Julio Cesar


Claudia Ojeda


June 3, 2019

Mexico City, Mexico

Prison and their effects on families

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*To hear more about Julio listen to the playlist above

Claudia: It's really your time to speak and go on and tell me your story. But I want to tell you how important this story is not just for the study, but just in general, to have people know it and hear it and understand the realities of migration, understand the humanity, and try to break down all those negative stereotypes that exist.

JC: Right.

Claudia: So thank you very much.

JC: No problem at all. That's what we're here for.

Claudia: You told me in the survey that you crossed to the US when you were three years old—

JC: Yes.

Claudia: So you don't really remember that much.

JC: No, no.

Claudia: In that case, what would you say is one of your earliest memories of the US?

JC: One of my earliest memories of the U.S. I remember as a young person was walking into a supermarket called Albertsons. I don't even think it exists anymore. I remember walking into that supermarket and all the smells and everything that you would see was just unreal from everything I had experienced earlier in life—I had never seen anything like that. I will always remember that, going into the store and seeing everything all stacked up nice and neat and the smells that were there.

Claudia: What's one thing from the store that you remember specifically?

JC: I don't remember much really about the store, but I remember that when we would get there I would get out of the car and I would look at the sign that would say “E3” or whatever parking space it was, because I wouldn't want me and my mom to forget where we parked.

Claudia: Yeah [Laughs].

JC: So that's normal stuff.

Claudia: You were with your parents?

JC: Yes, yes. I was with my parents. Obviously, most of that time I was alone due to the fact that most people go to the United States chasing a dream, as they call it. It's money, really, that people need to get by. They have certain standards and they're willing to make a sacrifice. Unfortunately, most of the time that sacrifice, when there's children involved, leaves that person alone because they're chasing their dream that they have. They want better for them and their children, not only for them. But yes, I went with my parents.

Claudia: You said that you still had siblings in Mexico?

JC: Yes, but I'll put it this way, they're not my direct brothers and sisters, they're from my mother, with another father. So I never even really knew them—I didn't even know them that well. I consider them family because genetically they're family, but I never lived with them.

Claudia: How did you learn English when you were in the states?

JC: Just watching cartoons I guess. I remember I used to watch a program called “Bewitched” a lot. I used to think it was funny how one of the characters on there would talk and I would always try to imitate him. And somewhere along the line I started putting words with the actual objects and so on like that until I could actually start conversing. I think that's how it happened.

Claudia: That's cool. So you went to school in the states, do you remember any teachers or friends or any people that had an impact in your early childhood?

JC: Oh yes. Most definitely. Mrs. Hera, she was my third grade teacher. She was of Japanese descent, and she was real cool. She was the person who showed me that you have to be proud about your heritage. Also, another person that was very important in my school was Mrs. Mercado. She was real important because when I started going to school in the United States they didn't have a program called ESL, which is now known as English as a second language—that just simply didn't exist. When that program came out, Mrs. Mercado was the one that actually took that program into my school. She's the actual first person who ever showed me what something actually was in English and in Spanish, where I actually knew for a fact that's what it was, because my parents couldn't help me with that.

JC: Another teacher of mine that got me to start taking advanced math classes, he kind of thought that I had talent for it, was Mr. Mulligan. He was right, I ended up doing pretty good. So those three. Also, when I was in high school I think Mr. Doltree, he was an ex-professional football player, he was a coach there, and he had a big impact on me. Those high school years were rough and he kept me kind of in line right there. That was good.

Claudia: Why do you say that the high school years were rough?

JC: Well it's a combination of different factors. As just a regular teen, just to go through that is kind of awkward. You're in a rough spot. Being—how could I put it this way—of Hispanic descent in an area where it's not predominately Hispanic is also very difficult. The fact that you don't have anybody to express your situations to—because there's always my father and my mother, but they would never understand the situation I would encounter in high school because it's a whole different culture, they never experienced that—it's a very lonely time. And also hormones going around, and wanting to experience let's go to here, let's go there. Mr. Doltree was very important in that, trying to keep me settled down and keep me in sports. He's very good at that.

Claudia: Were you ever exposed to any sort of gangs or any sort of violence like that around your neighborhood?

JC: Most definitely. Most definitely. Once we moved out of the first home we were staying in where it was predominantly all white—even though it's the San Gabriel Valley, Arcadia is predominantly white. After we moved out of there, we went over to Monterrey Park, it was a Hispanic community. This situation as a kid, I encountered gangs. My parents weren't home, and I would go to the park after school and the local rec department, play the little board games, but that's over at like five or six. My folks don't get home until eleven, I don't have anything to do, so I stayed at the park and I started hanging out, getting to know the local gang members. That's how I first encountered that situation.

Claudia: Did you ever get involved in any of them?

JC: Yes, I did.

