June 12, 2019
Mexico City, Mexico
The shame and fear of being undocumented
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*To hear more about Yordani listen to the playlist above
Lizzy: Okay. So this is Lizzy with Yordani, doing the interview now. So we're just going to talk a little bit more in depth about some of the things you mentioned in the survey that I want to go back to.
Lizzy: The one thing that I remember you said that stood out to me was your reasons for coming back to Mexico. So can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Lizzy: Why you weren't feeling like the U.S. was the right place for you at the moment?
Yordani: Well, I guess I was in school and I started doing substance abuse and I guess I got depressed. It's like I wasn't really trying at school. My friends were working all the time. I guess nobody like, could supervise me. Yeah, I had bad influences. I hung out with the wrong crowd and I guess I had no purpose for going to school. I said, "Why am I even going to school?" I didn't even know. I didn't even like see a reason, a good reason to go. So it's like it didn't matter to me.
Yordani: So I went to 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grade, not really learning. I just got past, you know? And at the end, in 12th grade, the vice principal called me, he's like, "Hey, you're not going to graduate here, you should go to this school." And they sent me to that school and that school was like, it was full of people like me that didn't really care and -
Lizzy: Okay. Like an alternative school?
Yordani: Uh-huh (affirmative). Uh-huh (affirmative). You'd get less credits, you had to earn less credits to graduate. And there I guess, it's more about crowds, so it's like I had even less reason to really graduate and I ended up just dropping out like when I was 18. And from there I guess I got addicted to video games, like really addicted to video games. I guess... I don't know, to escape, I feel like I had my reason, I guess that was my reason to get good at that game, because that was my reason for living, I guess.
Yordani: And the other... We moved away from town, where I would hang out with all my friends and yeah, so I just isolated myself with some games. I spent like five, like three, seven, four, five, six, seven years just doing that. I got really bad, I guess my social skills got really bad, just lost all my friends. Got new friends online that weren't really friends. I didn't even know who they were. And yeah, I was just in a really bad state of mind, you know? I hated going outside, it was so... I guess I didn't know where to get help. I guess I had a computer, so I'd be on the computer and I'd just research a bunch of stuff.
Yordani: I guess I'll talk about how I was trying to... I thought I had really bad anxiety, and I was finding a way to cure it. And I researched, it's all like, "Oh, you got to expose yourself and do this." And then there's these mushrooms, I guess, that will help you, like psychedelic therapy.
Yordani: And I read it online that you shouldn't do it on your own. You know? I was really like, that was the first, was... to do it on my own. You might just kill yourself, you know? So I did that, I went on research and I waited for the perfect time like when the rain comes. I went looking and stuff, I knew it was really dangerous, I was scared. At one point I found, outside, a mushroom that I thought was it, but I was just so scared to do it, you know?
Lizzy: Did you buy them from someone or you found them outside?
Yordani: No, I found them. I read research on them and I found them.
Yordani: You had to look at the texture, the color, and the feel of it, the size, everything. And I found it and it's like, well I feel like this is it, but there's many look-alikes and I don't want to die. I found this other mushroom, it was really colorful and this one was super easy to identify, and I read up on it and it said it had properties that would get rid of anxiety.
Yordani: So, I found this mushroom and I prepared it, cut it up, put it in the oven, dried it, made tea out of it and I had it. And the crazy thing is when I had it, I guess it was toxic. I read a lot about it, it is toxic, a lot of people were like, "But it's not toxic enough to harm you." And people report a feeling of less anxiety after they take it. And I did feel that, it did help.
Lizzy: So it did help a bit?
Yordani: Uh-huh (affirmative). Yes. I felt less anxiety. So I was dumb. I was like, "Okay. I guess if that took away this much anxiety, like if the more I do it the more it's going to have an effect. So I did that, the first time my mom found out about it and she didn't like it. I told her about it and I guess I have to hide it now, because she came home saying was like, "Oh no, what are you doing? Oh stop." Got really mad at me. This one day I did it, I was like, "I did it", and she came home from work and I had already done it, and I told her, you know? Just in case, because I was like "Dang, what if I took too much?", because I did take a lot. And I took a lot, the dose was probably like more potent than the first one, it was.
