne: So a lot of Mexicans when they come to the States young, and especially the young men, something happens for whatever reason and they end up in gangs or they engage in criminal activity at young ages, 14, 15, 16 years old. That didn't happen for you?
Anne: And what do you think is the difference between you and these other kids who ended up-
Ivan: Huh. That actually, I forget to mention. Besides these people and Mexicans, there were gangsters in school, but I don't know, I was never inclined to go that way. I never liked to dress like that. I never liked to act like that. So that's probably why I never went that path and definitely what my mom taught me. She always been a patient woman. She always taught me to respect others. So probably that helped a lot, what my mom taught me. And I will see these people dressing like that, acting like that, I was never like that. So probably that's why I never went to that path.
Anne: And were your siblings similar to you?
Ivan: Yeah. I'm actually the only one who consumes alcohol from time to time. None of my siblings, they don't do anything.
Anne: They’re pretty good.
Ivan: They're pretty good kids.
Anne: Yeah. That’s funny, that’s great. Okay, so you had a great experience in high school and then you thought maybe college, you started community college.
Anne: And you said you got through a semester and then was that when you got deported?
Ivan: Okay. So when I went to college, I went to a community college. The tuition was pretty high for me. I managed the first semester, but it was like I was…
Anne: You were out of residence.
Ivan: Yeah, it was so expensive. It was almost a triple I was paying from the other students. I was trying, I really tried.
Anne: Was there something you wanted to study?
Ivan: Yes. I was studying photography, so I did one semester and I had to work. And I had to pay school and I have to go to school. I managed to, to do it the first semester, but after that it became harder. So I have to stop going because I could not afford it anymore because I have to work, pay rent, help my mom, because by that time, she didn't have a really good job. So that also, it was one thing that-
Anne: So how old were you when you did get deported?
Ivan: The first time I was 19, 20. I was about to be 20 by that time.
Anne: And how did the police find you? You said you were deported for having an illegal ID, which I guess you used to work.
Ivan: This is funny because that ID I got it in North Carolina. This ID, I will use it anywhere, actually whenever I get stopped by the police, I will show him this ID. I don't know, probably was a percolation from North Carolina. They will alert you. It was not a ID from the government, but I don't know if somehow it was the account. You can identify yourself with that ID. And that would work fine in North Carolina. So this same ID, when I moved down to Texas, I brought it with me. But I didn't know. I didn’t know. I didn't even research.
Ivan: So one time I was coming from the movie theater with my friend and it was pretty late at night because the movie ended like 12. So it was like 12:30, we were driving back home. My friend was driving, I was in the passenger seat and then this police pulled us over and he was like, "Oh no, it's just a checkup." They always ask for identification. So I show him this ID and it never crossed my mind. It never crossed my mind like I will get in trouble just for showing this ID. And they were looking, well, they took a long time, they came back and they were like, "Where do you get this ID?" And I told them. And there was a number in the back that they could call, but it was so late in the night. The police was like, okay, well, they interrogated me for a long time, asking me these questions. Well, at the end they decided to arrest me because they didn't know if the ID was legit or not. So I was like, oh, well what can I do? So they arrest me.
Ivan: And they started asking me questions, not related to the case. They're asking me also, "How do you cross?" And they started asking me these questions. I'm like, "Why do you care, is this not related to this?" And they didn't ask me anything else. So I went to jail. And at that time whenever you get to jail, of course, they look at you, your profile, like “oh you're Mexican so you must not be legal.” So they contacted ICE and that was it.
Anne: Did you try to fight the case or you did not?
Ivan: I didn't. By that time I was feeling depressed. I was like, I'm getting deported, so might as well. I don't care. I'm just going to go home. So I got deported just like that.
Anne: You just said, “I want to go home.” So do you think Mexico was home then or no?
Ivan: I always thought that Mexico is my home. I always was planning to come back. Not like that, but I always planned to come back.
Anne: So you went back after you got deported, but you didn't stay long.
Ivan: No. That time I was 19. And I had missed so much from this country. I didn't know where to go, how to move around. I didn't know anything. So I stayed here for three months and I tried to look for jobs. But at that time the industry was so different. There was not a lot call centers. I didn't know I could go to a call center because I spoke English and just get a job. So it was hard for me. I was looking for some other options and I was not able to get a job. So I was like, hmm, I need to go back.