Claudia: Can you tell me a little about how that was like and what you did?

JC: I wouldn't like to recount on the things I did because they're not something that I'm really proud of. But [Pause] I can say that I wish I had another chance. That's pretty much it. Recounting everything is kind of like a pointless situation, it's just a lot of suffering worded in different ways. I'm sure I'm not the first guy who probably told you that. The fact of the situation is simple—and I think it's better to be put this way—there's a lot of suffering going on, and it's not just me. It's a question of not only who you are or where you live or if you speak English or you don't, most people that go from here to the United States, they go to work and when they've got small children those children are alone at home. There isn't much for us out there, especially when we don't even know the language, so the only people that will stick their hand out to us or say "Hey, you're okay," are these guys.

JC: You guys might call them scum, but they're the guys that lifted my hand. They're the guys that told me you're okay, they're the guys who told me we don't care if you speak English or not. So, they kind of became my family, I had no other choice, you know? So that's how I encountered them.

Claudia: So, you have kids.

JC: Yes.

Claudia: Who are American citizens.

JC: Yes. Yes, I do, very much. [Araya 00:10:27] Elizabeth, she's twenty-six. I've got Julia Angelica and Julian Angel, they’re brother and sister, two different mothers. Julian is nineteen, Julia is seventeen, and that's it. They're over there, I keep in touch with them, they're doing very well. This is to express what's going on, you know inside, so I'm not going to beat around the bush. You could tell that these kids have got real bad daddy issues. So even now that I'm not even there, I see how everything that has happened is not only affecting me, but even generations after me are being affected by this whole situation. They know that I'm good, they know that I'm not a gang banger anymore, they know that I work, they know that I'm good. They know that I'm a regular person, but they still don't have me. They're old now, they're probably not going to need me, but there are some issues that they're going to deal with the rest of their lives, and that's not a good thing for anybody. I wouldn't wish that on anybody.

Claudia: How would that be different if you had stayed in the United States?

JC: I think the simple fact of knowing that you've got a father figure in your life makes a big difference. I know this for a fact, and the U.S. knows this for a fact. The government knows this for a fact, and the prison industry knows this for a fact, because we all know. I've been to prison, I know it's a business. And I know who runs all the PIA industry, the prison industry authority, I know who's running all the USBs as well. It’s all government people behind all them names and they're working for themselves, so they get these tickets and they have people working for them for basically nothing. It's slave labor. And they're also getting paid for having you be a slave at the same time. It's business all the way around. And they know that if a father figure is not home, having them in prison for some stuff that maybe they could find an option for. I'm not saying that people do bad things they deserve good things, no. But I'm saying that there might be options.

JC: You can't just keep sticking people in prison all the time, you can't keep throwing them away. The problem is still there, you can't hide it anymore. It's happening. People are going out, and people are shooting people. The laws are getting stricter and people out there, they think if I'm going to go to prison for the rest of my life I might as well hold court right here in this place. And the government knows that if a father figure is not home their kids are more than likely going to end up being a low paid slave laborer in prison as well. Those are numbers, and that's something that can't be denied, you know? I was stupid and I fell into that number game. I regret that, but somebody needs to hear that, they need to know what's really going on.

JC: It's not about somebody did a crime, it's about how they’re setting us up. How could I stick my foot out then you fall and say you fell on your own? No, you didn't do that. You didn't do that brother. Or let me help you up. Nobody's saying that anymore, nobody reaches out their hand to help you up. And the way things are nowadays with media and everything that's accessible, people are just getting more desensitized everyday. Everyday people care less and less. It's a very grim future.

JC: As far as the migrants here, we're having a real bad time. It's not easy. Sixty-five pesos an hour sounds like a lot to somebody who lives here, but I want to take my family out for a vacation and I'm never going to be able to do that with sixty-five pesos an hour. Never, ever going to be able to do that. I'll save ten years and won't have enough money. These are things that are going on. People get deported, nobody cares about them. You're trash on the street. They don't even care enough to give you a piece of paper that's valid in Mexico. So you get out, you're nobody. Just because you get out dressed because you just got out of prison and they just did you over, you're clean, you just took a shower, but they just give you a dirty blanket and put dirt on your face, you're any guy on the street. You know what I mean? That's what's going on. So we've got to start from nothing.

JC: So all these things go on in the deportees minds—it's the different culture, it's the “Who am I here? Where do I go to get my paperwork? I miss my family.” It's emotional, psychological, economical, you name it. There's nothing you don't go through when you go through this process. But it's livable. I've lived it. It can be done. But nobody deserves that. Honestly.

Claudia: Tell me about prison, tell me about how you got back to Mexico—what happened?

JC: I got busted for—I think it was possession of a controlled substance. It had been a series of things, it was escalating, but it wasn't like I tried to kill somebody or murdered anybody. It was just like I was just a kid who loved to get high and be in the street.

