Laila

Interviewee

Lizzy Cannon

Interviewer

June 8, 2019

Mexico City, Mexico

Wishing Americans could be more open-minded

1 of 10

--:--
--:--

*To hear more about Laila listen to the playlist above

Elizabeth: We can start wherever you want, but maybe a good starting place could be when you came to the US from Mexico. How old were you? What happened?

Laila: Well, I was actually three years old when my parents decided to go to the States looking for I guess, a better life. That's what my mom has always told me. She took me and my nine-year-old brother across the border walking when they decided to go. My dad actually went first and then we went second. I lived there for around thirteen years, mostly all my life. Yeah.

Lizzy: You surely were too young to have any memories of walking across the border or—

Laila: I vaguely remember it was very cold because it was nighttime. We actually got detained four times before being able to cross.

Lizzy: Wow.

Laila: Yeah. One time the border patrol was actually very nice to us and gave us water and all that, but that was a very long time ago.

Lizzy: And you say one time they were nice to you out of four times?

Laila: Yeah.

Lizzy: Do you know what the other times were like?

Laila: Well, mostly from my mom that she has actually told me most of what happened. She says that the first couple of times we were detained, they were just taken back and left at the border. Just go away, go home. There was one time she was actually carrying me. She actually carried me the whole time because I was three so and she says it was around rain time. The shrubs were very tall and all the spines and all that. She didn't want me to get injured, but she actually fell on a rock and got a hole in her knee and she couldn't walk. When the border patrol saw that, they aided her and they gave us water and they wanted to help her. They couldn't really give her medical treatment, but they just helped her get back across the border. She says that one of them told her to go home. Not risk her kids and there was no reason for that. [Pause] There was no reason for that [Chuckle], but I guess my mom says she's very stubborn. So she wanted to reunite her family and we were able to cross on the fifth time [Chuckles].

Lizzy: Wow. Your mom sounds like a strong woman.

Laila: Yeah, she is. She is. She actually helped us a lot [Emotional]. Sorry.

Lizzy: It's okay.

Laila: [Starts crying] To get something better. [Pause] sorry.

Lizzy: You want me to pause to go get tissues?

Laila: Please.


**** Moves to new recording Laila Continued


Lizzy: So this is Lizzy with Laila. So, we were talking about your mom.

Laila: Yeah, [Very emotional] she was actually trying to give us something better because she knew that Mexico didn't really offer much. Thanks to her strong will, we were able to study in the States. My brother was actually able to go to a college in the States as well. [Sniffles] I didn't really get much of a chance to finish high school because my father actually got deported. So it was really hard leaving a life that you've known all your life.

Lizzy: You were sixteen?

Laila: Yeah. I was sixteen. We left my siblings behind. I actually wanted to stay but I didn't have really anybody to help me out and take care of me at the time so I had to come back.

Lizzy: Your siblings stayed behind?

Laila: Yes, they did.

Lizzy: Are they older or younger than you?

Laila: They're older.

Lizzy: Okay.

Laila: They're a lot older, I'm the youngest of five. They stayed, they were able to work and find a place to stay and be a little bit more independent than I was able to at sixteen. Once I came back it was just mostly me by myself with my parents.

Lizzy: How long ago was that? How old are you now?

Laila: I'm twenty-four. Actually, it was quite a while ago. It's been about nine years since I've been back.

Lizzy: Do you have any memories of that first day that you arrived back in Mexico?

Laila: Yes I do [Laughs through tears]. I was happy because I got to meet a lot of family that I had never thought I'd be able to meet, but at the same time I was very sad and very depressed because I knew that it wasn't going to be easy for me to be able to see my brothers and my sister again. They are undocumented so they can't just come whenever they want to. It's been about ten years since I've been able to see them.

Lizzy: That's a long time.

Laila: It is, and it is very difficult. Very difficult on my mom especially, because she left her kids behind. She was able to stay with me, but I think if I was a little bit older, I would have also stayed and I wouldn't have come back here to Mexico. It was very difficult. Everything's very new. There was a certain language barrier. I was—

Lizzy: Yeah, I was going to ask, how was your Spanish when you got back?

