June 7, 2019
Mexico City, Mexico
Being detained and deported
1 of 7
*To hear more about Jose listen to the playlist above
Anne: So maybe you could start by telling me about the circumstances of going to the US. Like why you went, how old you were, your first impressions?
Jose: Okay. I was eight and I went with my older sister, my younger brother, and my mom to reunite with my dad. My dad had been in the States for two or three years. We went back because my dad saw a potential for better life in the States and he saved up enough money to bring us out. And we did. As I started, I had trouble at school and, in ninth grade, I dropped out. Around that time, my mom and my dad split up and my mom couldn't financially sustain us. So, after I dropped out, I helped my mom financially and I've been helping her ever since. I've been working for seven years. I also got a new little sister in the States. A younger sister now. So now I have two sisters and an older brother. Yeah, I've lived in the States for 16 years and I like it there, you know?
Jose: It was kind of a drastic change when I was incarcerated for a mere traffic violation and deported—not deported, I got voluntary leave, actually. The only thing I knew is that I didn't want to be locked up like an animal for something so small. I'd rather be back in my city as a free man and try to earn my right to go back to the States legally and just live over there. It wasn't a good thing or a good feeling to be driving around, just being anywhere, having a fearing of being detained for any minority. I definitely want to go back. It's definitely a beautiful country and I just think the circumstances have been very difficult, but I definitely want to go back.
Jose: Most of my brothers and sisters... I've actually been working on papers with DREAMers and my little sister is a citizen, but my sister's been getting right. One of my brothers is actually detained at the moment, and my mom's also working on her residency. So, I was actually like the only one that was in the process of getting any papers and it just so happened that I was the one to get detained. So now I want to figure out a way to get back legally because I definitely want to go back.
Jose: Yeah. I got arrested at the beginning of February and I stayed in an immigration facility for two months until I was sent over with my voluntary leave. I was allowed to buy my own ticket. So, I came straight from ____ to Mexico City and I've been here for about two months. I've been getting all my paperwork and been looking for a job and I just currently landed a job. And I'm under training right now, but it seems decent money to be in Mexico, but it's nothing compared to what I would be making in the States.
Anne: So, can I go back to when you went to the States. Do you remember going over when you were eight? Do you remember that?
Jose: Yeah. Actually, I don't remember it being as difficult as people say it is now. But back then I remember we were driving just on the street. We could see the border and then you know the river? The bridge? We got out maybe like a couple of miles before that, went into the bushes. We waited until nighttime. At nighttime, we went in inflatable rafts. I was on somebody's back and they crossed us over one by one. Once everybody crossed over, we ran for a couple of minutes to a Walmart. I remember going inside the Walmart ‘cause my sister had lost her shoe in the whole running and they had bought her a shoe. After the Walmart, we were taken to a hotel safe house and we were actually ditched at the safe house. My dad had to hire, or pay, for another coyote to go pick us up in Texas—we got stranded in Texas. Yeah, another whole different coyote had to come and pick us up. And that coyote delivered us from Texas to ____, where I've been living for like 16 years.
Anne: So, you said you started school. You probably didn't know any English, right?
Anne: And school was tough?
Jose: Yeah, very.
Anne: Was it tough because of the language?
Jose: Yeah, the language was a very difficult thing, but I knew I had to get my act together and learn English as quick as possible. There's a bunch of classes in the States that teach foreign kids to learn English. Whether you're from any Latin American country, Asia, or whatever. I remember being an ESL and I remember being surrounded by Hispanics, Asians, and there was like a Russian kid.
Anne: Russian kid?
Jose: Yeah. Or Slovakian. I don't remember, but I think he was Russian.
Anne: But you never really warmed up to school?
Jose: Yeah, I did after a while. After the whole English thing. I was about two years in and I was able to speak English not perfectly, but well enough for me to understand what the teachers were telling me and all that. During middle school, I was actually in advanced classes. The whole advanced classes thing was when my parents were splitting up and I started acting out and getting into trouble and stuff. And that's what led me into high school. Once I got into high school, I was kicked out of all my advanced classes because I was acting out in my classes before that. Eventually, through that whole year, it was a big downfall for me. As my parents were splitting up, I was acting rebellious, trying to get attention.
Anne: That's tough. Were your other siblings also acting out?
Jose: Yeah. My sister also acted out. I feel like more than anything, my younger brother was the one that was traumatized the most. I was like 13 and he was like eight, nine years old when my parents were splitting up and it was a super drastic change. After they split up, I actually moved to Cali for a while. As soon as my parents split up, my mom knew that she wouldn't be able to sustain us so she moved out to Cali. We lived with her uncle for a while. Yeah, we lived there in Cali for a year. Eventually, I moved out back to ___ with my dad.
