Anita Isaacs


June 7, 2019

Mexico City, Mexico

Being undocumented

1 of 4


*To hear more about Melani listen to the playlist above

Anita: Hi Melani, let’s begin the survey? How old are you?

Melani: I'm 18.

Anita: Where were you born?

Melani: In Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala.

Anita: Which is Mexico City?

Melani: No, it's another state. It's underneath Puebla, which is right next to it.

Anita: In the state of Puebla?

Melani: No, Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala. The capital and the state are the same name.

Anita: Okay. Sorry. Did you go to school in Mexico before you went to the States?

Melani: Never.

Anita: How old were you when you migrated?

Melani: Two years old.

Anita: Why did you migrate to the United States?

Melani: My dad wanted to have a job in Arkansas because his biological father was living there.

Anita: So would you say, for family reunification?

Melani: Yes, and also for work.

Anita: Okay. How did you cross the border? Did you have a visa or did you just cross the border?

Melani: Both my parents had work permits and they paid a coyote to cross me.

Melani: I crossed through with a car in the desert. Well they had a contact that they had a kid that was around my age and they made me go through as a boy. And so—

Anita: Really?

Melani: Yes. As someone else's child. I got dressed up as a boy so I could cross the border with this other person, and my parents told me that I was supposed to be in San Antonio at seven at night because that's what the coyote told my parents, and they didn't find me until four in the morning.

Anita: Oh my God.

Melani: Yeah, so my parents thought I was already sold to the organ trade or something. My mom was scared and then she found the coyote but they had issues crossing and everything.

Anita: It was a pretty scary experience?

Melani: It was pretty [Affirmative sound]—

Anita: Before they dressed you like a boy, did you have long hair?

Melani: Yes I did [Affirmative sound], but they cut it all off so I could cross with them [Affirmative sound].

Anita: You were two?

Melani: I was two. I don't remember anything. They made me go as someone else's child [Affirmative sound].

Anita: Did your parents tell you what happened? How did you get lost? Do they know?

Melani: They said that the coyote told them that he was going to call them at seven as soon as they got there, but they never called them and they didn't know where to look because they had no other contact with him whatsoever. Until later on that night, they said that they got a call from him at four in the morning and my mom was already scared, but they couldn't go to any authority because it was something illegal to do. So they just picked me up and they just paid him off and then it was over.

Anita: Did you become a US resident?

Melani: No, my grandfather was a US citizen, but we never got anything from him because it was the first time my dad had ever met him and he didn't want to receive any of his help because he would charge him later on.

Anita: Because he would what?

Melani: He would like…if he received anything from his dad, he would later on tell him that everything he had is because of him. He’d be in debt forever.

Anita: So it wasn't a great reunion?

Melani: [Negative sound] no, my dad had never met him in all his life. He was 19 when he left.

Melani: It was horrible because my grandfather had three restaurants and real estate in Arkansas and he was the one that exploited my dad. In Arkansas at that time it was seven dollars an hour and he would give my dad three dollars an hour [Pause] in his restaurant, and my dad figured out that he would only employ illegals, and especially Native Americans that didn't speak Spanish—that they spoke dialects so they wouldn't understand what was going on—and since they didn't know anything because it was a new country to them, he could exploit them and never report taxes.

Anita: Your grandfather who was originally from Mexico…

Melani: Yes, and he came before 1983, which was the amnesty. Yeah, and he got his citizenship from that. His whole family got it, and then he went to look for my dad when he was eighteen or nineteen and he told him, "Come with me so you can work and we can actually be a family," because my dad had never seen him his whole life and my dad wanted a relationship with him he said, "Yes," and he said, "Maybe I can have a better job over there and stuff," and my grandfather was like, "Come and I'll support you." So my dad came and then later on, the next six months passed and he brought my mom and then another year passed and then he brought me [Affirmative sound].

Anita: we hear about Americans exploiting—

Melani: [Affirmative sound] and now it's Hispanics exploiting Hispanics.

Anita: [Pause]You didn't speak any English when you went?

Melani: No.

Anita: But you learned English?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: How did you learn English?

Melani: Nobody really taught me. I would just go to school and listen to everybody's voices—I just went into school knowing just basic English, like "Can I go to the restroom?" Or, "I'm hungry," or "I don't understand." Those were the three words I would know and I would just listen to a lot of voices and what they would say and I just quickly grabbed on to it.

Anita: How would you describe your English skills now?

Melani: Fluent.

Anita: In what cities did you live in the US?

Melani: ____ Arkansas.