Laila: It was very poor [Laughs, still emotional]. I knew the basics, but sometimes I'd start a conversation with a family member or somebody and then they'd start saying a couple of words that I didn't understand, and I would actually be like, "Oh, what does that mean?" A lot of people would say, "Oh, well it means this." But a lot of others would just laugh and they'd be like, "How could you not know Spanish if you're Mexican?" And it’s like, yeah, I'm Mexican. I know the basics but—I don't know, it was very confusing. My mom used to always say that we were kind of nomads because we weren't from the States. We were raised there but we're not from the States, but we weren't from Mexico either because we may have been born here, but we didn't know anything about it.

Lizzy: Do you still feel that way now? Like a nomad?

Laila: Sometimes it does. It does feel difficult like that, it does. It may be a little bit easier now because I'm a lot older and I kind of understand a couple of more things, but it does feel like I don't belong in Mexico.

Lizzy: Do you consider yourself Mexican or American or both?

Laila: Mostly, I would say both. I would say both even though I don't have a paper to verify that I'm from the States. I know the language, I know the history, I know a lot of more things from the States than I do for my own country. I would like to consider that I am a part of the States as well. [Chuckles]

Lizzy: How much would you say? Like fifty/fifty, or, which percent?

Laila: It would be, probably a seventy/thirty. Seventy percent from the States and a thirty percent from Mexico [Chuckles].

Lizzy: Because that's where most of your life was.

Laila: Yeah, most of it. Probably, I didn't think that I would come back and live back here in Mexico, but I guess I'm going to be staying a lot longer here. It may change at a certain point, but I still do feel like I am more a part of the States than I am from here.

Lizzy: What do you miss the most about the States?

Laila: I would say my family, mostly. Probably the opportunities that you would get there. In Mexico, it's really hard to get an opportunity. A lot of people are where they are because they know someone [Laughs] or because they've paid to be there and it's really hard trying to be what they would say, the working class. Trying to work your way to a point where you know you're successful and you can say, "I've done a lot of things." But if you're not the cousin of the owner, or if you're not a family member related to somebody in power, it's like you don't have a chance.

Lizzy: You need those connections.

Laila: Yeah.

Lizzy: Do you feel like you don't have those connections because of the time that your family spent in the States?

Laila: Yeah I do. I do. I could say I do have a couple of family members, but I don't feel comfortable, or the need to go and ask for a handout. My mom was never like that, she would always be like, "Work for your own things and do it for yourself." It's really hard. I do have a couple of family members that do that, and are like, "Well put me here." Or, " I want to be in this position because I'm your cousin. I'm related to you in some sort of way." But we're not like that. I don't know if we were raised differently or we saw different things in the States that it’s not really plausible to do that in the States. [Chuckles] There may be a couple of cases where that has happened but there's a lot of more open opportunities in the States so it would be probably that.

Lizzy: Is there anything you don't miss about the States or something that was hard about living there?

Laila: The fear. The constant fear, that actually came true [Chuckles], of your family members being deported or coming home from school because since I was underage, I kind of knew that I was safe from that because they weren't going to raid schools, like middle schools and stuff like that. But it was a constant fear of coming home and being told that, I don't know, your dad's not coming back or your mom's not coming back. And it did happen like that. Unfortunately, my father was working and he was raided. So he got taken away and then when I came back home one day from school, my mom told me. It was really hard.

Lizzy: So you just came home from school one day and he was already taken away?

Laila: Yeah, he was already taken away.

Lizzy: Were you able to visit him in detention?

Laila: No, we weren't since we didn't have any sort of paper that let us go in, or we weren't residents. We didn't have a visa, we didn't have anything.

Lizzy: You had to have papers like that in order to visit a family member?

Laila: Yeah, in detention center. Or you would also be detained. So, we lived for about eleven months before he got physically deported back to Mexico.

Lizzy: That's a long time to be kind of waiting, not knowing.

Laila: Yeah. I didn't even go back to school at that point. I was in high school and my high school got raided a couple of times.

Lizzy: Your high school got raided?

Laila: Yeah.

Lizzy: Can you tell me more about that?

