Juan A

Interviewee

Adrian Catalan

Interviewer

June 15, 2018

Mexico City, Mexico

Deciding to return to Mexico

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*To hear more about Juan listen to the playlist above

Adrian: Can you tell me about your first day in the United States, please?

Juan: My first day in the United States? Well, it was exciting and scary at the same time because I didn't know what to expect, I didn't know what to do. And basically it was something that I didn't know what was going to happen. But for sure I was very excited to be there.

Adrian: Can you tell me about how you felt when you got to the United States, what did you see different?

Juan: Well, when I got to the United States and what I saw different, it was like a total, brand new world. Everything clean, everything in order, everything ... People living in a different way than I was used to. And it was very, very different on the first day. And when I got there, it took me a good while to adapt to that lifestyle, the American lifestyle.

Adrian: Can you tell me about your first job that you had in the United States?

Juan: Well, when you get there you don't have that many choices. And basically, there are a lot of jobs that nobody wants to do. And when you get there, you get there usually with no money, usually in need of everything. So you take the first job that comes your way. And it was at a restaurant, an Italian restaurant. And I was a busboy, I was cleaning tables and helping in the kitchen, helping the waiters. It was basically at a restaurant.

Adrian: Oh, good. That's the only job that you have in the United States or did you do more jobs? Do you do other kinds of work?

Juan: No. At first I had jobs like that restaurant-wise, but then since I know how to drive commercial vehicles, I was able to get a job driving a vehicle and I drove a bobtail truck, delivering gasoline and diesel. And I did that for a long time. And I took many driving jobs because of the commercial license that I used to have. I used to have several jobs driving commercial vehicles. But then when I got married, my wife didn't want me to do anymore that job because it was kind of dangerous. So I stopped doing it. And I was facing the possibility of getting another job, basically driving or doing something else. I picked something else and I started my own business.

Juan: I started a real estate investing business. I was buying and selling houses. I was fixing them and remodeling them and I was selling them to people that were looking to buy a house for the first time. And I was doing quite well until I couldn't do it anymore because, since I was undocumented, I couldn't renew my driver's license. And when you don't have a license in the state of Texas, pretty much you can't do anything. You cannot travel, you cannot open a bank account, you cannot do pretty much anything. You can't go to a bank and do anything because you don't have identification. And the worst part was that in my business I needed to notarize documents, I needed to borrow money from banks to purchase the houses, and I needed a credit card to buy my materials to remodel my houses and all that stuff. And since I didn't have anything like that, I couldn't do nothing anymore, absolutely nothing. And it was a very, very hard time for like a year that I couldn't do nothing because I didn't have an identification.

Adrian: Can you tell me how many years you lived in the United States, Juan?

Juan: Yes. I lived there for twenty-eight years. I got there in 1990 and I lived there for twenty-eight years. I lived in several States. I lived in the state of California. Then from there, I went to New York. In New York, I used to live in ____. And from there, I moved to Texas, to the ____ area.

Adrian: Tell me a little bit about your family.

Juan: Okay, my family. In 1997, I got married to my wife and we had three children. I have one boy and two girls. And they are still living in the United States because my children are still going to school and now they are pursuing their dreams. And I didn't want to force them to come with me because I didn't know how it was going to be here in Mexico. So they stayed back there and we talk over the phone. We text and video calls and things like that, but they're still living over there and I miss them very much.

Adrian: Juan, how old were you when you left for the United States and how old when you came back?

Juan: I was twenty-one when I left for the United States and at the moment, I'm fifty-two years old. I lived over there about twenty-eight years, so it was the majority of my life. I never thought about coming back to Mexico because I loved living over there. Just because I had my family established and everything. I purchased a house, purchased a car. A lot of times you can't even do that here in Mexico. It's very hard to purchase a house, to purchase a car. It's very, very difficult. But over there, I already accomplished that. And when I left over there, everything stayed back.

Adrian: Okay. So tell me a little bit more about your kids?