Anita: You went to school. How much schooling did you complete?

Melani: Um—

Anita: What grade did you complete?

Melani: I just finished my high school diploma, yeah.

Anita: Did you work in the US?

Melani: No.

Anita: Who did you live with when you were in the US?

Melani: Both my parents.

Anita: Anyone else?

Melani: Never [Negative sound].

Anita: Siblings? No?

Melani: No. I have no siblings.

Anita: Were you frightened of US authorities?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: Did your family send money to relatives in Mexico?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: How many times a year, more or less?

Melani: Every month, so twelve times a year.

Anita: Do you know about how much, guessing?

Melani: Maybe a thousand a month.

Anita: How long did you live in the US?

Melani: Sixteen years.

Anita: Sixteen years. So, let's stop for a second. You said you were afraid of US authorities. Tell me a little bit about that.

Melani: I was afraid because from a young age—well, I really never knew that I was undocumented until I was eight, and my parents told me that I shouldn't be telling people about my family or if we're from Mexico. They kind of made me feel that I should be ashamed to be from here because everybody in society made you feel like that. And they told me that I had to be really careful who I talked to and what I say, since the authorities might come and get my parents.

They told me never ... if they ask you to tell them that you're from here and your family's from here just avoid the question. I said yes, but I really never understood why until I would see deportations -- my family's friends getting deported and going through a lot of problems. Even for simple stuff like driving and just getting stopped for a light that was off or running a speed light or something, something that a regular citizen would do and nothing would really happen, but we would have it harder than them.

I would always be scared, even at school, to even say that I was from Mexico or that my parents were from there or that we didn't have the same opportunities as them because they wouldn't understand, "Why can't you go to the hospital?" Or, "Why can't you apply for certain things, government things?" And I couldn't apply for stuff like that because I knew I was undocumented. So I would be scared to say so, and I would feel like the authorities ... If anything happened to any Hispanic or me or my family, the authorities would never respond, would never do anything because we weren't citizens and they would care less what happened to us. [Pause] like they say, we're like the modern slaves [Affirmative sound].

Anita: What was it like to live having to keep such a secret?

Melani: [Pause] I'd be frightened and I mean—I just didn't like that life. I guess that's why I chose to come back here. But sometimes I question if coming back here was the best choice or not.

Anita: let’s pause the survey and talk—

Melani: I guess it’s because ... it's not home and people have a different culture and different ways of thinking and there's just so many differences. And when I came here it's just such a culture shock and I knew I should adapt, but it's really hard because of the culture and the mindset, which is more conservative. Back home it was more liberal and more accepting of women and different ways of doing stuff - it wasn't church oriented all the time [Affirmative sound].

Anita: Yeah. So, you said “back home.” “Back home” for you is the US?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: You consider the US your home?

Melani: Yes, I consider it home.

Anita: What does home mean to you?

Melani: Home means ... at this point I don't even know what home means [Chuckles], because I think sometimes maybe back home because I know that's where I was raised and that's where I know people and that's where I feel like it's my land. It's like everything's mine because I've been there my whole life.

But I don't even feel accepted there because since my state is seventy-five percent white, I would always get discriminated against for being Hispanic or always the question would be, "Are you legal or are you illegal?" And I would be like "I'm legal," but I never felt a part of the society completely because I would be illegal. And now that you say, "What's home?" I really don't know what's home because I don't feel at home here or I don't feel at home there and I don't feel at home in Arkansas because I don't have citizenship [Affirmative sound].

Anita: Yeah. [Pause] let's continue [with the survey] and we'll come back to this. I totally get you. Did you follow US news when you were in the states?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: How did you follow it? Through family and friends, social media, TV, radio, newspapers?

Melani: Newspapers and TV, and I also worked in a coalition which helped immigrants. I was there for four years and I helped kids apply for DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and stuff. I never applied because I was scared. My parents told me I shouldn't apply since you have to go give all your fingerprints and your information. They said, “What if it all falls down and we're the first ones to get deported?”

So, my parents would be scared and they also…we saw the limitations. You would have to pay three times the tuition and you couldn't really get a lot of scholarships. So, there was no way for me to go to college if I would have to pay so much—even more than what my parents would receive in a year, because my parents would receive like $20,000 or less a year.

Anita: So even if you had gotten—

Melani: DACA, it wouldn't really work for me because I could only work with that and I couldn't study. And what I wanted to do was study and actually be able to travel and visit new places and have more opportunities and not just be stuck in one place.

Anita: What would you have studied?