Laila: I was living in Arizona, and at that point the Sheriff Joe Arpaio was actually the current sheriff of Arizona, and my high school was mostly Latino. Mostly immigrants. We were all mostly from fourteen to seventeen, a couple of eighteen-year-olds. And there was one day that there was somebody circling, there was a rumor circling that there was going to be a raid close to the school. We thought well, it's a school. Why are you going to come raid a school? That wasn't even a thought for us.

Laila: We went to school, and at the time that we were going out, there were sheriffs surrounding the school, stopping parents, stopping students, seniors. There was a senior, a girl that we all kind of knew, she was really nice to everybody, she got stopped because the sheriff said that her back light was out or something like that and it was just an excuse to stop her. She didn't have anything. She didn't have papers, so when the sheriff told her "I need to see an ID, I need to see something. She said, "Well I don't have any papers." So, at that moment she got taken in and sent to a detention center.

Lizzy: Oh my God. From a school.

Laila: Yeah, directly from our high school. An in a couple—

Lizzy: Do you remember, like what did you do that day? Did you know that this was happening as you were coming out of school?

Laila: Yeah. I told my parents not to get close to the school. A lot of students had to walk home far distances, scared of their parents going for them because they stayed out there for a while and they were stopping cars coming out of the school. They stopped the teachers, they stopped everybody just because of the color of their skin. You got stopped and you got asked for papers or ID, even though a lot of us knew it was illegal for them to stay outside of a school and ask for papers.

Lizzy: Absolutely.

Laila: They still did it and if you refused to answer, they would still take you in. It was just mostly a lot of kids leaving school through back doors, through the fields, the baseball fields, all of that. They were just jumping the fences and leaving because we were really scared to get stopped. I remember I had to tell my mom to stay away from the school because this was happening. And I actually had a friend who was born in the States and her parents were there legally who offered to take a couple of kids home because they saw that everything that was happening and that they were stopping, like relentlessly, people. Just asking for papers, and so they had to carpool a couple of kids home because their parents couldn't come close to the school.

Lizzy: That's so awful. That's terrifying.

Laila: Yeah.

Lizzy: Where? What part of Arizona?

Laila: ___. ____ and that was just the start of everything. My high school's attendance dropped drastically from 2,500 kids to not even a thousand because they started raiding the schools spontaneously. Just, they wouldn't even tell anybody, and that sheriff started it all in Arizona. A lot of people hated him [Chuckles].

Lizzy: [Affirmative sound]

Laila: Because he was separating families. I remember just telling my mom, "I don't want to go back to school if that means putting you at risk, or putting one of my brothers at risk, I just don't want to go back." And since my father's deportation process was still—we were still going through that as well. I just had to go with my mom to a couple of hearings with her and translate what they were saying and all of the information and all of that.

Lizzy: So, you were in charge of translating for your mom?

Laila: Yeah.

Lizzy: They didn't provide any sort of translator?

Laila: Oh, no, they didn't even really care about the people there.

Lizzy: What was that like as a, you're still a child at that point, having to act as a translator in a high-stress situation like that? What was that like for you?

Laila: It was scary for me, thinking that we were that close to a police officer. It came to the point where I was scared of the police, completely. I couldn't even trust them with, I don't know, an emergency or something because I knew that they might ask me for papers and I would be completely, I don't know, done at that point. I was actually my parent's translator since I was very young. They didn't have a lot of time to learn English, they just decided to work. So, since I was a child, I would always go with them into stores or places where they needed an English speaker, and I would do that for them. They received a lot of discrimination at various parts. We actually, my mom actually, got into a physical fight with a woman at a store because she called her a dirty immigrant and wetback. My mom physically got into a fight with her, and she was an employee of the store, and it wasn't even called for.

Lizzy: The woman that said that to your mom was an employee?

Laila: Yes. Yeah.

Lizzy: Were you there when this happened?