Claudia: How old were you at that time?

JC: I was about twenty-five. So then anyways, I went to prison and after that I went to the feds, did the fed time. And about a month before I was to get out … Oh another thing, when you're a person that's going to get deported or they've got you written down like that—somebody should at least hear this—you can't even get a job in federal prison if you're not a legal citizen. But you're forced to live there. So, if you've got a case number where you're going to be deported, you can't work and get paid like every other individual does. Or at least at the time that I was there, and I was at Jessup State Prison now.

JC: So even before you even get out you've got to find what to do—you find yourself tattooing somebody, scarring them up for the rest of their life because you want to put some in your locker, you want to eat something. So, there you go. Pick up another six months, thank you very much sir. “Can I have a job?” ”No you can't.” Then you get out and, as I mentioned they don't give you any valid job in the US, and even if you get a little check, it's going to be a big old thing for you to even cash it in Mexico. You get robbed for like I don't know, say 20% of whatever you've got. So, if you've got $20 and that's going to be like 400 pesos for you, and they're taking 50, that's going to hurt you. So that's another thing.

Claudia: You got deported after you were in prison for how much time?

JC: Four and a half years.

Claudia: Four and a half years [Emphasis]? Wow, I thought it was only three months. So you were in immigration—

JC: In immigration for three months.

Claudia: For three months, and then you were four and a half years in jail.

JC: Yes ma'am, yes.

Claudia: And you couldn't work and get paid.

JC: No. You cannot. In federal prison you cannot, at least in the time while I was there, ma'am, you cannot.

Claudia: Wow.

JC: Yeah.

Claudia: Sorry for reacting like that, I just thought it was three months.

JC: No, no, no, it's three months at terminal island. They went to go see me, they pick me up, then they took me over to South Carolina. South Carolina, they flew us to Oklahoma, Oklahoma out to Marsh Air Force Base in California, and from there to Long Beach.

Claudia: Did you try to fight your immigration case, or you couldn't?

JC: I wasn't provided all the information necessary to be able to make an adequate evaluation of whether it was worth it or not. They just said "You're gone, no matter what, you're going to be gone, you want to fight it? You're going to be here a couple of years and then you're still gone." Okay, so do I want to stay in prison a couple of years in the US, or do I just want to get out after doing four and some change? I think I want to get out. But then I got on and I found out that due to the fact—that as I mentioned—I had already been under the amnesty law I could have applied for some benefits, I think that's what they call it.

Claudia: Do you know a little bit more about the amnesty law that you can tell me?

JC: I just remember that ... I was real young, and I never really cared about that to be honest with you. I know it's kind of dumb. But I grew up like if I was a kid from over there. I had all these struggles going on, but basically, I never thought about Mexico, ever coming back, it never even crossed my mind. That's not something that I thought of. I thought I would be living with mom and dad. Basically all I remember is that all you have to do is prove that you have been going to a public school for five years or more and if you were underage, automatically your paperwork would start. And I was provided with a social security number and everything. So I even had a social security number.

Claudia: And you still got deported.

JC: Yes.

Claudia: Yes.

JC: Yes, so I would imagine, I see a lot of people that didn't have anything at all, and they were having action for the same things I was getting deported for, and I was wondering why. But they knew what they were doing. The court system and the law system in general, it's a psychological game. And they know how to play it real well. They know where to put pressure. So, they knew what to do with me when I was at that point where like sign here, get out, or stay here. They know what they're doing. And the public pretender, because they're not defenders, that they gave us, they didn't provide much help. They basically reiterated what the previous person had said to us. They weren't no help.

Claudia: [Pause] so, you've been here now about seventeen years.

JC: Almost, yes seventeen years.

Claudia: How was the return?

JC: Rough. Really, really rough. As I mentioned, you've got no paperwork right here in Mexico, you've got no paperwork, you're a nobody. It's not like they run your prints like in the states and they know who you are, it's not like that. So basically, you're nobody. You have to start with the most menial jobs. Obviously hazardous probably to your health or whatever—very bad pay, and you're subject obviously to living … How could I put it this way? You live at the expense of what you're making, which means if you have a menial job, you have a menial life. Simple as that. So very much a lot of things missing from my home. Wasn't able to take a shower, a hot shower, for years, two years, three years—I think until I was more or less on my feet, because it does take a while.

JC: I started off working night clubs, obviously exposed to the same kind of situation that I had been in the United States. Found out I didn't want to be about that, I said you know what I'm going to try this out. So I started trying to look for other jobs and then after about the third year I stopped actually concentrating on not being in the United States and actually started thinking about living here. I said I'm going to take some courses. I took computing courses and some data management courses, and I started looking for better jobs until I came here. I came back here.