Yordani: So she came home and I was playing with the ball and all of a sudden I felt like the world was spinning, not like the other time, the first time it just made me sleepy. I drooled a bit and went to sleep. I woke up the next day and I felt those effects that I was talking about, but this time I felt the world spinning, I felt little like... Like here it was swirling and here was swirling. It was kind of hard to describe, I felt it swirling, it's really weird. And I don't remember anything after that. Like anything after that, it was her telling me what happened, that I went to the room and fell asleep and she got worried because I wasn't waking up. So she went, slapped me, threw water on me, just did everything to wake me up. She called a friend, scared, he came over and he suggested calling 911.
Yordani: So 911 came and they checked me, my pulse was getting slower. I guess they injected something to wake me up, it wasn't working. I guess they decided to take me to a hospital. They took me to the hospital and I guess they didn't have the tools to help with that, to help with the overdose, so they transported me to another place. And there, they had to put a tube down my throat and remove the liquid, and they put me to sleep.
Yordani: I remember having dreams, I felt like it was a dream and I was fighting to get out of this bed, like trying to fight out of this hospital bed really hard. And just little moments where I had consciousness and I remember little parts, and yeah, I just remember fighting really hard just to get out. I felt really strong and unstoppable. And I guess one of the reasons is, I guess, the Vikings before going to battle would take this mushroom and they'd feel enraged and empowered. So I guess I was too then, right? And yeah, so yeah, that happened.
Lizzy: If you don't mind me asking, you didn't have papers at this time, right? Did you have health insurance, some kind of health care?
Yordani: No. No, no, no.
Lizzy: So how did that work with having these hospital visits? Did you have really expensive bills? Did they cover it?
Yordani: I mean, it was only that one day, and actually the church paid for it because I would go to this church. And yeah, I guess a little silly thing happened, my pastor came... My mom called the pastor because I wasn't listening to the doctor. I guess I was unconscious or something, and the doctor was giving me instructions because they wanted to remove the tube, and I had to sit up or something. I was sedated and they would remove the sedative and I'd wake up and they would ask me to do things, I wouldn't listen. So they called the pastor and I actually listened to him. The doctor would ask me to do something, I'd be like, "No, I'm laughing here." I'd be like, "No." And the pastor came and I was like, "All right, I did it." So they found out about it and they were nice enough to pay for that.
Lizzy: Okay. That's great.
Yordani: Yeah. So I was really grateful.
Lizzy: How did your legal status impact your anxiety? Do you feel like it gave you more anxiety?
Yordani: Yeah. It's like when I became aware of it, I told my friend and my friend was like, "You should get a -- your green card, you know?" And I guess ever since then I felt like... just judged, you know, like I felt afraid that somebody would find out. I was scared, you know? There was other people like me that... they wouldn't care, they'd share it, and I'd be like, "Why? You know... Why?" So it was really embarrassing for me.
Lizzy: Did you tell your friends or people at school?
Yordani: No, I’ve only one friend. I guess the feedback that he gave me, it's like I guess I didn't want to tell anybody. I felt really like... Yeah, I guess just ashamed for it. And then just scared, the police, they're going to ask me if I'm legal or not. And it became even more scary when I was in high school, middle school, and I was with the bad crowd and we bought some cans and spray painted this church. And the church was really nice. They didn't put charges and when we were cleaning they took us to eat. They were just really nice, you know?
Yordani: And so, when that happened, the police, they talked with me and my mom, they were like, "Hey, we know you're illegal. You know? We're not going to report you to immigration. We just want a clean community, we just don't want any problems." But still, it's like now they know. It's like, they know. Next time I do something, it's going to be, I guess, I'm just going to get kicked out or something. So it just created a fear.
Lizzy: So that made you really nervous.
Yordani: Anytime I had an encounter with the police, it just like... Oh, I have to say like red and white or something. I'd just really just feel very panicked inside. And it didn't help that sometimes I guess they'd tell my mom you know like, "Hey, immigration's around, don't open the door, if somebody knocks check who it is." It's like dang, you know?
Lizzy: That's a scary fear to grow up with.
Yordani: Yeah. Yeah, it's like...
Lizzy: When did you find out that you were undocumented? Or did you always know?