Laila: Yes, I was [Chuckles]. I remember everything she was saying, and my mom was not speaking English, she didn't know what she was saying, and she looked at me and I didn't want to tell her. I was so embarrassed for my mom, for myself, and for everybody there just staring at her and listening to all of the things that she was saying [Emotional]. I just froze, completely. This person kind of knew Spanish, so she insulted my mom in Spanish and my mom absolutely understood that at the first moment. She told her, "You don't need to treat people like this because you work here. It's your job to help people that come here. You don't have to insult them." And this person, she didn't care at all. So, she kept on insulting her and my mom just got completely mad and they went into a physical fight. Both of them. The lady didn't care, she hit my mom, and my mom hit her and it was chaos. And then we got kicked out and they told us that they were going to call the cops and that they were going to call ICE [Immigration and Custom Enforcement] or whatever.

Lizzy: They threatened to call ICE on you?

Laila: Yeah, so we had to leave. Later we knew that if they would have called the cops, we could have probably fought back, legally because they can't physically hit my mom if they're an employee. We were just scared, they scared us out of doing anything by telling us that they were going to call ICE.

Lizzy: Of course you'd be scared. How old were you when that happened?

Laila: I was around eight. I was around eight years old when that happened. We never went back there. Later the store closed completely.

Lizzy: Good.

Laila: It was kind of karma [Both laugh]. But yeah.

Lizzy: That's so awful, I'm so sorry.

Laila: Yeah.

Lizzy: What was it like, did you go to school when you came back to Mexico?

Laila: Not after a while. I was completely in to going to school, but they wouldn't accept any of my papers that I had from the States. I have a lot of, how do you say, grades and all of that.

Lizzy: [Affirmative sound].

Laila: But they don't receive them. They say they're not valid here because they're not from the States. So we have to re-validate all of the studies, and all of the papers, and all that. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of money as well, to re-validate all of your studies so I just got completely frustrated, and I told my mom I didn't want to go back to school. But then when I started working, I saw that I did really need it, so I opted for finishing high school outside of the norm. I'm not going to school but I'm going to Saturday classes and all that, and I was able to get certified for high school. Yeah. But it is really hard to go into school here when you come back from the States when you're smaller because they don't accept anything. You just have to start from zero. So a lot of the subjects are different, or I [Chuckles] noticed a lot of the subjects that they teach are very different. It is difficult to go back to school [Chuckle].

Lizzy: It's like all the work you did at school in the States didn't matter.

Laila: Yeah. Like it doesn't count for them. It was pretty tough.

Lizzy: What was the hardest part about coming back to Mexico?

Laila: I would say leaving my siblings and leaving my home practically. I considered the States being my home, completely. Coming to a place where [Chuckles] the third week that we came to live here, there was a car shot down, completely, and two people killed like right outside my house. That was really scary [Chuckles].

Lizzy: Did you see it happen or hear it happen?

Laila: I heard the gunshots, and when I looked out of my window I just saw two motorcycles leaving at a high speed. When a lot of the neighbors went to the car to see what happened and to see if they could help anybody, there was two kids dead there. They were probably between fifteen to seventeen-years-old. They were pretty young and they were shot down completely there.

Lizzy: This was soon after you got back?

Laila: Yeah.

Lizzy: So they were about your age?

Laila: Yeah, they were about my age and it was really scary seeing that, when in the States you mostly don't see the violence first-hand. You may hear about it and all that, but where I live it's constantly. A couple of months ago, somebody also got killed like a block away from my house. You just hear the gunshots and you just completely freeze. It's really hard.

Lizzy: How much of the time would you say that you're in fear? Like every day? Every week?

Laila: Every day, every day. Especially now with a lot of women getting targeted in where I live—around I live, there are a lot of missing people posters you could say, and they're all from ten to fifteen-years-old.

Lizzy: Wow.

Laila: And they're all little girls. It's really hard, and it's scary being a woman here in Mexico, it's really scary. My mom always says if you're going to go out, be back before the sun is down. If you need help, I don't know, get a taxi or get help or I don't know, just run, she says. Don't freeze because the worst thing you could do is freeze. I don't know, it's really scary when your parents have to tell you that before you go out and have them constantly calling you like, "Are you okay? Is everything okay?" It's really hard. It's really hard.

Lizzy: So it's a very different kind of fear than what you had in the States? Something about how in the States you had to be in fear of the police or ICE.