Anne: Were you living with your grandparents at this point?
Ivan: At this point, yes I was with my grandparents. I was living in a different state. But yeah, I stayed with my grandparents for three months and trying to see if I could stay here. But I was like, nah, it's not going to work out, so I'll have to go back.
Anne: So you crossed the border again?
Ivan: Mm-hmm (affirmative), I crossed the border again.
Anne: Was that tough?
Ivan: Yes, it was tough. I was actually lucky. Some people I heard they spent even a month trying to cross and I crossed just within a few days.
Anne: Oh wow. So did you walk?
Ivan: This was in Tamaulipas. It was a river. I crossed the river then.
Anne: On an inter tube?
Ivan: No, it's just a river, like a floating, how do you call these things? Just swimming.
Anne: Oh, you swam.
Ivan: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I swam with some other eight people, eight people. Just a group of eight people. We crossed the river, it wasn't that long. Then there were some woods then we stay there for a while. And then after the woods there was some suburbs and then there was a car waiting for us. It was a small car. It was, do you know Neon Dodge?
Anne: Yeah, Neon Dodge.
Ivan: Neon Dodge. So it's a pretty small car. Yes. We all got into the car. And then they took us to a house. We stayed there for the rest of the day. When we crossed the river, it was around 10 o'clock in the morning.
Anne: Uh-huh. (affirrmative)
Ivan: And then when we got to the house, it was about 12. We stayed there in the house already in the States. And then we stayed there until like nine o'clock in the night. And then after that, we got into a trailer truck in the top. There is a part in the top, I don't know how to call it, but there's a part, there was a hole and we all got in there. And he drove us all the way to ________ and that was it. That's how I crossed. I spent a whole night in there laying. We all were laying.
Anne: Was it scary?
Ivan: Yeah. It was scary. It was scary especially when you get to the checkpoint. You know they tell us, whenever you hear the truck stopping, don't even breathe. Yeah. So it was scary, but I got the chance to cross. The first time I crossed, I crossed with my uncle. My cousins they're like my age and my brothers. So we crossed pretending we were his kids. That was the first time.
Anne: Yeah. That was easier?
Ivan: That was easier, way easier.
Anne: Yeah. So where did you end up the second time? Where did you end up?
Ivan: The second time I went back to North Carolina. I stayed there. That's when I started doing photography again. I met this friend, he was into photography. He knew I did some photography in the past. So we got together and I started a business doing photography.
Anne: Did you study anymore photography or-
Ivan: Yes. I kept studying, but by myself. Because I'm not going back to college, so I did some ... By this time I realized that YouTube was really amazing to learn whatever.
Anne: YouTube, yeah.
Ivan: YouTube, that's what I learned most of photography I know. So I learned on YouTube. I started working with this friend and that's what I did. I would do painting jobs, like painting houses during the week from seven to four or five, after that I would get to home. I would do some photoshop, editing, and on the weekends I'll go just take photographs. I most did Quinceañeras and weddings photography.
Anne: Yeah. Is that a Hispanic tradition for children?
Ivan: Quinceañera. It's like sweet 16.
Anne: Yeah, that's what I thought.
Ivan: Yeah, Quinceañera.
Anne: At that point you felt you're doing well.
Ivan: I was. I actually was doing pretty well.
Anne: Did you have a partner then?
Ivan: Yes. Actually, I had a partner and I would work from different companies, because the photography industry for Hispanics in North Carolina started growing so much. First small business, they went to big companies. They'll hire photographers and I would work some side jobs for companies. So I was doing well. I was doing pretty well back then.
Anne: And socially, what was going on in your life?
Ivan: Socially, I have a lot of friends as well, mixture; Mexicans, Caucasians, Afro-Americans, some Asians. I was doing pretty well. By that time when I went back to the States doing photography and painting, I think that was when I would say I was starting to live the American dream.
Anne: What were your dreams? You were living the American dream, but what was that dream, what did you see yourself becoming in the future?