Melani: Political science and international relations.

Anita: So even though you were working in an immigration coalition that helped people apply for DACA, you didn't apply for it?

Melani: I never applied for it. I even went to an attorney and they told me it's better if you go to Mexico before you’re eighteen—I mean after you're eighteen or before. After you're eighteen, you had to wait 180 days—I mean you have to not exceed 180 days—so you can be able to apply and not have that ten-year sentence of not being able to apply for a US visa.

My mom would say, " you know what? It's better if you just go back to Mexico and go to a Mexican university and we'll support you from here, from the States."

I came alone. I came a month ago. I told my mom, "I don't want to leave. I want to stay here [in the US]," because in my heart I felt like the government would do something for the DREAMers. In my heart I felt that, but my mom said, "You're just wasting your time. You need to leave, because even if they do something for DREAMers, it will take a lot of time to implement that law, and you would lose maybe one or two years of college -- you can come back and visit us," and I said, "Well, you're right."

I applied to Mexican universities, but they told me I would have to restart my high school and that my ACT and my SAT weren't accepted. I would have to do their admissions tests, but they have a lot of requirements that aren't requirements back home, and so I decided to apply to other countries. I applied to Australia and New Zealand and Canada, and I got in all three of them in various universities. And I chose Canada since Australia and New Zealand are way too far away from Mexico City—it's like thirty-six hours.

And I said well it's better if I go to Canada since it will be five hours away and I could come on vacation, and I applied. I got into four universities in Canada and I got scholarships from them.

I chose one in Vancouver—Douglas College first, and I got a full scholarship from there. So I chose it and I went there three weeks ago. So, I came here [from US to Mexico] a month and a week ago—to Mexico City. The first week I stayed with my dad's side of the family.

The next week I went to Vancouver to visit my school, and I also found out that in Vancouver if you study four years in a Canadian university, you can get your citizenship in the sixth year. And I thought that was a great opportunity, and when I went there, I felt like it was more immigrant friendly since all of them were Asian. Well, there's a lot of Asian influence -- Asian, Muslim, all types of cultures, a lot of Hispanics, and I felt like they were more welcoming and multicultural than back home.

I just felt more at home there than even Mexico, because here I still get discriminated against for not speaking my language well. And I get discriminated against because they're like, "Well, you're still Hispanic. You're not anything more. You're not special or you're not more than us just because you lived in the US."

Anita: So you're going to Douglas --?

Melani: Douglas College.

Anita: Which is in Vancouver?

Melani: Vancouver.

Anita: Where else did you apply?

Melani: York University and Winnipeg University and I also applied to the University of Ottawa, where I also got in. But since Douglas University gave me a full scholarship for two years, I said I'll choose that one, and those [the other colleges] were partial scholarships.

Melani: I really loved York, but my mom said, "Well just go wherever the money is at, where the full scholarship is at." And I went and I loved it. I really loved it and it felt more like…well not like Arkansas, but similar to the culture back in the US, so I liked that. I just don't feel identified in either place.

Anita: Yeah. So, wait a minute, we have a lot to fill in [survey questions]. You followed the news, you said through TV and newspapers?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: Which newspapers do you read?

Melani: The Hispanic ones like La Opinión or Latino Times, [Pause] Since my coalition would partner up with them and give them all the information, because my coalition would go talk to senators, the governor, and everyone else, and we also went to New Orleans and Arizona to fight for people's rights, and even to Washington DC.

I would volunteer more than …in the summer, I would do more than over two hundred hours. I would work full time there without pay. I just really loved that work because I knew the struggle and I knew that almost all the kids in my school who were Latino and were about to graduate could not have the opportunity to go to college.

Anita: So you basically think that DACA or the DREAMers don't work?

Melani: Yes. Yes. I think you really don't get an advantage from it because you might be able to work, have a driver's license, have an ID, but they'll overcharge you for college. An immigrant will never be able to get the amount of money [for college that they need], especially if they're illegal.

Anita: Did you follow Mexican news?

Melani: I never followed Mexican news.

Anita: So [reading the survey questions] you qualified for DACA but you didn't apply?

Melani: No.

Anita: Because?

Melani: It was risky.

Anita: and you made the decision to leave?

Melani: Yes.

Melani: I remember leaving and my dad calling me when I was in the waiting room for the flight. He said, "You know what? Just turn around and come back. We'll fix it. We'll find something. [Starts crying] we'll find you a job and we might be able to pay for college."