JC: I started off in Tijuana, and then I came here because over there, there's still a lot of the same situation going on, a lot of people being deported, a lot of things going on over there, I didn't want to keep seeing and it brought a lot of pain to me. To see a lot of good people in bad situations. I don't know if you've ever been down there, have you ever been down there?

Claudia: Not to Tijuana, no.

JC: Well one time if you ever do get a look or get a chance to go, you'll see a lot of people, could be you, could be me, could be anybody you're looking at and they're sitting in gutters, in the wash, because they don't know where to turn to. They didn't have the resources or maybe they didn't have the mentality, or maybe they weren't prepared, or maybe they were depressed, to start looking for a solution for what they're living in. There's people down there that have been living there a lot of years and they just can't get out of the fact that they've been deported. That's a very sad situation. So, I decided to come over here and found this job at this call center and I've been here ever since. We're doing good, we're supervising now, we're doing good.

Claudia: That's good. Growing up did you know you were undocumented?

JC: I wasn't really undocumented. So, I told you, since I could remember, they started that amnesty thing for me.

Claudia: Because of the amnesty thing.

JC: Right. So, I remember going to junior high I remember maybe, maybe in high school, maybe ninth grade— I went to my last hearing, I remember. I don't remember where the building was, I don't know if it was CCV, criminal courts really, downtown LA. I don't remember where it was, but we went over there, had a hearing. Supposedly I was supposed to come back, and then all the prison stuff started and I just never went back. I guess eventually it caught up like this guy isn't showing up, it's over, but I don't remember when that was. I never really noticed when that happened.

Claudia: That's interesting. Okay. Thank you.

JC: No problem at all.

Claudia: All right, so now going back to coming to Mexico, you mentioned in the survey bureaucratic difficulties as one of the challenges, can you speak a little bit more on that?

JC: Yes, most definitely. First of all, you know you're coming from the States, you look like you're from the States, and you're in any border town, you're going to get gaffled up by the police. Especially if you're hanging out, because obviously you've got no home, you ain't got all the money in the world to be hoteling it, so eventually you're going to be hanging out somewhere—I could talk about Monterrey and Tijuana because I've been to both of them. If you don't have an ID, they could just pick you up and take you to jail for thirty-six hours without you having anything or having done anything. I think it's some law called conflictive zone or something like that.

JC: But any border town has that law. How am I going to have an ID if I don't have any paperwork, I don't even know where to get one? I don't have a residence so now I'm just going to be hiding from the police running every time they come. So that's just to begin with. Once you get started and try to do whatever you've got to do, it costs a pretty penny to try and get your stuff together. Luckily, I had my mom in the United States, she was able to send me my birth certificate. With that I got started or else I would have had to pay a couple thousand pesos just to get that. And where would I get the money from once again if I'm not working, right?

JC: So, we're back again to very, very, very few options. We're kind of in the continuation of the systematic thing that's going on in the States. I’m sure somebody that's planning to deport somebody thinks about what may or may not happen during that process. So, I'm sure that a person sitting in the States figures that in order to be a justified US citizen you must have some sort of documentation verifying who you are. So it should be like that in any country. Right? But they know they're not providing us with that. So basically they're setting us up to be in the same crime. Who's going to hire me? Who's going to provide me with an opportunity to get all my stuff together? Where is the funds going to come from to be able to get established? You know what I'm saying?

JC: Aside from that I've got to already run from the cops every time that I see them because I don't have an ID. You're already institutionalized, you come from a place where the mentality is already wicked, right? So, it's an ongoing thing, it's a snowball thing, it's not just a one thing, it's a continuation of the same thing. I didn't jump from one stage to another, I'm living the continuation of my deportation. This moment is a continuation of my deportation and if it would ever help me to get back [Chuckles], that would be great, but this is just something else that continues off of the same scenario, people getting deported. Living environments, predispositions. That's pretty much it.

Claudia: Before I ask you something else, I want to ask you if you could tell me one thing that's been the hardest for you since your return, other than all of the ones that you've already said.

JC: The hardest thing is the emotional separation. The emotional separation and the shock of… it's my culture, because I belong nowhere, you know? That's the hardest part, knowing that I'm from nowhere. Like I'm not really from here. I'm not American, but I'm not from here either, you know? So I think that's the hardest part.

Claudia: A lot of migrants—we've been doing this for over a year and a lot of them tell us I'm neither here nor from there, is that how you feel?

JC: Yes. Yes. Well I feel like I'm from there, I'm just rejected. It's kind of like the black sheep of the family. The whole family is rejecting you. But I'm American, everything I do is American, the way I think is American, my speaking is American, my thoughts are American. I don't process words in Spanish. You speak to me in Spanish, I've got to translate from English to Spanish to speak to you. You know? So yes, I'm just kind of a non-wanted American child then. That's the way I feel pretty much.