Jose: It wasn't the best move I could have made. That's when I started freshman year in high school and that was when eventually I got paneled, got kicked out of school, and... yeah. My mom actually ended up moving back to _____ and that's when I convinced her to help me drop out of school to help her financially. It wasn't an idea that thrilled her, but she knew that eventually at the point where I was at school, I would either end up being more rebellious and end up getting locked up. So I feel like one of the best decisions for me was actually to drop out even though it bit me in the ass in the end. Yeah. I mean, a lot of people, a lot of my friends ended up joining gangs and getting shot, arrested, and all that stuff.
Anne: You never did?
Jose: Not for the things they were getting arrested for. I was arrested for traffic violations and stuff like that.
Anne: But you never joined a gang?
Anne: You were in charge of—
Jose: Yeah. I mean, I was too busy. I was too busy going to work.
Anne: Yeah. Yeah. What did your mom and dad do when they were working? What kind of work did they do?
Jose: My mom did cleaning most of her life. She still does cleaning. Housecleaning. She actually maintains a single property now. She's like a house sitter, I guess. She makes enough money there to support herself, but at the time, I was making enough money to pay for rent and she was just helping out with bills. The money she was making, she was able to pay her car note and paid my little sister's school stuff or whatever. So I was mainly in charge of paying rent and bills and stuff like that. And now she’s having a tough time because I'm over here, but there's no way I'm going back with the way the laws are, theimmigration laws are right now. I actually want to wait it out after a new presidency. See what happens.
Anne: So, you said you went for a while to Cali, you got back to ____, and then your mom followed you eventually. What about your little brother who you said was really traumatized by the…?
Jose: Yeah. Actually, my brother's in jail right now. Yeah, I feel like he was the one that was traumatized the most. After he was eight, nine, ten years old, he was the one that acted out the most. I mean, I'm not sure if it was to do what I do, to do what the older brother does, or just because he was doing it by himself. Like I said, as I grew up, I started working. I started getting my head straight. I was being mentored by older people. I was working with older people and they were telling me the things I should be doing instead of splitting into the wrong way. And I was mentored by a lot of people. People that I still keep in touch with now. Coworkers and stuff.
Jose: So while my brother was going through his stuff, I tried to mentor him a lot, but it was always... It went in one ear and it came out the other. I had struggled myself so I understood where he was coming from. And I felt like I grew up best by learning from my own mistakes and being told what could happen and then making that mistake and being like I was warned about this. I warned my brother about everything. I would just... Since that was the mindset I grew up in, I couldn't really help what he was doing, but I was going to tell him what could happen down the line. And eventually, it did. He was getting locked up. He was like 16, 17 being brought home by the police for doing whatever now.
Anne: Did he join a gang?
Jose: No, but he was always in the wrong crowd, doing the wrong things. Actually, about a year ago, he was incarcerated, and he was just convicted for 12 years. And he's 20 now. Actually, he just turned 21 about a week ago. And now he has to do 12 years in prison for hanging out with the wrong crowd. Covering people he shouldn't have been covering.
Anne: Wow. That's sad. Your mom must be really sad.
Jose: Yeah, she's devastated.
Anne: Devastated, yeah. And you have a younger sister? Just one?
Jose: I have a younger sister. She's seven.
Anne: She lives with your mom?
Jose: Yeah. And my older sister, she's got a whole family now. She lives with her husband. She's got two kids. She's doing her own thing, but I feel like eventually my mom's going to have to move in with them.
Anne: And they're in ____ too?
Anne: Does she have DACA? Your sister?
Jose: Yeah. She finished high school and now that she's got her DREAMers, whatever—
Jose: Yeah. And she's actually working on her residency because her husband's also a citizen so she's getting her stuff together. She's got two kids. So I mean, she's just getting her paperwork done. She's actually planning on coming to Mexico maybe. I doubt she'll come to Mexico, but—
Anne: To see you or to... Or both?
Jose: Yeah. Yeah. No, just a visit.
Anne: But once she gets her papers maybe?
Jose: Yeah. My mom is also working on her residency. She's working with a lawyer. Since my sister's a citizen and she doesn't have any immigration status, they're going to try to help her get some type of work permit or something.
Anne: So, you're in ninth grade, you convince your mom that you need to drop out of school and start working and helping her out?