Juan: Yeah, my kids, I have one boy and two girls. My boy is nineteen years old and he's going to college, he is studying business administration. My next, my daughter is eighteen and just graduated from high school. And she is going to join the army. And she leaves in July and I'm going to hate not to be there to say goodbye and hug her. I just hate the idea of her leaving for a long time, for almost a year, on the basic training, and I'm not going to be able to be with her to say goodbye or give her a hug or anything like that. And my youngest, she's a junior in high school. She has two more years of high school and she wants to go to college.

Adrian: Did you feel discriminated against when you lived in the United States?

Juan: Personally, no. No, I wasn't discriminated. And probably because I was speaking their language. However, I saw also people being discriminated against. And I saw people being treated bad just because of the way they look. But personally, no, I wasn't discriminated over there.

Adrian: Okay. So tell me about when you came back, the first day, to Mexico.

Juan: Basically, it was a very hard decision. I came back by myself. It basically was because when the president that is at the White House right now, he changed the rules and everything. He made a task of making people leave or getting deported and all that. And he started tightening all the rules and the laws. And I'm living in the state of Texas, and Texas participated a lot with that policy. And the police department was cooperating with them, meaning that if you had a traffic ticket you could get arrested and taken to immigration, to process your deportation.

Juan: The decision to come back was very hard and very difficult because I was leaving my wife and my children behind. My home, my cars, and practically all my belongings, I left them behind. But I'd rather have that happening, than being arrested and maybe put in jail because I heard that they're putting people in jail and they keep you there for a long time. And I didn't want to go over that and be in jail for something like that. So I decided just to come back and bring my clothes and as much as I could. But it was a very difficult decision to come back and leave my family behind.

Adrian: Can you tell me a little bit about how it's difficult for you? Or if it's easy for you to reincorporate to Mexican life?

Juan: When I came back, I came back by bus. And as soon as I crossed the border, the Mexican border, it seems like I stepped into another world. It was the same, the authorities, they are very rude, they are corrupt, they want money for anything. They actually stole a document from my wife. My wife, she's an American citizen, and they asked her for her passport. And for them to give her the document as she was crossing to Mexico, they charged her $60 for that document. When later I find out that it has to be free. If you register, if you tell them that you're there and all that, that document's supposed to be free. These policemen, they charged her $60. Then, when I was getting my bags checked at the customs, they wanted me to pay money to let me take my bags. And I just, I started fighting, arguing with them. Not necessarily fighting, but I was arguing with them that, why I had to pay them for something that was mine, it was my clothes, my shoes, all my things. They wanted me to give money to allow me to take my things. And when I started stating my case and fighting back, they had no choice but to let me go. But it is that corruption in Mexico that makes it scary.

Juan: Now, getting to Mexico City, my mom lives here. And that's the only people that I know of where I could have come and stayed with them while I was adjusting again. I found that every government agency, instead of helping you, they actually make it harder on you just because they want you to bribe them, they want you to pay them money for a document that is supposed to be free or it has a very small cost. They want you to give them money. And they make it so difficult. I decided to come back in a very bad time.

Juan: We had elections, presidential elections in Mexico. And I got here on March 15. And since it was election time, they stopped issuing the only identification that a Mexican citizen can have to do anything—to open a bank account, to rent a house, to get a passport, to get a driver’s license. That identification we cannot get because they are in elections and we are not allowed to get in until the election is over, which is in July. Ever since March, I haven't been able to get an identification where I can reestablish my life precisely because I cannot open a bank account, I cannot get a job. When you get a job here, they want you to get that identification. They want you to show that identification just to show that it's you. During this time, all the deportees and people returning to Mexico are going through a very difficult time. Just because these people, all they care is about that stupid election. All they care is about getting their jobs and getting elected and all, while we ...

Juan: Every single program that is supposed to be helping us, they have, quote unquote, “programs that help you with unemployment insurance” and things like that. They're supposed to help you. On the contrary, they are just giving us the long run. They are just giving us, "Oh no, they didn't authorize the payment, you need to come back the next month." And next month… It's been three months already, I have not been able to get anything from them. And I haven't been able to get a job because I don't have an identification. That is so stupid and ridiculous because how are we supposed to live? How are we supposed to pay our rent or to even get money for transportation to go and look for another job?

