Anne Preston


October 18, 2018

Mexico City, Mexico

Leaving her children behind

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*To hear more about Rocio listen to the playlist above

Anne: So tell me about when you first went to the United States. What was it like?

Rocio: Well it was 1991. I wasn't working here and I had a friend that came from Hawaii and asked me if I want to go for a vacation. And I said yes and I arrived to Palm Springs. Beautiful place. I just love it. And immediately he asked me if I want to get a job because across our apartment they were asking for people who want to work in a hotel. And I went to apply and they gave me the job.

Rocio: In a month I already rent my own studio. I get my furniture. So I was all set up in a month—and of course I compare the payment here in Mexico over there—and I just stay, I mean without thinking, without planning, I just stayed. After a year I came back because I wasn't sure if I'm going to stay or not in the USA. And I started working again here and when I was in the job, someone opened my purse and stole my wallet and I arrived to work and I just saw it and I was like, “No, I don't like this anymore so I'm going to come back to Palm Springs.” And I did. And I stayed for 18 years.

Anne: And that second time when you went back, did you go on a tourist visa as well?

Rocio: Yes, yes.

Anne: So both times?

Rocio: Yes.

Anne: So you said almost immediately you were offered a job. What kind of job was it in the hotel?

Rocio: I was cleaning rooms. Something very different of course, because I work here in an office and it was hard for me. But really it was the difference in the salaries, that just made the difference you know. To have my studio in a month and furniture and everything I hear is hard to do that. So, and then I was by myself. I wasn't married, I didn't have kids, I didn't even plan it, but I stay.

Anne: And did you feel accepted or did it take time to feel accepted in the community?

Rocio: No, immediately, I always love the language. I studied English at my school here and I immediately loved it. I just love America and no, it was very good for me in Palm Springs. Everybody, it was Filipino people, a lot of Mexicans. And it was welcome. I was very welcome.

Anne: That's nice. Was it, so you got a job, did you have employment papers or how did that work?

Rocio: No, we went to LA to buy a social security card. So I always, for 18 years, I worked with that social security.

Anne: And did you pay taxes?

Rocio: And I pay taxes. And after that, I work in hotels, in restaurants. In 95, I get married and I have a baby daughter, Karen, and I stay for three more years in hotels. And after I separated from my husband, I begin to work in private residence. Of course, they never asked me for papers, but I still paying my taxes, always I pay taxes. I helped the Palm Springs police for charities and everything. And my daughter have a problem with her heart. She have a murmur?

Anne: Your daughter?

Rocio: Yes. And I have the best doctors, I have her Medical. So, I start paying a charity for St. John's hospital for kids because I have the same problem. Thank God, she's okay. And, of course, these people start paying me more money because they were rich people. Because Palm Springs is in summer it's so hot, they go away for three, four months. So I take care of their residence. And I mean, United States for me, was very good. Very good because I always was welcome. Always have a job.

Rocio: After 13 years, I have another kid, Chris, my son. I didn't get married, I have been by myself. And then I start working for these people—the last persons that I worked for. And my boss brings a friend from Michigan, and we start dating since the beginning. And his family, he just told me they don't like Mexicans. So after four years—

Anne: Of dating?

Rocio: Dating, they just call immigration and my nightmare starts and my life just was over, because I lost everything. Thank God my kids weren't with me that day. My daughter was with her dad and my son was with a friend of mine. So they took me just by myself. But that's when everything started. I didn't come to Mexico for 18 years. So it was just a nightmare. That's when everything started.

Anne: Do you still have contact with that man?

Rocio: No.

Anne: Did he?

Rocio: No, he never called me. He never answered me again or anything. So I don't know if he had something to do with it or not or I don't know. I don't even want to because, I mean if I was by myself, okay. But it was my family [emphasis]. Even though I rent or everything, I have a very good apartment and all my furniture, my car—I was paying my car.

Anne: Could you get a license in California?

Rocio: Yes, I had a good one. But after 10 years here in Mexico, they changed the visa for 10 years. Every 10 years you need to change it.

Anne: Right.

Rocio: And that's when I started having problems because I didn't change the visa and so I lost my license, even though I was able to buy cars, to rent apartments and I never have a problem with that.

Anne: And you get credit cards and—

Rocio: No credit card. No, it's just a bank account, but not credit cards.

Anne: And your children grew up as Americans?

Rocio: Yes. Yes. My daughter speaks English because I teach her at the beginning. And at school, she started speaking English. My son never want to speak Spanish. Since I start talking to him in Spanish and he never wanted it. So when I bring him, after a year that I came here, I took him, I tried to keep him with me, but it was hard because I get a job. So very early in the morning, I take him with my aunt and I pick him up at night in pajamas already. So it was crazy for me.