But I said, "No. I have to go." [Cries] I’m sorry. So I left and I came here, and my grandma was waiting for me in the airport - she called me. She's like, "Do you see me?" But I'd never ever seen how she looked, not even in a picture. So I got into the airport and I was like, "Where are you? I can't find you," and she said, "I don't see you either." She was right in front of me, literally [Laughs], and I said, "Oh." And she's like, "I have blonde hair and I have a red shirt and jeans on. Can you find me?" And I was like, "Oh my goodness! It was the lady just in front of me.”

I met her and it's just ... I didn't really feel a connection there because I never really talked to her. I don't think I ever spoke to her once in my life. I know I spoke to my mom's parents and her grandparents because they came to visit us, but it wasn't ... they would visit and stay for a week or two, but I really never felt anything because it'd be like, oh, they're your grandparents, but you never had much time to spend with them or have experiences with them, if it's such a limited time they're with you.

Anita: [Affirmative sound]. Are you living with that grandmother now?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: And ... I'm just going to go through this [the survey] okay? So how long have you been back, a month?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: You live in Mexico City?

Melani: I do live in Mexico City.

Anita: You live with your grandparents, right?

Melani: [Affirmative sound]

Anita: Have you become aware of programs that support returning migrants?

Melani: Yes, like New Comienzos. My mom always told me before I would come, "You should be a part of New Comienzos. I found out about it on the internet." And I said, "No, I think I'll find my own way. I don't think anybody could help me." And I came here and I was looking for a job and opportunities and college and I went to the best university here, which is UNAM [Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México]. And they told me that I would have to start over since I don't have any knowledge of Mexican history—not even the National Anthem.

And I was like, "Okay, I'll study again, one or two years of high school since I don't have certain classes that they require, and I have to take their admission test as well.” I [told myself], " I feel like that would have been a waste of my time when everybody my age is already starting to go to college." And I said, "Okay, I might be able to do this."

My aunt [also] told me, "If you want a job you can work with me."

I soon realized that jobs here aren't like jobs back home. Jobs here are very… they pay you very little. They pay you what my mom or my dad would get in like two days. I would get 6,500 pesos for a whole month, and I would start at eight in the morning. I only worked there for five days, or I'll just say a week.

Anita: This was in a call center?

Melani: In a call center -- from seven in the morning to six in the afternoon.

Anita: Six thousand pesos per what?

Melani: 6,500 pesos per month, and they give you commissions. But they always trick you and they always keep your money. So it's not really beneficial to work there.

And I said, “Well fine. I guess I can't find a job and I don't really know anyone around here. So I'll take the job with my aunt, since I know I'll be with family.” I took it, but when I got there I hated it because they discriminated [against] me because of my Spanish. They would talk behind my back. And they had no respect towards employees because there's a lot of classism in Mexico, and if you're not in an upper class or have a high position in society, then you're nobody and they treat you like if you were their slave.

Anita: Do you think it's the same in the US?

Melani: Yes with illegals. Exactly the same, because I would remember my dad going to work for two or three weeks and him asking for his pay and never getting paid because they would be like, "I know where you live, I know what your name is, and I can report you to ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] right now."

Anita: Where did he work?

Melani: Well, my dad knew a lot of people that worked in construction and he would always be like, "Oh, could you get me a job with your employer?" and they would be like, "Yes." So he would go from one job to another in construction, and it was seasonal, temporary. So it would be for winter months and summer months -- roofing and sheet rocking and stuff like that. Sometimes he would get paid, sometimes he wouldn't get paid, and sometimes he worked in restaurants, but they would always want to pay him less—half of the minimum wage or less.

Anita: And sometimes they wouldn't pay him, you said, at all because -

Melani: Yeah, at all, because they told him, "Well, you're illegal. We don't have to pay you, so bye"

Anita: What job is your aunt's?

Melani: My aunt's is at a call center.

Anita: Oh, it's a call center. Do you feel safe in Mexico?

Melani: So far I do, but my grandmother always tells me to be careful because there's a lot of people being kidnapped, or stealing, by the cartels. When I went back to my grandmother's house on my mom's side, she told me that there have never been cartels there until two years ago [when] a cartel came into the state and took possession of the state. They're everywhere now, and since they're there they threaten people that if they're not home by a certain hour, they'll kill them, and they do. And they charge every house [they have] to pay them a quota for their safety, and even though you pay that, you still get assaulted. My grandparents have recently begun looking for another house because they're really scared -- since there's so many murders and killings and assaults and a lot of robberies. They're scared, and I'm even scared for them. I think Mexico City is safer in that aspect, but danger is everywhere here.