Laila: [Affirmative sound]

Lizzy: And now here, it's fear of violence. Which one is worse?

Laila: I would say, the fear that I have here because probably with ICE, you know that you're going to be detained and deported. Here, you don't know if you're going to go back home. You don't know if you're even going to make it back home. In the news, constantly, there are women being found dead, beaten, shot. Even when you go into the public transportation, constant fear of having someone get in and shoot a gun. It's constant where I live. Public transportation is probably the worst thing you could go on because it's constant. The people getting on there to rob other people—they just shoot without even thinking twice. They shoot you and they don't care.

Laila: So, it's probably a lot scarier here [Chuckles] than in the States. In the States, you know you may get detained, you may get deported and that's that. But here you're just scared for your life, completely.

Lizzy: I can't imagine. It just sounds terrifying.

Laila: It is. It is.

Lizzy: Is there anything positive about being back in Mexico?

Laila: It would probably have to be getting to know family members that you probably never thought of meeting, or people that, I don't know, they knew you when you were a baby and you don't even remember them. So it's probably the having a lot more family, because in the States it was just me, my mom, and my two brothers and that's it. We didn't have aunts, we didn't have uncles, we didn't have cousins, we didn't have our grandmother. We didn't have anybody and here it’s like, you have your grandma, you have your uncles, they all get together and they have parties and get togethers, cookouts or whatever. It's probably being able to meet more family members. That would be the only positive thing [Chuckles] that I would personally see being here back in Mexico.

Lizzy: The only positive?

Laila: Yeah.

Lizzy: Do you think you'll go back to the States? Or try to?

Laila: I would like to. I honestly would. I would probably look for a legal way to get back in because it's really hard going in illegally. So for me, if I were to go back, I would definitely try to find a legal way to go back in. So that that way, I don't have to live with the constant fear of having to hide from the police, or hide from ICE, or hide from anybody.

Lizzy: And if you do stay here in Mexico, what do you hope for your future? Is it a job, family, yourself?

Laila: I would look for personal growth, trying to get a better job, trying to get more experience in the job area. That would be mostly what I would look forward to if I stayed here in Mexico. One of my personal goals would be to move to the Cancún area with the resorts and all that. I know there's a lot of tourism there and with my English, I think, I would be able to find something stable. And I love the beach, I completely love, I fell in love with Cancún. So, it would be that. Just to fight for something personal, to have something and not depend all the time on asking for handouts. It would just be personally trying to grow.

Lizzy: As a child, when you were in the States, or as a teenager too, do you remember what did you want to be when you grew up?

Laila: I wanted to be a marine biologist. I actually went to a high school where they had that program. They had marine biology there, so it was pretty cool. We had a lot of fish tanks and we were able to see a lot of things. Our school offered scuba diving lessons for free, they would take us to the Catalina Islands to scuba dive in California. But I wasn't able to fulfill that dream of going to the Catalina Islands because of the deportation of my dad and all of that. But yeah, I vividly remember I wanted to be a marine biologist since I was very small.

Lizzy: If your dad hadn't been deported and you had stayed in the States, do you think you would have continued down that path?

Laila: Completely. Yeah. I actually wanted to finish high school and go to UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles]. I think they had a marine biology program there, and I wanted to go to UCLA. I had already told my parents, and they were like, "You're crazy. You're going to go to California by yourself. Like, what are you going to do there?"

Laila: And it's like, I don't know, but I want to be there. I want to do that for a living. I love the ocean, I completely love all of that.

Lizzy: I do too [Laila laughs], it's one of my big passions too, I get that. Yeah.

Laila: Yeah, so I had already had something planned out you could say. But life just comes at you in a different way. So I couldn't finish that. I looked for a program here in Mexico, but they were all in the Cancún area, the beach areas, and very expensive. So I had to put it, a complete stop on that dream and just, I guess, grow up [Chuckles].

Lizzy: Do you think it's a dream that you would ever go back to?

Laila: If I had the means and the money to pay for it, definitely, I would. I love studying all of that. I would definitely go back to it if I had a way to pay for all of the tuition and all of what they asked for, yeah, definitely. I mean, never say never I guess. So yeah.