Claudia: That's a very good way to put it. I think it really comprises a lot of what we've been hearing.

JC: Yes. Because it's true. You know, my whole mentality—I could tell you program shows from probably even before you were born such as the “Howdy Doody” show. And stuff like, the first words that would ever come out of my mouth in English and at that age if I'm barely learning to speak anyway, so you know, we're American. My solution is that's why I'm so successful in my job, because when American customers call in and they have issues and they need to talk to somebody who understands their way of thinking then they put me on the phone, because I understand the way they look at things. See, American people are real practical, right? It works or it don't work. If it don't work, why don't it work, I need it to work, and if I'm entitled to something, make it work. That's the way they think, and Mexican people don't think like that. A lot of people, they're bilingual, they go and take calls, but they don't understand the American thinking aspect of things. So they're unable to communicate.

Claudia: I'm curious as to how you've been able to go from being a part of a gang to being a part of that lifestyle in the States to doing what you're doing now in Mexico and leaving that behind, and kind of the thought process behind that decision.

JC: Basically, I was stuck at a point where I'm in a place where I don't want to be and I'm always thinking of a place where I'm not going to be at, so I've got to start doing something to get to where I want to be. I figured I got to start laying down a track record. So eventually, when I do attempt to try to do something about this situation, I have something to back me up. Like hey man look at me, this is me, this is the guy you're dealing with. It's been this much time. This is where you left me and look at where I'm at. I want to see my family, I want to hold my kids.

Claudia: And I'm to understand that you have family here in Mexico, that you have a wife—

JC: Yes, I have a wife and two little girls here, yes I do. Very beautiful. Her name's Lupe. I've got a little girl, she's eleven, her name's Layla, and the youngest one her name's Rosita, she's six. Layla is getting out of sixth grade so she's going over to junior high, or “secundario” as they call it here. She's really excited for her graduation, which is coming up in almost like a month. So, we're ready for that, went and got the dress and everything, it's really nice. Yes, I mean, living a normal life. But I've got to be honest with you, I still miss that part of me. I still miss the fact I wish I would be able to get at least a job at McDonald's. I know I'd be able to take care of them a lot better than I can with this job here.

Claudia: You can't get a job at McDonald's in Mexico?

JC: Yes, but they don't pay the same [Chuckles].

Claudia: Ah, okay I see what you mean.

JC: Right?

Claudia: I see what you mean, yes.

JC: I mean a person that works at McDonald's … I work in an office building. People think that it's nice, I don't know why. It's just another place. But yes, you're inside, you don't see anything.

Claudia: Well you see the fancy security guards out front and you're like “Oh shit.” [Laughs]

JC: Yes right. I mean, basically, it's not a good good job. You can't really live really good like a normal job. Like I said, I'll never be able to take a vacation with my family. That sucks. I work hard, I'm an honest guy. Whatever has happened in the past, it's over with now. And I think as a working person—I've been working for the past almost six years here, almost—I deserve that, and I'm never going to be able to get it. Yes there's a lot of things I still miss about over there.

Claudia: I want to know a little bit more about how you've taken what you've learned in the United States and what the United States made you as and applied it to your life here in Mexico, if that makes any sense at all.

JC: Yes, of course. As I mentioned, I feel American. So obviously I have very, very rooted patriotic type things in me, about the United States, even though I haven't been treated correctly I feel, it makes no difference. I know I was maybe not the best guy, but anyway. Of course, I grew up watching TV, I've seen all the Budweiser commercials and all the American flags flying and halftime at the Super Bowl and all of that [Claudia laughs]. So, of course I feel that, of course.

JC: My thinking is I want to be number one. My thinking is I want to keep reaching for my goals. My thinking is I can do this. That's what I was taught. My thinking is all the things that I told you my teachers taught me. The kindness of Mrs. Mercado for instance, the way she showed me English—correct English, not just spoken off of the TV. That care, I use that everyday in my life, that has stuck with me. The thing that you can do this. Don't be typified by what somebody says you are. Because I was already a little gangster when I was in school. But Mr. Mulligan said “Hey, you're not just that. You've got a brain, you can use that.” And he showed me that I could be much more than what people think that I can be, or what society thinks that I should be. So I'm still all of that. I've got all of that. Of course, I do.

Claudia: Do you still root for American teams?

JC: Well I'm going to be honest with you, okay? Not in soccer [Both laugh]. But all the other sports obviously yes. My favorite team, and I hate to admit it, has been the Rams ever since Jerome Bennis was with them back in the early 90s. I remember the LA Lakers—also my favorite team back in the day when Abdul Kareem Jabbar and Magic Johnson were still in the team—way back before Magic had AIDS. Obviously, the Dodgers, I love going to the stadium. When I couldn't get into Dodgers Stadium, I remember going in front right over the five freeway, right at Griffith Park, and I'd watch the game straight from the park, just across the freeway you could look right into the field. I mean all of that, of course, I love all of that. I love fourth of July, I love going to Long Beach on fourth of July and watching the pier fireworks, all of that.