Anita: Yeah. Have you been the victim of a crime?

Melani: No.

Anita: Do you feel vulnerable as a returning migrant, as somebody who lived in the states and come back?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: So would you say it's been difficult to come back?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: I'm going to read you some things[from the survey] and you'll just tell me whether: ... finding a job, has that been difficult?

Melani: It's been very difficult.

Anita: Other economic challenges?

Melani: Yes. My parents don't send me any money right now, since they're dealing with their own problems and I don't ask for anything, I feel like it's more of a struggle. I see my own grandparents struggling and I feel like I have to support them. I would always wonder when I was younger -- I'd be like, "Why do Hispanics all live together? Like grandparents, kids, grandkids?” But I understand now. It's not because they want to, it's because of economic reasons, because if you get seven thousand pesos, which is like three hundred dollars a month, you really can't afford anything, and when the houses here are over three to six million pesos, which is like six hundred thousand dollars, you can't really afford to live anywhere.

Anita: What about continuing your education?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: Family separation? Is that difficult?

Melani: It's been hard because my parents are the only people I've known my whole life and they're my rocks, the people I go to for everything. So having them so distant has been really tough on me [Emotional]. I feel like I can't talk to my own grandparents because I don't have that trust and sometimes I just don't feel like there will ever be a connection since I've lost so many years of my life that I should have lived with them.

Anita: Has it been hard to find friends and make friends?

Melani: Yes, very hard, because they think that you're stuck-up, or [ask] "Why do you have different ways of thinking?" Or they just think bad of you, just because you're not from here.

Anita: What are the different ways of thinking that you've noticed between you and the people you meet here?

Melani: Whenever I say I would like to be independent. I told my grandparents, "You know what, I'm really thankful for my stay here, but I would like to grow independent."

In Arkansas, everybody leaves at 18. They go to study and they really never go back. And I told my grandparents, "Well that's how things happen back home and that's how I've grown and known that you should live life.” And they said, "Well, no. Here we do things differently. Here you stay until you're married."

And they'll implement Catholicism really deep into you. They'll be like, "You need to pray to all the saints and stuff because if you're not with God, then you don't know what family is." And I'm like, "Well I think there should be separation of state and religion, and family and religion, because it's two different things. You can't mix things like that together.”

Anita: What about language? Has that been hard?

Melani: Yes. When I first came here, I didn't understand almost anything they told me. Like I said, when I was learning English, I would just learn it by ear, and right now I'm learning [Spanish] by ear, but I still struggle sometimes to understand what they're trying to tell me. I tell them to say it maybe three or four times to me because I really don't understand.

Anita: Adapting to Mexican culture?

Melani: Yes. It's really tough.

Anita: Have you faced discrimination?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: Bureaucratic difficulties?

Melani: Yes, so many.

Anita: Have you been depressed?

Melani: Recently, yes.

Anita: Any substance abuse or addiction?

Melani: No.

Anita: So you still have family living in the US, your parents. Anybody else?

Melani: No, I consider them my only family.

Anita: Are they US citizens?

Melani: No.

Anita: Have they come to visit you?

Melani: No. When I called my parents, they were like, "Do you recommend [coming back]?" My dad's been gone for twenty years. He's like, "Maybe because we've been gone for that long, maybe things have changed, especially with the new president." But I said, "No. Nothing has changed, and I don't even know how it was back then, but it's horrible now. So I think you should just stay.” [Sometimes] my dad tells me over the phone, "I've been gone for so long -- since I was nineteen -- that I feel like if I go back, I won't even feel like it's my home.” He's just so used to the culture there -- that's what he grew up with in his adult years.

Anita: So are they considering coming to live in Mexico then, your parents?

Melani: No.

Anita: No. Do you currently follow what's going on in the US?

Melani: Yes.

Anita: How? Social media, TV, radio, newspaper?

Melani: Yes, and my friends call me. They always call me,

Anita: I want to ask you one more question. Something that we're working on is… what the US is losing and what Mexico could gain because of people leaving like you out of fear or because of deportation. What do you think the US loses by losing people like you?

Melani: Well, they're losing their own people -- people like me and thousands and millions of others that never really knew their country and grew up in the US and consider that their country. I would've given everything for it because I feel like that's my home.

They're losing all our knowledge, what we could have studied and also given back to our communities and country: new research, work, new ways of thinking, new technology, and a lot of things that they could have had, but don't, [because] we can't.