Lizzy: It's just much harder here.

Laila: It is, it is. Very much harder here. And a lot more expensive, and very difficult to find scholarships and all of that for, I guess, a college education. It is very hard.

Lizzy: So I have... Oh there's so many things I want to ask you [Both laugh], but I don't want to take too much of your time either. But there's a couple things I'm wondering what your ideas are about... So, in the US, do you think, or what do you think the government could be doing differently to support families like yours?

Laila: Honestly, just make it easier for somebody that is willing to work and willing to provide for a better future. Just give them an easier way to be there legally so they don't have to live with fear. A lot of people are like, “Oh it's you guys don't pay taxes, you guys don't do this, you guys don't do that.” And it's like, well if you guys gave us a chance, we would definitely do all of that. And it would be a lot better for a lot of people, I guess, to be there legally and be able to work. Be able to do everything the right way. So I would honestly just think of the government, thinking up better ways for immigrant families to be able to apply for citizenship. A lot of the families that I knew and that were there, they never did anything wrong. They were never, they'd never had a record, specifically for the fear of getting deported, they did everything by the law. And a lot people that have a residency or that were born in the States—I used to think this way—they didn't really take advantage of the things that they had. A lot of the students that were in my high school, they would strive and they would fight for scholarships. They would fight to get into schools and all of that. And a lot of people that are born in the States, they just take it for granted, and they're just like, “Oh it's there, it's whatever.” And for a lot of immigrant kids it’s like, “No, that's everything to us. It's everything to us specifically, because we know what it's like to have absolutely nothing.” For us, it is a lot. It is very difficult for us to understand. Why would you not take advantage of that?

Lizzy: [Affirmative sound]

Laila: I don't know, it's just two different mentalities I guess, because of where we come from and because of how a lot of us are raised. When things are handed to us, we just take them for granted. So, in my point of view, if the US government would want us immigrants to do things correctly and go by their law, they should make it easier for us to do it, to do so. We're not saying we're against paying taxes or against doing this, or against doing that. Like, no. It would, a lot of families would be more than happy to go by the law, but it is just very difficult to get citizenship or something to be able to stay there legally and work.

Lizzy: Nearly impossible for a lot of people.

Laila: Yeah it is.

Lizzy: Do you think that makes immigrants harder workers?

Laila: A lot of them. I do, I do believe that. A lot of them go to the States looking for a better future for them and their kids, to give their kids something that they couldn't have. My parents, they didn't even finish middle school. And to see my brother walk across the stage with his high school diploma in hand, and being able to visit ASU [Arizona State University], because he got into ASU.

Laila: They were super, super happy. He was actually the first generation of our family to go to college. He wasn't able to finish because school was very expensive, and he didn't have a scholarship so it was very difficult for our parents. And as for my father got deported, well it was even more difficult for him to continue studying.

Laila: But he was like the straight-A student. Very smart, very dedicated. His last year of high school he was actually taking university classes. He was in trigonometry and all of that, taking that in his last year of high school, when most of them weren't even close to that. He was a very hard worker at school, but he didn't have the chance to stay. Specifically, because it was a lot more expensive for immigrant people to go to school than for people born in the States.

Lizzy: Right. Right.

Laila: So, yeah.

Lizzy: I'm so sorry. Is there anything that, so we were talking about the government. Is there anything that you wish just average American people understood about migrant families?

Laila: What I would personally like them to understand is, we're not bad people. I mean, a lot of people do bad things, yeah. But it's not because we're immigrant. Everybody chooses what to do. They choose their own path. A lot of immigrant families, like I mentioned, go for a better future for their children and for themselves. A lot of them leave their home countries not because they want to, but because they have to because of violence, because of war, because of a lot of things. A lot of people in the US think that, oh, I'm hearing you don't have the right to be here. But if they lived even a quarter of what the migrant families lived, they would think completely different. It's not nice driving around the city and getting held up at gunpoint with your family and kids in the car, getting told to get out of the car and leave. Because one of my uncles actually got killed that way. He had his five kids in his truck. It was a brand-new truck. He was very excited because he had barely been able to buy it. He was outside of the house, he loaded the kids in the truck, and he was going to go out with them, and a couple of guys came up to the window and were like, "Get out of the truck. Leave the truck. We want the truck" at gunpoint. And he was like, "Let me get my kids out at least. You can take the truck, but my kids are in the car." And they just didn't care and they shot him down in the truck. He died a couple of minutes after he got shot in the leg and I guess it went through one of his primary arteries. And he died because he didn't want to give up the truck with his kids in it.