Ivan: Okay. Definitely I wanted to establish my company. I wanted to get to the point that I didn't have to work, I will have people working for me. And getting there, it was part of the dream. But my dream, it was like, okay, have your photography business and then come back to Mexico and just leave it there, and just making money.
Anne: So your dream was to be really successful with your photography, but then go
back to Mexico?
Anne: So you always were thinking of going back?
Ivan: I always was thinking of coming back here.
Anne: So did you come back voluntarily?
Ivan: No, I got deported again.
Anne: What happened?
Ivan: In this case, I messed up. In this case I messed up. I was coming back from a party. I was drinking and driving and I got pulled over. And that's how I got deported the second time. I recognize that was my fault. You should not drink and drive, but I did it and this was four years ago.
Anne: So was it a quick deportation, you came back quickly or you had to stay detained?
Ivan: Okay. Yeah. I had to stay detained. I stayed about seven months between county
jail and immigration.
Anne: So they gave you a jail sentence for that crime?
Ivan: Yeah. It was not at all. I made a deal, so I could go earlier.
Anne: Still, seven months.
Ivan: Still, it's a lot.
Anne: Is jail tough?
Ivan: Well, yes, it is tough. It is tough. Just being there locked up, the whole scenario you're locked up.
Anne: Yeah. But did you have any trouble with the other inmates or anything?
Ivan: No. Not with that, I never had any issues. I never had any issues with inmates. No, those issues I never had. It was just being there. Mm-hmm. (affirmative)
Anne: So you came back, did you go back to be with your grandparents again?
Ivan: At this time, at first I stayed with one of my uncles. And I found out there were call centers so I was like, okay, let's give it a shot. So I started working in a call center. The pay was not bad, but it wasn't that good. So it was like, okay, I can deal with this. And at this point I was like, nah, I'm not going back to the States. I lost, I had to sell my photography equipment. I lost most of it. I had three cameras. I end up just with one camera. And I tried to do photography here.
Anne: Oh you did?
Ivan: Yeah. I tried. I tried. But the photography business here, it's so different. It's so different. I still deal with Mexican people, but it was so different. It was so different. The culture here, most of the people who hire photographers, they have the ways to afford it. And most of the people here in Mexico City who have some higher or really high… they have money, they're really bad people. I went to a few weddings here. People would treat me like you were the worst. Yeah. Photographers here, especially who do weddings and Quinceañeras, they get treated really bad.
Ivan: Yeah. Some people wouldn't even give me some food. Well, they will be like, are you hungry? Not like that.
Ivan: One time I sat, because you have to be standing all day long. So you have to sit from time to time. And I was there sitting and this person comes to me like, "You're supposed to be taking photos," and blah, blah, blah. So I stand up again. So I was like, no, this is not going to work for me.
Anne: They don't look at you as an artist, they look at you as-
Ivan: Yeah, like an instrument. So yeah, that was tough. So I was like, no, photography is not working for me. So I went to a call center and that's kind of tough too because you have to deal with people yelling at you and stuff.
Anne: That's why they call, they're mad.
Ivan: Yeah, because something happened they're calling. Yeah. So then I worked at a
call center for a while until I found out about OlaCode It's something different and a great opportunity. So I was like, let's take it.
Anne: How's it been?
Ivan: Well, we're about to graduate. We're graduating this coming Saturday.
Anne: Oh, that’s great.
Ivan: Yeah. It's been really tough. It's been really tough.
Anne: It’s hard?
Ivan: Tiring, getting all this information into your head for five months-
Anne: Hard work.
Ivan: Nonstop and it's really hard work.
Anne: Do you like the work? Do you like it?
Ivan: Oh, definitely.
Ivan: Everything I've done here, everything I learned, all the time I spent here, definitely it's worth it. It's definitely worth it. So I'm really excited.
Anne: Do you have a job or what are you doing now?
Ivan: Well, we're going to start applying after we graduate. And they're already hiring partners out there. We already have the list and as soon as we graduate, starting applying for jobs.
Anne: That’s great. Yeah. Congratulations.
Ivan: Thank you so much.
Anne: So what are your dreams now?
Ivan: Now, I don't know. I always wanted to have my own business. But recently, I found another field where I can work as a photographer and it’s not bad. It's not bad.