And when we come back it's even worse because you feel like there's no opportunity, no way out, because they put so many barriers here, like telling me that I can't go to college because—well, I understand it -- but a lot of foreigners come and they don't know any Mexican history and they go directly into college, and I don't understand why I can't, why deportees can't and why Japanese people or white people from England or Britain can come and go directly in without knowing any history or almost minimum Spanish?

Anita: So what would you tell Mexicans that they're gaining by having you back?

Melani: They're gaining a new way of thinking and lifestyle and new ideas so we can grow our economy and our country can be better now, since we are bringing in all these new ideas and ways of thinking and culture.

We can also implement new jobs in [new] ways for our own citizens to live so we can have a first world, not a third world anymore.

It's really tough living like this and it's really tough living here with fear. My grandparents are living in fear with all the cartels and everything in the government. If things happen, you can't even rely on police, or you can't even rely on a single ambulance. Recently my grandfather had a stroke and the ambulance came an hour later so we had to get the taxi. Things like that, simple things like that. The government is never on time and they are always corrupt and you always have to pay them off and they never do their job.

Anita: Do you bring values to Mexico that you think would be good for Mexico?

Melani: I bring values like being genuine and straight up with people and not cheating and going the easy way and working it through. Because honestly here I see that there's so much cheating and saying so many lies just to get into positions of power and not even having to study or anything. There are a lot of people I've known and my grandparents have known who tell me, "Oh yeah, he's a doctor, but he didn't even study to be a doctor. He just bought his certificate somewhere." And you're like, "How are they working there?" And they could all be like almost killing a patient and they would be fine with it.

Anita: Were you a good student in the US?

Melani: Yes, I got accepted into many colleges there.

Anita: What colleges?

Melani: Well, University of Arkansas, UALR [University of Arkansas at Little Rock], University of Fayetteville, University of Southern Illinois. Yeah, I got in there.... UIC [University of Illinois at Chicago] into. I got into Louisiana State and Baylor.

Melani: My GPA was a 4.0.

Anita: Wow.

Melani: Yeah. It was really high because my parents always told me, "Since you're illegal, you will never have opportunities here. So if you want to make it, even in your own country, you have to have a high standard." I had over 500 hours of community service, because I said, "Well, maybe I won't get citizenship, but maybe by my merits I might." I would have so many hours. I would dedicate myself to school, go to tutoring every afternoon, dedicate myself to doing my homework and studying and being on top of everything, but no.

Anita: What were your favorite subjects?

Melani: History and literature, or composition.

Anita: And history, which history? History of what do you like?

Melani: World history, starting from Mesopotamia to Rome and Greece, everything. I just like knowing everything from the bottom and where it came from because [history] repeats itself.

Anita: I have one more reflection question. Some women who we have spoken to who, like you, were undocumented in the States end up in trouble. Some become young mothers as teenagers, some join gangs. If somebody asked you, "Why does this happen?" what would you say?

Melani: I would say that a lot of Latinas, especially young Latinas have kids or [join] gangs. Latinos have that mentality that you have to get married very young and that women are just used for recreation, having a family -- not for anything else because we have that type of … it's a man's world here. It's not a woman's world. So if things back home were kind of tough for women, here it's a million times worse, because we're really oppressed and we still have rights, but you still aren't respected as a woman, and so many women just go the easy way, saying, "Well I'll get pregnant early and finish it off and just live the rest of my life with my kids and dedicate myself to them," or some women don't want to do that and they just say, "Well, I want money and I know I don't have opportunities because of the economy and all of the things that are happening in my background, so I guess I'll just join a gang and do all these things so I can have easy money and opportunities for other things."

Anita: Why didn't you follow that path?

Melani: Because I have ambition for my career, and I've always really wanted this career. It's the same career my dad wanted. He wanted to be a politician, and I really wanted it too, not because of him, but because I would see how people would live and then I would be like ... in my own country it's even worse.

I just want to make a change. I want it to be better. I feel like the only way to make a difference here is not what the president, the new one, is doing. I feel like you have to get at everything from the root and change.

Anita: So when you talk about, I get confused when you talk about my country, which country we're talking about.

Melani: Oh.

Anita: When you think about in the future, sort of becoming a politician or doing something, are you talking about making a change here in Mexico?

Melani: Yes. I think I will never go back and live in the US. I would visit because that's where I feel like I belong, but I feel like I'm needed elsewhere. And I would really love to have an opportunity to work in the Senate or the Congress, or work in the consulate of Mexico in another country.

© 2021 Migration Encounters. All Rights Reserved.