Claudia: What about hotdogs and hamburgers? And that sort of stereotypical American thing?

JC: Yeah everybody loves that. Since there's so many things to choose from over there, I was just into specifically little things from certain places. I remember going to Shakey's Pizza and getting the mojo potatoes, those are so good. Or going to The Hat and getting a pastrami or going to Tommy's Burgers and getting myself some chili cheese fries. All of that of course is good, really good. I hope to have one of those again one day. Or at least I would like to have a restaurant over here.

Claudia: Yes. And yes, American music, all that—

JC: Of course.

Claudia: Any favorite bands?

JC: I'm really into oldies, so I'm into the old groups. Like Brenton Wood, Tina Marie, Al Green, Teddy Pendergrass, Al B. Sure. A lot of them, I like that.

Claudia: Cool. So those were fun questions, let's go back to the other ones [Chuckles].

JC: Let's go ahead.

Claudia: If you could have stayed in the United States what do you think you would have done?

JC: I would have eventually been the right hand of my father. He's an old man now, and he's having a hard time. He has a really nice business and he needs somebody. And I would have been there probably. That's where I would have been. I would have been a regular man like I am now, working with my father, and taking care of him. Which is another reason why I want to be over there. They're old, they're going to need somebody to take care of them eventually—they're already established, they've got their home there, their whole life is established there. My mom's pensioned off. She's real sick, she needs to be near her doctors, so she goes to Kaiser and she needs somebody to take care of her. So I would be there with her. That's where I would be.

Claudia: Did you say that your parents became citizens?

JC: Yes, both of them are American citizens.

Claudia: What is your dad’s business?

JC: He's a general contractor.

Claudia: Now that you're back in Mexico, I know you've been here for a couple years, but still what would you like to do, what are your goals, what are your dreams at this point?

JC: Well obviously I would like to have a little business right here. I've been thinking about a couple of different things. I think in Mexico City you've got to be practical, this isn't like the United States. So, I think here people need to get places and people need to eat. So, it's either going to be transportation or some type of food ordeal. I would like to do that, I see myself doing that. Maybe within the next two to three years because you've got to make an educated investment. There's a procedure for that, you've got to have a certain amount of money to cover you for at least the first six months and so on and so forth. So, I want to make sure I'm set correctly, I want to make sure I give it the best option possible. I'm thinking three years I'll be doing that, and I'm also planning to next year start some courses right here at my job, university courses. Hopefully I get back to computer-oriented design and do that for a little bit.

Claudia: For my last set of questions, I'm going to ask you some that are a little bit more reflective, not necessarily about your experience, but then we can go back to that. So what do you think that the Mexican government can do to help returning migrants reintegrate into Mexican society?

JC: First of all, give them paperwork to begin with. That's the least you could do. That's not even a necessity, that's just a right. You had to be somebody. I wouldn't put that as a suggestion, I would put that as a definite must. Then as a suggestion, maybe try to open up some centers—not the migrant centers where migrants come from other parts of the country and even further down south and they take care of them, no, the reverse. More centers where they help people like us to get started. I know there's a couple of them. I know the guy here, I've heard about him, he's doing a good thing. Hopefully it pans out, I wish I could help.

Claudia: You can.

JC: Yeah?

Claudia: Yes. You can volunteer.

JC: That would be great. I would love to do that. More services like that. Because as I mentioned, there's a lot of terribly bright people, good people with skills, with intelligence, fully able, and they're just rotting away. Feeling like they're nothing. They're human too, you know? I was lucky I escaped from all of that, because I had family. Because I had a base. A lot of people don't have that, and they deserve it.

Claudia: Yes.

JC: I think as humans we need to look out for each other.

Claudia: What can the United States government do to help Mexican deportees and the families that they leave behind in the states?

JC: Oh my goodness.

Claudia: I know it's a big question.

JC: [Scoffs, Pause] You know what would be crazy? Maybe it's asking too much and it's an outrageous dream, but I have thought about this before. Why don't you stop messing with us, and you know there's a border, and there's Mexico and there's the US, right? So there should be like a place where people could live that you could actually still be with your family. Like a tolerated area, kind of like either in Mexico or the US, because breaking up families sucks. My kids, I'm telling you, my kids have daddy issues real bad. Probably my son will end up in prison one day. And that really sucks.

JC: I mean it sounds crazy, they've got red districts all over the world, I would think that they would call this a family red district I think, I don't know what that would be, but—

Claudia: A buffer zone or something.