Juan: I can go look for a job, but it doesn't matter, it doesn't do any good because I cannot identify myself. I don't have an identification to identify myself. And the same problems that I have is the same problem that I see in many, many people returning to Mexico from the United States. These people, they are in very, very bad shape. Very bad shape because they cannot get a job, they cannot open up an account, they cannot register their kids in school. They cannot do anything because the authorities, they don't care. They don't care about us, they don't care about nobody but themselves. Another thing that I hate, I hate, I hate, it's like the time stopped and it never moved. When I came back, it was the same corruption, the same corrupted politicians, the same people that, instead of helping the citizens, they're helping themselves, putting money in their pockets. And all that money that is supposed to go to our programs to help immigrants and people like us? They're going to their pockets.

Adrian: What about the Mexican ID? Did you get it in the United States? The Consular ID, can you use it in your own country?

Juan: That's another one. I was able to get the matrícula consular, which I got at the Mexican Consulate in Dallas. I thought I was going to be able to use it or it was going to be helpful getting here. It just happened that it's not the case. They think, because it says “Consulate of Mexico in the United States”, because it has an American address, they think that identification is from the United States. When it just clearly says, “Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. [Ministry of External Relations] It is given by the Mexican government in the United States. The consulate is Mexico, it is just a part of Mexico. It's like the US embassy here is part of the United States. It's like being in America when you go to the embassy. I cannot use that identification for many things. And if they ever look at it, they always give me a very long explanation why it cannot be used for what I'm trying to use it for. And they always ask me for the voters card, which I cannot get until after July.

Adrian: So, do you think you will come back to the United States at some point?

Juan: Well, I would love to. I would love to go back at some point with my family, but at this time, I don't think it will be possible just because it's going to be pretty difficult in many cases. We actually are contemplating, when my youngest girl goes to college, I was contemplating bringing my wife to live here. But I don't know. But certainly I would love to go back. But the legal way, the legal way, I would love to go back. And not necessarily to go to work or anything, but just to go and visit my family, see them and everything and come back. But I don't know, certainly I would love to go back, but the legal way.

Adrian: How did you learn your English, Juan? Did you go to school?

Juan: Yeah. When I was still living in Mexico, I went to an English school. And when I got to the United States, I went to a community college and I went there to get better at my English. I learned grammar, I learned all the phonetics. I took a long course on English. And as a matter of fact, I got my English certified here at 95%.

Adrian: Can you tell me about being a Mexican in the USA? What kind of food do you like over there?

Juan: Well, certainly, living in Texas you got to love barbecue. Barbecue, baby back ribs, beef ribs, sausage, and brisket, and all that kind of thing. I used to love grilling. I used to have a grill at home and I used to love grilling. Some beef and chicken and all that kind of stuff. And my mother-in-law, she lives over there in Dallas, she used to cook for us all the time and it was very, very good Mexican food.

Adrian: Did you miss something from the United States as soon as you came back to Mexico?

Juan: I miss everything. I miss everything. There's one thing, the United States is a country of laws. It's a country of order. And that's one thing that I loved because I used to feel safe over there. I used to feel safe and I got nothing but good things to say about the United States. Because the United States gave me more opportunities than my own country gave me. And, I got nothing but love for the United States. As a matter of fact, when the war started in Iraq, I even wanted to go and fight for the United States. Not expecting anything in return, I just wanted to do that because they gave me so many opportunities that my own country never gave me. And I love the United States and that's my family's country. And I certainly, I just thought it was mine too. And I got nothing but good things to say about the United States.

Adrian: Could you tell me a little bit more about your wife?

Juan: Well, my wife, she's amazing. We've been married twenty-one years and I miss her every minute. Just, twenty-one years, we spend many, many things together, good and bad, and I miss her very much. I think that's the hardest part, right there. Not being with her is the hardest part of all this. I love my children and all, I love my kids and all that, I miss them madly. But my wife, to me, she's everything. And I just miss her very much.