Jose: Actually, after I got kicked out, I was still living with my dad. But I had a lot of issues with my dad. We got into a lot of arguments. So after I got kicked out of school, he sort of kicked me out of the house and I ended up living with a buddy and I started working with him. Not with him, but we started working together and that's when I started making money. That's when my mom came back to _____, and I was like, “Hey look. I'm making enough money to help you out with bills and stuff. I feel like this might be the best situation for right now.” And whether she liked it or not, she agreed with me and the following year, I came back and I dropped out officially. And yeah. I started working.
Anne: Is your dad violent?
Jose: Yeah. He's also an alcoholic.
Anne: That's tough. So, what did you do for work permits and...?
Jose: What do you mean?
Anne: Like when you started working. Did you have a fake social security card? What did you do?
Jose: No. Actually, when I was younger, my uncle claimed me for taxes so I had a tax ID.
Anne: I see.
Jose: So, with my tax ID, I was able to work under my name even though I couldn't claim taxes or even report them, but I was still officially in the system. So I was still able to cash checks and all that stuff without any problem. Everything I got was in my name. Some jobs paid me in cash, some paid me in check. When I first started working, since I was under age, I couldn't cash any checks so I started working for cash only. And that's when I was making maybe a hundred bucks a day.
Anne: And what were you doing?
Jose: Different stuff. I started working with this couple that did house evictions. They maintained houses for banks, bank-owned houses. So we trimmed the grass, cleaned out the property, whatever. And if a house was evicted, like a month ago, we had to go and take out everything the house had in it, take it out to the dump. Just maintain the houses until they were sold by the bank. Sometimes we did a little bit of touch-ups, paint and stuff like that. After that job, I started getting into paint. I started painting for maybe a year. And paint was really bad hours and really low pay so I started looking for other stuff. Eventually, I did tile. I did flooring.
Jose: And eventually I started working in framing, where is where I got the most money. I think I started with like 80 bucks, but I was only throwing trash. I was only picking up scraps, throwing trash, and it was a pretty easy job for like 80 bucks. But then I started getting to know the job and they started teaching me stuff and I started making like 120, 140 in a day. So, then I started liking it. I started putting more effort into learning and get a higher position in the job. And I started working until I was a master and I was the one... Actually, before I came, I was a group manager and since I spoke good English, I was able to talk with the builders and since I knew the work and stuff, I started making pretty good money. My employer at the moment his English wasn't that good, so I put him onto a lot of people. I helped him with work and with managing his business. Yeah, that's where I started making like 20, 20 plus. I was also getting bonuses. After a house was done, I would get a little bonus for helping out extra. Yeah, I started making really good money there. That's when we really came up. We used to live in really cheap apartments until we moved up and started living really good. But then this happened.
Anne: So what's this?
Jose: A transition in life.
Jose: A transition in life.
Anne: Yeah. So how did you end up back here?
Jose: I was driving. It was like a Sunday, no a Saturday. I was with my sister and a buddy and his kids. We had gone to McDonald's and I was driving back home and I was going like five miles over the speed limit and I was pulled over for speeding. Because I didn't have a license, I was taken to county jail. At county jail, immigration got ahold on me and that's when I went to the immigration detention center and that's where I was given my choice of either fighting my case or just leaving voluntarily. And I just thought it was the best idea to leave voluntarily and try to come back legally. There was a couple of options I could've taken. I could've fought my case, but in most cases, it was like a five percent chance of winning. It really depended on the judge. I didn't think I was going to win. Most of the reason people win is because they have property, have kids. They have a reason to be there. I didn't have kids. Even though I was a main supplier at the house, main supporter, it didn't matter to the judge's eye. So he gave me the voluntary leave and I took it. Thought it was my best option.
Anne: So you said they pulled you over for speeding and saw you didn't have a license. And did you say they already had a hold on you for ICE?
Jose: Yeah, no, as soon as the county takes you to the county jail... That county alone is actually known to work with immigration. So they have an immigration office within that county jail. So, I mean, as soon as you step in, they... An hour in, they fingerprint you, whatever, they bring you out to ICE interview, and at the ICE interview, they directly tell you that you have a hold on immigration. There is no point in paying your bond or bail, whatever. You're detained by ICE.
Anne: So that was the only thing you ever did wrong? Or you ever got caught doing wrong?
Jose: No, actually, I had a verbal offense with an officer, which I fought, and I cleaned. It was like a misdemeanor. But other than that, I was also arrested once prior to that for no license, but at that time immigration laws weren't that strict. I was in county jail for like maybe two hours. They just fingerprinted me. And they were like, "Oh, they paid your bail. You're good." I was out. I just went to court, paid my fine, and that was it. That was all I ever heard of that. Actually, when I got arrested that second time, when I got deported, I didn't even worry at all until I was at immigration. I mean, I got arrested and everything. I didn't worry about it. Even though at the time I was with my little sister when I got arrested, I called my sister to tell her to come pick up the kid. My brother-in-law came to pick up the car. They took the car and everything. And we're fine. They're like, "Oh, we'll just see you at the county jail. It'll be fine." But we were dead wrong.