JC: Yes something of that sort because it's obvious that the United States at this point at least is nowhere near making a positive decision for neither the families or the deportees. Right? So they're not ready for it. And even if they start talking about it today, it will still be years before anything happens, and families are still rotting away. People are still suffering. Kids are still asking for daddy. There's somebody right now at this moment right now, I guarantee you ma'am, crying because their mom or their dad or both of them aren't there anymore. Because there are cases like that. So, I guarantee you right now there's somebody shedding a tear. There's somebody, and it's not just the people left in the United States, it's the people trying to get back, they're like “What do I do? I risk it? If I try to go back, they might not even allow me to even attempt to go back legally. What do I do? What are my resources?”

JC: They need information. Right? I think that would be … I think having an area like that even though it sounds ridiculously crazy, would probably be the one solution that would be possible. That way the US could still have the US, Mexico could still have Mexico, and we that are neither here nor there could have our families. Right? Everybody gets what they want.

Claudia: That doesn't sound crazy to me.

JC: Well you know. Land rights are a thing.

Claudia: Especially if we're in Latin America [Both laugh].

JC: But that would be awesome. That would be just great.

Claudia: Yes.

JC: At least a momentary solution.

Claudia: So why do you think that young Mexican men in the United States turn to crimes and gangs? I know you touched on it a little bit, but—

JC: Because there's no real Hispanic leaders. We've got people going out there on TV talking all this, but I don't see nobody going back to the neighborhood. I don't see righteous guys standing up, saying “You know what I lived this experience, I'm going to become a counselor.” You do see a couple of guys that are outstanding stories, we're talking about Mr. Escalante, I got a chance to meet the man. Really, really great. Mr. Mulligan introduced me to him. These are great people, they're Hispanic people. They're great leaders. They took a lot of people out of the streets. But we need more of them. Since we don't have them standing up on their own, we need to develop a program to make them stand up, to show them how to stand up, to make leaders. Not for a leader to be born on their own because that's a difficult situation—we've got everything to lose. We should develop a program where we actually like start proactively installing a network of Hispanic leaders that will help us out.

JC: Like here is our processing center, we're going to send you to Chicago, we're sending you to LA, we've got the same doctrine, we're going to help these people, and we're going to get them off the streets. We're going to show them that being a young Mexican in the United States is something to be proud of. It's not something to be ashamed of. You're not to be typified. That's the things that we need, because one guy can't do it alone. One guy can't do it. Cesar Chavez can't do it, Escalante couldn't do it, and all the people from back on the sleepy lagoon days, the people that got shot at the Horseshoe Bar from [Unclear 00:50:23] and all that. These are things that have happened in our culture, a lot of times. Sometimes I wish we were black, these people they've come from a bad situation and have learned that they've got rights. And us as Hispanics we still haven't learned that.

JC: We haven't learned to value ourselves. We haven't learned to accept, let people in general know the value that we have to them as a country and as individually. We add to the culture of the United States. We work the jobs that nobody wants to work, all the jobs that are paid too little for people to even want to work them. That's the things that we need. Those are the programs that we need to send money into. Privately if need be. I would give whatever I make here, I would give money if they would say “Hey we're starting a center where we're going to develop Hispanic leaders to get people out of gangs and off the streets and off drugs.” I would give to that. I've lived through it, I know what it's like and I know it's eventually not going to end up right so I would want to avoid that for another human being, right? I think that's what we need.

Claudia: This is a similar question, but on the other hand, what can the Mexican government do to prevent migrants who return from turning to crime and gangs and organized crime I guess, all of that, upon their return to Mexico?

JC: There's nothing Mexico can do at this time for us. At all. Because they need to get over their corruption first. A sick man cannot help a sick man, right? So, it's never going to happen. These guys are never going to care about us. Imagine this, so Mexican government gets some funds to help out their local community. Let's say a park. So, they're going to clean up a park and they're going to put new swings or whatever. They're going to steal half of that money, and this is for the people who are actually normal people. Now take a guy with no documentation, all tatted up, that doesn't even know the language correctly, that has to run from the cops every time that he sees them, do you think that these guys are going to care about them when they're provided funds for them to do something for them? Oh no, it's not going to happen.

JC: So the first thing Mexico needs to do is heal before they can start trying to help heal others. We're never going to get any help. The only people that can help us is other people, maybe like myself. Maybe if one day I have something I'll be able to go over there and maybe start a little home where people could come and get their stuff straight and go on about their business, right? But Mexico can't help us. They're not ready.

Claudia: Yes, it's interesting because I feel like that same line of thinking you could also apply to the United States in so many ways, and so many other places.

JC: Right. It is happening, but the fact that there's Mexicans in the United States and there's laws in the United States, and there's righteous voting in the United States, or at least for the time being, right [Claudia laughs]? We don't know what these funny things going on what may or may not happen, right? But—

Claudia: We've got two years to find out.