Anne: Here in Mexico?

Rocio: Here in Mexico. I took him to schools to see if I can register him.

Anne: And he was how old?

Rocio: He was three years old, almost three. And he don't speak Spanish or they don't let me, they just don't take him. So, it was like two months after I bring him, that my friend called me and told me, “We need to think, he have everything here, you know, he's an American citizen. What are you going to do over there with him? You don't have a place. You live with your mom.”

Rocio: So that's when I need to make that decision to let him go, with my friend. She's everything to me. Of course, she's very, very—a great family. She just have a son. So, she signed it like a tutor [inquisitive] to keep him until I was able to come back. Because at the beginning I was fighting to go back and talking with everybody, but they told me, you have 10 years and you need to stay over there. So it was extremely hard for me to make that decision, but it's not for me. It's his life. He has everything over there. And I'm not going to take that away from him.

Rocio: And my daughter was 13 and of course she was in middle school and I told her, “No, you need to stay over there and finish your school. You have your dad.” Of course, after three or four years, she began to not behave, you know, and she didn't finish high school. She just finished second. She just left one year, but she didn't finish and she started having problems with behavior, living with friends, and I didn't know anything. Her dad can't control her. So it was very hard for me. Very, very hard for me. Even though my son started peeing the bed for two or three years, my friend needs to take him to a psychologist. Saturday he turns 12, but he's 12 years old. We talked with him and try to explain to him, but he really don't understand why I cannot cross the border. Why he cannot come over here because it's hard for him to cross without me. And of course he's still having problems sometimes with behavior or gain weight or lose weight or depression.

Rocio: Of course, everything is a disaster. I was two years in bed with depression. My first two years, I just don't want to live. So, thanks to my family, help me and said, “Your kids needs you. You can't just die in bed.” So I went to see psychiatrist, and they give me medication and I stayed on medication. And so, after I don't know, like five years or six years of being here, I start like, “Okay, I need to get involved in this, what I can do to help people and help myself.” You know? Just start doing what I'm going to do, it's six years already.

Rocio: Of course, I went to see a lot of lawyers. They took all my money, thousand dollars every time. Everybody telling me they going to help me to go back. And of course until I say okay, no more paying to lawyers or anything. And I met Yolanda Verona, the one who wants to create more DREAMer moms, by Facebook and she asked me to represent moms here in Mexico. And I said, “Okay, but I just opened a Facebook page and everybody are in United States.” So, I was like, “No, I need to meet people here.” But in Mexico, I haven't met anybody, just one, Ana Laura Lopez, and she's helping a lot people that came here—she waits for them in the airport and help them if they don't have place to stay or a job, or anything. But she lives so far from me, so we met once but we can't even talk, you know to do something together yet.

Anne: And they're called DREAMer moms?

Rocio: DREAMers moms.

Anne: Does she know Israel here in New Comienzos?

Rocio: I think yes, I think yes. I think Israel told me that they need to meet her, but I don't know if they did already. And they introduced me to Gretchen—I don't know the last name. The movie director. Do you know it?

Anne: No.

Rocio: They introduced me to her and she's working in Relaciones exteriores here in the government. So she told me once that I need to contact her because I'm going to be already 10 years here and she can help me to start to see what I can have. If I can have a visa to go just for visit or if my daughter can ask for me because she's 22 already. Or start something to do, what I’m going to do… and to get my son's passport.

Anne: So he can visit you?

Rocio: So he can come visit me. And the situation here that has been so difficult for me. That is just unbelievable that even in the United States without papers, I was able to get my car, to rent apartments and here in Mexico I can't. They asked me for a lot of papers and it's just the doors close for me here all the time. And because my age. I just been working—in nine years, I just got three jobs. And last year I broke a bone in my back. So I stay a year in bed. After that, I'd been looking for a job for a year and I'm not able to get a job because my age, so it's just a nightmare. And so I've been trying to get more involved in these situations, to see if we can get together, the people that we go through this and help each other because it's just crazy.

Rocio: I mean you get in internet to get a job and it's just until you're 35 years old. So what would you want to do here? I mean, I speak enough English to work in an office and they tell me no because my age. So it's been hard all this time, even though my friend said, “Well you have already nine years here.” I said, “For me it's been like nine hours.” I mean it's been very difficult and go through everything. My kids is the worst part.

Anne: And is your daughter, does she still live in Palm Springs?

Rocio: She live in Palm Springs. She get a Mexican boyfriend and he don't have papers. So, she's helping him to get papers to go with her to the United States because she got—

Anne: Is she back in Mexico?