Anne: So what did you like best about the US?
Jose: Everything. The culture. I really like how there's a bunch of different cultures. Whether or not everybody mingles together, there's so many cultures for me to learn and see. Food. The freedom. The fact that you don't really have to worry about the things you have to worry about here. Here, you can't even be walking at night. You have to be looking around the corner because you never know. There's probably like a 50% chance if you're walking out a night, you're probably going to get robbed. And in the States, it wasn't ever like that. I remember being 14, 15 walking home from a buddy's house at 10 and nothing you know? The security. I felt secure. And my friends, honestly. Also, the currency. Currency was like a really... How do I say this? It's pretty easy for people to make money in the States, you know. And you don't really need to have a really good job to supply enough for your house. And even people in low income still have enough to survive. And here in Mexico, you got to really hustle really hard to even survive. So that was the thing.
Anne: So do you think being in the US changed you?
Anne: Different outlook on life, different—?
Jose: Yeah. I was definitely humbled by knowing where I come from and knowing that at any moment everything could be taken away. In a lot of ways. I can't really tell you because I haven't lived here long enough to know the difference, but yeah. Definitely.
Anne: What were your dreams before you were deported?
Jose: Buy my little sister a house. Buying a house. It's still my dream.
Anne: Where will that house be?
Jose: In ___. I'm definitely going back to the States.
Anne: You liked ____?
Jose: Yeah. It's not really the city that I like. It's the people that lived within it. My friends and my family and the relationships I had with coworkers and stuff. The reason I would go back is not for the city itself but for the people that are there.
Anne: So when you came back here, you basically left your whole family. Do you have uncles, aunts, grandparents here? How did that work?
Jose: Now, here, I currently live with my grandma and my aunt at my grandma's house. But yeah, in the States, I lived with my mother.
Anne: Did you remember your grandma and your aunt?
Jose: Yeah, actually, my grandma is a US citizen.
Anne: Oh, she is?
Jose: Or resident. Yeah, I think she's a resident.
Anne: But she lives here?
Jose: Yeah, but she lives here. But she goes to the States probably like once a year. She visits us once a year. Stays in the summer. Mainly in the summer because she takes care of my little sister like in summer breaks and stuff. But she stays there maybe a month. Also, I have a lot of family in California. So during the summer, my grandma leaves and she goes to Cali and she goes to ____.
Anne: So that's nice that you knew her when you came back. Someone to live with that—
Anne: How long did it take you to get a job?
Jose: About a month. And that's just because I've been waiting. I came to apply at T-Tech down the street and, at the current time, they were having schedule changes and stuff. Told me to come back at a different date. And as soon as I came back for the interview, I got hired. Saw the contract and everything and I'd just been waiting for start. It was like two weeks. So it was like two week wait for the interview, then a two week wait for the start. But actually this is my second day.
Anne: How was it?
Jose: It was good. Straining. It feels like going to school. A lot of goofing around.
Anne: A lot of people similar to you?
Jose: Yeah. A lot of people will tell you their stories in there. First couple of days everybody shared their stories. Telling where in the States they lived, if they had been deported, where they live. Some of these people were not even deported themselves. A lot of them, it was their parents got deported so they have to follow. A lot of people came willingly for some reason. Actually, our trainer is a resident. She goes to Cali back and forth and she says that she actually enjoys living in Mexico City more than in Cali. So, like, if I had to choose to stay and live in one city, it would be Mexico City. And honestly, it's not bad. Best place to live in Mexico is probably Mexico City. Definitely. I mean, it's got its dark moments, but it's a nice city. A lot of culture.
Anne: Yeah. A lot of culture. Someone told me more museums per capita than anywhere else in the world. Well, we're getting towards the end of this interview. So, people are going to listen to your story. Is there anything you'd like to share with them that you haven't shared thus far about your experiences in the US? About immigration policy? About anything?
Jose: No, I just feel that more people need to be more aware of the reasons people are in the States. A lot of people think they're just there to take their jobs, but it's not. People just want a better life. People just want to be part of something. I feel the States is probably one of the best countries in the world and it will be for the future because it's a culmination of so many countries and so many cultures. You take every other culture away, what's there really in the States? Everybody in the States was an immigrant at some point and people forget that. A lot of citizens that are racist towards immigrants forget that their grandparents at some point immigrated from another country for the same reasons they did. I just want people to remember that America is a country of immigrants.
Anne: Great. Well, thank you so much.