JC: But in the meantime, I think we've got a better shot over there than we do over here. Yeah, we need that, of course we need that. But we've got a better shot of getting help from over there, at least from the private sector. Let's not talk about the government because, I mean—[Pause] it sounds real harsh and it probably sounds something that's going to sound negative towards the purpose, but you can't feed somebody in their mouth, you've got to work for it, right? So there's got to be some people that stand up and say “You know what, man, we're going to start this on our own and then we're going to look for help from the government, but let's do this.”

JC: Not this “We're not going to do nothing until the government starts helping us.” And I think that people could actually could request for Mexican or any deportees to be provided some kind of legal paperwork that validates who you are before they let them go. I think that could be worked out. I think that the person verification process in the United States is good enough for any other country in the world to say “Yes they know who they're talking about, and allow them to provide us at least with a temporary ID just to start with.”

Claudia: This is my last question, it may be more like a double question, but it goes along with the whole idea of paperwork. Why doesn't the Mexican government validate the American paperwork, and why do you think that people in Mexico have such a negative perception of returning migrants?

JC: First of all, most people right away think and they're not entirely wrong, “Bad people man. They're getting deported, they're coming from prison.” So I think justifiably the Mexican people have somewhat the right to be afraid of us. I'm going to explain to you why. Because just like we're fed stuff that is said about the American people, the Mexican people are also fed stuff about what the Mexican people living in the United States are like, and that's not a pretty picture. I can say that very, very strongly because I have some really, really nice friendships with people here in Mexico that have costed me a long time to be able to come about to be, because of the apprehensions that they had over the fact that I was a deportee. So it's difficult, it's a difficult question.

JC: That people don't look at us the right way—with a lot of reason—but it's like we're being projected in a certain way. I think the only way that we could get rid of that is by doing programs that allow people to see us in a different way. Whatever it would be. Have people out there working to ... how can I say it, to kind of lobby us into regular jobs. So people could see like, “Hey there's this guy all tatted up working in an office building. He was pretty cool, he's an intelligent guy. He's not that bad. He's not a drug addict. I mean he looks like he's not that type of person, you know.” Where they could might give us a chance, and that I think will chain ball into people thinking it different.

JC: There's always a difference as far as the tattoos are concerned, Mexican people before, if they've seen somebody with a tattoo, I mean it was practically call the cops on them, now everybody has them. It's a culture thing now. So, I think they're going to come around. But as far as with the deportees in particular, we need to be projected into regular, everyday tasks, so people can kind of look and learn type deal, you know? That's how I think it could be solved.

Claudia: Well those were all the questions that I had, I know it's a lot and a lot to talk about, so thank you again. And now what I want to do is I want to give you the chance to say whatever you want to say right now, either something that you feel like you didn't tell me, or something that you want me to know, or anything else that you'd like to add or clarify or whatever. This is kind of just a free for all reflection moment or whatever for now.

JC: I would just like to say that we as people living in this situation, we need to unite and try to do something about it. I think people in general should take a step back and look at the whole situation, and look at what's going on and look at what it's causing, and maybe at that point they will see that the steps that they're taking at this time, they're not fixing anything, and they're not going to fix anything, and these people have had this information for many, many years. Since like the sixties or the seventies. They know that if a parent is not at home, their child is, I don't remember the exact percentage, but it's over eighty something percent that that person is also going to be in prison. So it's either one of two things, we that are going through this wake up and see that we're a victim, or the people that are doing it—and aren't doing it in a bad way—take a step back and look at what's really going on and figure out another way to do things.

JC: Just figure out another way. You don't have to let us back, but just figure out another way to let us do things. You don't have to fix my life, but stop wrecking more lives. You don't have to fix my son's life, but don't take another person's son’s life away from them too. What's happened to me has already happened, I'm trying to deal with it. Hopefully one day I'll get to go back, but you should stop doing it to other people. It's not a good thing, and it's not going to stop. It hasn't stopped or diminished, it's actually increased in the past seventeen years that I've been here. So as far as that it's going to get better and all this stuff that's being put out by the parties or whatever, government will be, that this is actually going to fix it— I'm living proof because I've been here for seventeen years, and I've seen how this situation has only gotten worse, and the way that it's going it doesn't look like it’s going to get any better.

JC: So just be sensible. Think. Step back. Look. Regroup. Take responsibilities and act now, because later on there's going to be hundreds of thousands of people and no matter if they put a wall or whatever they might put, if they put the Great Wall of China there it's not going to stop anything. I mean, it's a known fact, these are just little things that are going on to try to deter the people from actually looking at the human factor and the suffering that's going on and the fact that what they're doing is not doing anything to help. That's pretty much it.

Claudia: Are you satisfied with everything that you've told me? Are you good?

JC: Yes. Thank you.

Claudia: No, thank you.

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