Adrian: Do you think there’s something, the government from Mexico, they can work together with the government of the United States so they can stop getting the families separated?

Juan: I truly believe that they can. It's just, their politics get in the way. All of these immigration things, it's all about politics, it's all about control, controlling the American people and controlling the Mexican people. If they wanted to, they could have many agreements, so we didn't have to go illegally. And they could have had many, many agreements to allow people to go to work and come back. Because people don't want to go and stay. People do not want to go and stay there and live there. They want a better life. And they want to make money and many times just come back and do things that they cannot do because of the Mexican government.

Juan: The Mexican government don't care, don't help on anything, to the citizens. The Mexican government, they just think of filling up their pockets. That's all they care about. Versus the United States, you're allowed to ... And that's why they call it the American dream, because you're allowed to do as much as you want, as much as you can. And I've seen many, many, many immigrants, undocumented immigrants, becoming millionaires with starting their own businesses. And I know many cases where, if not millionaires, they're living very good because they started their own business and just because they're allowed to get their business going and everything. Over here, the bureaucracy and the corruption, it's killing the small businesses. The enterprise or the small business is under the corruption and the bureaucracy of Mexico.

Adrian: Okay, Juan. Do you want to say anything before we finish with the interview? Whatever you want to say or whatever you feel.

Juan: What I really want to say is that I really hope that this interview can reach some ears from the right people, to listen and to really start doing their jobs, meaning for them to start working for people. And for them to stop all the corruption and bureaucracy that we live in Mexico. All that is, it's killing this country. The corruption and the bureaucracy, politicians, bad politicians, they are killing this country. And it's terrible and it hurts because it's just a matter of, if they were doing their jobs, I can almost guarantee you that almost no Mexican people would want to go to the United States and work and find a better life. And they do, I did, because I had no opportunities, I had no opportunities here. If they were doing their jobs and they were doing what they were supposed to, many people didn't have to go, they didn't have to leave their countries and their families behind. Just because they're seeking a better life.

Juan: And that is just my hope. That this interview can really make someone do something about it. I really would like for this to get to the right ears and really get something about it. They are wasting the immigrant talent. They are wasting everything, all these good people, bilingual people, hard-working people. They are falling between the cracks because these people, they're not paying attention to what is happening here.

Juan: We know of many people, they're very talented and they can't get opportunities because they don't have an ID. For Christ's sake, they don't have an identification to get a job. I just know of a friend of mine, she was interviewed twice, and getting very good bilingual jobs. And she couldn't take them because she didn't have the identification to take the job. And that, it hurts. It hurts very much to see people struggle like that. Being discriminated and kicked out of a country that don't really like them. And then you're just hoping to make it work here in their own country, when all this government and these politicians and these people in key spots, all they care about is their pockets. All they care is their own pockets, they don't care about nothing else.

Juan: And people are struggling out here. They can't find a job, they can't ... They are, a lot of times, living on the street. I know of people that are living on the street, they don't have nowhere to stay because they can't afford it, they cannot pay. How can they afford it if they cannot get a job? If they cannot get a job, if they can't get a way to make their living, how in the world are they going to do? What are they going to do? So many, many end up in drugs or in alcoholism. And I just hope, my hope is for this to reach the right ears and for someone to do something about all this crisis. Because it's a humanitarian crisis, that's what it is.

Adrian: Okay, Juan, before we finish the interview, do you want to say something more, or?

Juan: Well, not really. It just, it bothers me a lot. It just bothers me, this indifference from the government. They are very indifferent. They know for a fact, because they even have programs to help immigrants returning. But the fact is, it's just to make them look good, to sound good, just to get a job. When in reality they're not helping anything. All that money that is supposed to go to help people, they're pocketing it. And it bothers me, it makes me angry about it. I know of many cases, I have seen many cases. I have been with them when they thought they had a job and they can't get a job. And that really bothers me. And as a citizen, I would like for this government to really get their act together and do something about it. Enough is enough, and they really need to start doing their jobs and getting their hands out of their pockets and do something about it.


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