Anne: What kind of photography?
Ivan: Let's see here. I wanted to show you a picture. I don't have my phone. Can I use your phone just to show you what I'm talking about?
Anne: I don't know. Do you Google?
Ivan: Yeah. Yeah. Google, let me show you.
Ivan: These are really new concept here in Mexico. Not a lot of people does this and that's what I want to do. And I actually did it for my daughter. I actually did this for my daughter. And I found out that a lot of people are interested in this, which is ...let me show you. I want to find a really, okay, this one right here. This.
Anne: Oh, okay. So it's like a baby portrait?
Ivan: Yeah. It's a baby portrait with the-
Anne: The hands and the feet.
Anne: That's so cute.
Ivan: I actually did that for my, not that one-
Anne: Yeah, but similar to that.
Ivan: Similar to that. And I showed a lot of people and they were surprised. I can definitely make a business out of that.
Anne: Definitely, definitely.
Ivan: And that kind of work, I found that the people respect you as a photographer here in Mexico.
Anne: Yeah. Yeah, that’s important.
Ivan: So this program I'm into, Olacole, I'm feeling like it's a really good tool for me to get what I want to get. And coding is definitely a really good skill for me to have, for me to get to that point.
Anne: That’s great, that’s great.
Ivan: That's my dream. Still, I haven't get away from having my own business related to photography. That's what I want to get to.
Anne: That’s wonderful, that's great. Do you think being in the United States made you different?
Anne: In what ways?
Ivan: Let's see here. I will say that the United States made me… more adaptable to any situation. Any situation I can go through, like I will adapt to. And that's what the United States taught me, be adapt to any situation. And what else, and socially speaking and professionally speaking, like I became a really adaptable person. That's what I learned from the States. And of course, the language comes with it, speaking two languages. I think anywhere in Latin America it’s a plus. So that was it, it made me a really adaptable person.
Anne: Just some reflections about policy for you. So what do you think US should do differently in its treatment of migrants?
Ivan: Be more open minded. I mean, we're in 2019, that kind of thinking like, oh, we're just a race, we don't accept you because you have a different skin tone. I don't think that kind of thinking fits in anymore because we're a society, we keep evolving as humans because we've been evolving since we were first here in the Earth. And it's not just physically, it is intellectual. Your mind just keeps growing and keeps growing, keeps growing, keeps growing nonstop. And I think welcoming people from another ethnic groups is part of evolution. It's going to happen one day. Especially the government now is trying to stop it, but that is going to happen someday. And I would say what the United States as a country needs to do is embrace the evolution. Yeah.
Anne: We have in the past.
Ivan: What’s that?
Anne: We have in the past.
Ivan: Oh yeah. Because of that, it's such a great country, because they have embraced these changes.
Anne: How about Mexico, what should they do to help returning migrants reintegrate?
Ivan: In this case Mexico, they need to change the way they think. How can I put it in words? Mexico is even, I would say, I don't know. I don't know about that one. They tried to make changes in the past, but it hasn't worked. The major problem here in Mexico is the corruption. It's all of Mexico is, the way it is right now, because corruption is just with corruption. I will say like, I don't know, I don’t know. I don't know how to change that, how would they do that? Because every time a new president comes in, they're like, "Okay, we're going to make a change, everything's going to change, no more corruption." And then they get to the power and they forget about that. They want everything for them, so I don't know how they will change corruption in this country. Because I will say they, they change the whole government. They make a new system, but people still going to be corrupt. I don't know how to answer to that one. That one's tough.
Anne: Okay. We're pretty much to the end, but I was just going to let you, if there's anything more you want to share for people who are listening to your story, anything that you didn't get to say, anything you want to conclude with?
Ivan: Well, first of all, I will thank you for doing this, for putting out our stories. People definitely need to know what we been through. So they have a bigger picture. We're not all criminals. We all have like ups and downs because we're humans, you can not be perfect. But we're not definitely criminals. We're humans, we're all humans, and we all feel the same. So I would say, don't look at us as a different race, look at us as humans because we're all humans at the end. So I would say that. That's pretty much I have to say. And once again, thank you so much.
Anne: Well, thank you. That was great. That was great. Thank you so much.