Lizzy: I'm so sorry.

Laila: So yeah, my cousins had to grow up without their father. It was very difficult. And I wish a lot of families in the US would just think about it. What it would be like to go through something like that. It's not easy.

Lizzy: How old were you when that happened to your uncle?

Laila: I was about two. I was about two years old, before we went to the States. That was another reason why my dad decided to go to the States, because he saw that and he said, "You can't have progress here because if they see that you have something new, if other people see that you have something that you have barely bought or something, they're going to want it and they're going to want to take it away." And to leave your family, or to have your father get killed over a car, it sounds stupid to me, but it's a reality a lot of people face. To get shot down for a car, a motorcycle, for a phone. For a phone. I mean, it's a phone. A lot of people take it for granted, but if you walk around with your phone in hand, you'll get robbed at gunpoint for it. A lot of people don't see that or don't understand that. That a lot of migrant families leave because it is very violent in their home countries. And that's something that I would like for them to try to understand, just a little bit. A lot of violence is just scary, and you wouldn't want your kids to get robbed at gunpoint outside of their middle school because, I don't know, some guys just want their phone. So, yeah [Chuckles].

Lizzy: That's so hard, I'm so sorry you had to go through that. I know you were so young, but I can imagine how terrifying for your family, and how heartbreaking to lose somebody in that way.

Laila: Yeah.

Lizzy: Is there anything that, so kind of switching to the Mexico side now, is there anything you wish Mexican people understood about families like yours that went to the US and came back?

Laila: I would like them to understand that we don't have cash stashed somewhere. It's not like we went to the States and we came back rich. That's illogical to think. And just to have them be a little more understanding of the kids that come back from the States. Personally, I went through a lot of discrimination from my own people because I didn't perfectly know or understand the language. So, I would like them to try to ease on to those kinds of people that come back from the States. And don't think that, oh you're made of cash or you're not Mexican because you don't speak Spanish. I mean it's not that, it's that we're used to something completely different. We went to school in the States, so you couldn't speak Spanish in school because all of your teachers spoke English. Everybody communicated in English so if you know the basics, but you don't know more than that, just don't be mean to those people. It's not fair.

Lizzy: Just like how we hate it when people in the States, if they hear someone speaking Spanish they tell them, "Don't speak Spanish here, speak English." It sounds like kind of that same kind of discrimination happens here if you're speaking English.

Laila: Yeah. I have seen a lot of people make fun of other people for speaking English, and it gets me very angry because it's like, okay so you're on them because they speak English, what does that have to do with anything? If they had the chance to learn another language, that's cool. That's good for them, you know? But they hear other people speaking English, or I've seen British people here going on tours and all that, seeing the city, and other Mexican people see them, or hear them, they start making fun of them. And it's like, why are you making fun of them? There's no point. I have gotten into some conflicts with my cousins, specifically, because they think it’s funny for other people to speak English when for me, it's a privilege to have been able to speak another language other than Spanish. For me, it's an advantage. For my cousins, it's a laughing matter, and it does get me angry because I have told them, "I mean, you wouldn't like to be in the States and speak your native language and have someone make fun of you and tell you don't speak Spanish. No. That's your native language, that's what you know." Don't make fun of other people for that, it's pointless to just make fun of other people for situations like that.

Lizzy: [Affirmative sound] When your family got back to Mexico, was there, did you receive any help from the government or any organizations as a migrant family returning?

Laila: No. None at all. None at all. I think the government here in Mexico also thinks that if you are coming from the States, you're made of money. And they think that you will have everything resolved, and you have everything on a silver platter because you come from the States. And it's nothing like that.

Lizzy: Often the opposite.