Rocio: She's in North of Mexico, Sonora. She crossed the border and everything and the baby born in USA, praise God. But she's helping him and I can't see her because I don't have the money to bring her. Do you know the flights and everything? I mean, I have very much contact with her and with my boy. With him I talk—of course he don't have Facebook or anything—every 15 days and with my daughter every time she's on Facebook we talk. But she have a baby and I haven't meet him. He's going to be already two years old. So I don't know, it's just a nightmare.

Anne: Like a nightmare?

Rocio: And for everybody in my family needs to help me. I feel like I'm 15 years old because they pay my rent. So it's just everything is—I tried to kill myself two years ago when I broke my back and they told me I need to be in bed for a year because I can't have surgery. So it was like, I can't do this anymore. You know, it's just, I can't, but it wasn't my time. I hurt myself in every way you can imagine. And at night, it was time. I didn't do it. I can't do it. So I started going to the psychiatrist again, and everything is money, so it's just, I don't know when this is going to end you know?

Anne: Well hopefully, at least when the 10 years are up, you'll be able to find some way. It's temporary.

Rocio: Yeah, I hope so. I hope so too. I don't even know, just do think if I can go back and stay or I just want to for the moment, I just want to go and be able to cross the border to see my kid every time I'm able to. And of course I want to stay because the situation here with the jobs is just crazy and I just can't.

Anne: You have such good English, it's really too bad—

Rocio: Yes!

Anne: That people don't take advantage of that.

Rocio: So I'm just starting to get more strength to help people because you know, hearing the stories and everything—my stories all the time here in my mind. I'm starting to like it because I love to help people you know? And I start when the situation with the DACA start in United States, I was like, “This is not fair, this can't be happening.” I have thousands of friends in United States that took their kids very young, one, two years old. And the future was going to be for them, you know? And if they took the kids, the parent stay or if they took the parent back, what would the kids going to do in the United States? My kids were so lucky to have my daughter, her father, and my son, my friend. But even though that's illegal because they just have a paper, we haven't been able to do nothing really legal because it's too expensive.

Anne: Right.

Rocio: And my friend wants to adopt my kid and I'm not ready to do that either. I'm not going to take my son away from her because she's been so nice, but I'm not going to sign that you know [laughs]? So I mean, it's just a nightmare for everybody. It's just not right. We don't go to steal nobody's jobs. We go to have a better life. That's it. And we are very hardworking people. So I don't know what's going to happen.

Anne: When you think back about your time, what were your favorite things about the U.S?

Rocio: Oh. Everything. I mean for me it was a very good time. I had very good jobs. I have time to be with my kids a lot because I worked nine to four, so I have all afternoon with my kids. I was able go to the beach. As you know, Palm Springs is very close to the beach, the snow, and mountains. So I love the USA. I just love that place. So I hope—I mean it's not going to be the same of course, but it's different. I just always love to be there.

Anne: Do you think living there changed you?

Rocio: Yes. In a good way. Very good way. Yes.

Anne: Tell me how.

Rocio: You know I was more involved with the community. Here? Never—just my friends said that's it. Over there they teach me how to be involved with the community. Like with the police community when they did in the park, events. And I always were there. Here, Mexico, it's not like that. And I like that a lot. And respect for the community, the way we drive over there. Here in Mexico is just crazy. When I used to drive, everybody was telling me what are you doing? Do you need to stop? You need to drive carefully. And I just get it immediately. I liked that respect for others. I just click with everything. I just love it.

Rocio: And gives me the opportunity to have the best doctors for my kids and that you have schools that you don't need pay much. When that happened to me, I thought to bring my daughter and I don't know, going to be able to pay your school and I'm not going to put her in a public school here because the difference is going to be too much for her. So I decided to leave her over there. So everything, I like everything.

Anne: And you said your son has been having difficulties, emotional problems?

Rocio: Yes. Emotional problems. I, of course, keep in touch with my friend and she's like, well this week he was in a fight at school. He eats when he is upset or nervous. Sometimes for a month or two he's okay and they talk to him a lot. She's like his behavior at school sometimes is—I don't know because he have dark hair. Or I told her you ought to be careful with bullying, maybe it's that and she's not that very involved with him at school and everything. But sometimes, like right now, it's getting better. But when he's nervous …he gets in middle school already and he told my friend I'm very afraid to go to school. So he begins to eat and eat and right now he is very big. But we talked to him a lot so I don't know what's going to happen. It’s still problems with—

Rocio: And my daughter never forgive me. She all the time… I tried to tell her to know what to do with the baby or something and she said like, “Why you left me? So what you going to tell me about it?” And I say, “Karen you're 22 you need to understand.” And she is like, “No, you never, [pause] why'd you sign it for you to leave?” I mean she's very upset with me too, I don't know.