Laila: Yeah, most likely the opposite. When you get deported you can't bring anything with you, it's not like you can bring your house with you [Chuckles]. We had our house in the States, it was ours. Well, it was my mom's. She had bought it and she was paying for it but when we got deported, my brothers weren't able to continue paying it, so it got taken away. So my mom said, "It's not like I could have brought it over here. If I could've bought it over here I would have because it was mine." She said all of our hard work and all of our, everything we gave up to have something of our own, it just completely went away.

Lizzy: It got taken away in an instant.

Laila: Yeah, in a blink of an eye.

Lizzy: Do you think the government of Mexico should be doing more to help return migrants?

Laila: I do. I do think that they should help them. I mean, even with the simplest things like housing or provide shelters while they get on their feet, while they're able to find something where they can work and have a decent income. A lot of people here work for, like me, at my first job, I was paid thirteen pesos an hour. So I worked for six hours every day for thirteen pesos an hour. Now looking at it, it was like, why did you even approach that job? It's completely not, it's dumb. But a lot of people, even with my English, even with my knowledge, I worked for that income for about a year. So probably the hardest part if we hadn't come back and had somewhere to stay, would have been housing, somewhere to stay. I don't know, probably an easier way to find a job, a decent job to get back on your feet and be able to do something better for yourself because you're in your home country. It should be easier for you, but it's not. It's really not. Sometimes it's even more difficult when you come back from the States because you're used to a certain type of living and when you get here it's completely a 180. So, I think the government should be looking a lot more to help its own, and to help the returning migrants because we do know it is a current conflict with the States where they don't care. They just don't care. They're like, “you're not from here, we don't have an obligation with you so just go home.” And when they go back to Mexico, Mexico is like, “Well why did you leave?”

Laila: It's like being pushed away from both sides. So, it's really hard.

Lizzy: Like neither side wants you?

Laila: Yeah. It's being rejected from the States and from your home country because even if you do have a high school degree here, they don't think it's valid unless you go and have the institution here in Mexico validate those studies. If you don't do that, it's like your paper's not worth anything. So, it is on both sides. Getting rejected from the States and getting rejected from your own country where you should have it a little bit easier to find a job, to find housing, to find, I don't know, even a decent meal. So, it should have the Mexico government thinking a lot more on our own returning migrants. I knew a couple of people that worked here in Teletech that stayed in Teletech overnight, living there because they didn't have a house, because they didn't have somewhere to rent. They didn't have anything. So, I think the government should be thinking about their own as well. Instead of pushing them away, they should be receiving them with open arms and be like, “we have this and this for you. It's your choice.”

Lizzy: Yeah. I've loved talking to you so much, and I know we're taking so much of your time [Laila giggles] so I should start wrapping up, but it's like there's so many things I want to ask you. But I guess to finish, is there anything you feel like you want to share that you haven't gotten the chance to share? Or any other things that you just want people to understand?

Laila: Just mostly to have an open mind and an open heart to people that don't have papers. Just because we don't have a paper to validate our residency in the States doesn't mean we don't like being there, doesn't mean we don't love the US. In my school we used to always pledge our allegiance to the flag, you know? And a lot of people would be like, "Well you don't have papers, you're not from here so you shouldn't be doing that." And it's like, no. I love being here, I love being in the US. I love all the opportunities I have. It's just that one paper that I don't have. So just to have them be a lot more open minded and open hearted to people like that because, honestly, all those things that are said that Mexico sends their worst, that's not true. I know a lot of people that were in my high school that were actually getting to go on a foreign exchange student to Japan and to other places because they were the top of the class or top of the state. They were going to the best universities and they were all immigrants. So just be a little more open minded to a lot of people like that. And not just Mexican immigrants. Immigrants in general. A lot of people fear immigrants from other places but it's like, no, you don't think we go to the States with fear? You don't think we're scared of being there? Honestly, we are. My parents went to the States without knowing one word of English. So it's scary. It's scary on both sides but just be a little more open to people like that. Yeah.

Lizzy: Thank you. That was beautiful [Both laugh]. You're making me want to cry now.

© 2021 Migration Encounters. All Rights Reserved.

migrationencounters@gmail.com