Anne: You can't win. You said that one of your children, your daughter, had a heart murmur.

Rocio: Yes.

Anne: Did you have health insurance? How did you pay for the medical procedures?

Rocio: I had regular medical, like everybody and I pay like $10 a month and they give me the best doctors. And when my son...

Anne: Was that through the government?

Rocio: Yes. And my son too, he have a major surgery because when he born his penis was inside.

Anne: Oh yeah.

Rocio: So his urine conduct was stuck. So they needed a major surgery and I didn't pay anything. I paid with my medical and they sent me to the best doctors and he's okay. So for me, that's why I'm so grateful for USA, I love USA. So when this happened I was like, “Why?” I mean, I understand that not all the people that was to go to USA is going to be able because everyone wants to go over there. But I mean if we are working, we are paying taxes—they don't give taxes back. Just if you have kids, they give you $1,000 a year or something, but they don't give you more. And you still paying taxes. I mean the people we are without, even driving ticket or anything why they don't let us stay? Or like this family, they took my life away without knowing what they doing. It was easy for them to call immigration without thinking.

Anne: When they made claims about, well obviously you were undocumented, but they made claims also that you had engaged in a criminal acts as well?

Rocio: They needed to call the police first. They can call the immigration first. So they called the local police and they say that I was robbing his home. And they have a fingerprints and I was like, “Yeah, sure. I was over there for four years or more.”

Anne: Oh you lived with him?

Rocio: No.

Anne: But you dated him. Yeah.

Rocio: I dated him. Yeah. So I mean the police man just told me you know that is not true. But they did their report because they want immigration to come to pick you up. They want you out of this. And they just did it.

Anne: And even though the police did not really agree or think it was a valid claim, they had no—

Rocio: They say I need to follow the report. And even the immigration guy, he stopped in the middle of the road and he told me, “Who did this to you?” I mean I told him my kids, my apartment, my car—because the police were arriving and I was in a towel because I was in the shower and they don't let me dress, so he took me to the police car and we wait for an hour. I was in my towel and then immigration guy arrived and he told me, “What are you doing almost naked here?” And I said, “Well he don't even let me get pants or something.” So he let me get in my house, get dressed and he told me, get your papers, your birth certificate for your kids and everything you think you're going to need.

Rocio: So I was lucky that he went with me in my home and then just start driving and he parked and he say, “Who did this to you?” And I was like, “Please let me go!” And he said, “I can't, I have the report and I need to arrive with you. But what you did or what is it?” I have my kids, I work, I paid taxes. He said “Sorry, I just can't let you go.” So they took me out [pause].

Anne: So you left voluntarily, I mean it's not really voluntary, but you signed the papers and you left and they deported you? Was there an option to fight it?

Rocio: I call, they tell me to call here to Relaciones exteriors (Mexican Consulate), to the government here. And I did call and they told me, “You just sign. Because if they take you to the judge and the judge deport you, you never going to come back.” So in the moment I was like, of course in shock, I was thinking about my kids. I was like what I need to do to don't have more problems. Just sign, you need to sign, you don't go to the judge because they going to deport you or they going to take your kids away and blah, blah, blah. So I just signed.

Anne: I'm so sorry. So sorry.

Rocio: Yes, it's hard. I mean, I know my kids is thanks to my family and the people around me. It's been not crazy like other peoples, other people it's terrible. Anyway, if you have family, they destroyed your family. Even though I get back to my kids one day is not to be the same never.

Anne: They're American citizens. There's no reason that the U.S Government should be destroying their lives.

Rocio: Yeah. They are destroying an American citizen because they are suffering. And it's just not fair. But I'm very glad that people like you are doing this because what I want is to be able to talk to more people, to know what this is about. And it's just not because I went to United States because I don't like Mexico or I come back and going to steal jobs because I speak English because it's not that way. And the way we can help the people that go through these situations and go to the government and ask them—I'm here for nine years and I can't get a job and I'm 55 or I need to support myself. I need to support my kids. I need to live. I'm Mexican and I am not able to do nothing if you're in my country and it's terrible. And that's what I'm going to fight for now. Because if not, I don't know if I'm going to survive or what am I going to do. My family is not going to be there forever.

Anne: Right.

Rocio: So it's hard, difficult. But thank you very much for doing this.

Anne: Well, thank you so much. And I think you're a very strong person and I think you're going to, you know, in another year, hopefully you'll see your family and find some way to reconcile all this in a positive way.

Rocio: Yes. And I think this is going to give me the strength to, if I go back and fight more and more for these situations. It's terrible. We need to do something about it.

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