Yordani: Nope, in high school. Around high school, like 9th, 10th grade. I guess that's what sent me down to depression because it was like 9th grade, you transition from middle school to 9th, it's a big change and then you find out this. And obviously, yeah.
Lizzy: So finding out about being undocumented kind of made everything worse?
Yordani: Yeah. Yeah, I guess. It just added onto it.
Lizzy: And then you mention in the survey about, when we were talking about whether you feel safe in Mexico, and you said that at least you don't have the fear of the authorities that you have in the States.
Yordani: Yeah. When I came I was so relieved. I'm like, "Awesome. I'm legal. I feel legal." That was nice, and then it's like, "Now what?"
Lizzy: But in that way, do you feel less afraid?
Yordani: Yeah, I felt relieved, I felt free. And that was nice.
Lizzy: Had you ever felt free like that before in your life?
Yordani: Ever since I found out [I was undocumented], no, because I felt like I'm always doing something wrong. I could just be here and [in US] I feel like, I don't know, like I'm doing something wrong. And I didn't even want to work, with pap-
Yordani: In order to work, you got to forage for papers and I didn't want to do all that at first. I didn't want to do that, but it's like I guess I have to.
Lizzy: Yeah. What choice do you have?
Yordani: Yeah. Yeah, what choice, you know?
Lizzy: And then what was your adjustment like coming back to Mexico? What was, let's say first, what was the hardest part about adjusting to life here in Mexico?
Yordani: I guess just knowing what to do. I guess just first accepting the fact that I was just going to work in the field and I had nowhere else to go. Just like life was harder there... Just learning how to interact with people here, because they have a different way of communicating. It's like, you've got to communicate the way they do, otherwise you're like, I don't know, like, outcast.
Lizzy: Communicate in what way?
Yordani: Like here people talk to each other with like jokes and stuff all the time, Mexicans, all the time. And sometimes you're left out because you don't understand what... It's like puns or something like that. They say something, but it means something else, and there's a lot of that. It's like you say one thing and then it's not... it doesn't mean that, it means something else. And so, you've got to like kind of learn to decipher that. It was really hard at first, I would always be out of the loop like, "Wh- What?", because that was hard.
Lizzy: And then speaking Spanish when you got here, was that tough?
Yordani: Yeah, at first, yeah because I wasn't used to it. Sometimes I would say words in English, they'd just come out of me, and it's like, "Oh dude, I didn't realize." You know? And they'd just be like, "What?" And just, yeah, I guess learning all these new words, you know?
Lizzy: Mm-hmm (affirmative). What's been the best part about being back in Mexico?
Yordani: Well... I guess learning to speak Spanish better. Just feeling more free, like I can go wherever I want. Police aren't going to be looking at me, I don't have to worry about them. Whoa... Now with police are assholes sometimes, I guess everywhere they're that way. They're like that everywhere, right? But just that fear of like, "I don't know what's going to happen. They're just going to send me away", and stuff like, "I don't know what's going to happen." I guess that's gone.
Lizzy: But you're separated from your family. Was that your parents, and sister?
Yordani: Yeah. I mean, I guess I chose to do that to myself. I just didn't know it was going to be that hard.
Lizzy: So being away from your family is harder than you thought it would be?
Yordani: Yeah, at first like, "I'm free." By a year I was like, "I'm good." And then it's like two years, it's like, "Okay, well, when am I going to see them?" I'm like, "This is..." Yeah, I guess you start feeling it. It took me awhile. I was like, "Dang, am I ever going to see them?"
Lizzy: And you said you have an uncle that was deported?
Yordani: Yeah, but I wasn't really that close to him. I just know he's my uncle.
Lizzy: So you don't have any close family members here?
Yordani: No, not really. Here in Mexico? Like here, here? No, I'm here alone. Like most of my family's in Nayarit. My grandma, my aunts and cousins.
Lizzy: Do you ever go to visit them there?
Yordani: Since I came here? No.
Lizzy: That's pretty far from here.
Yordani: Yeah, it's like three, four, like 12 hours. Around there. Depends if you're going on an airplane or... Depends by what.
Lizzy: Is there anything that you feel like the Mexican government should be doing or that they could be doing differently to support return migrants like you?
Yordani: Well yeah, I guess... A lot of people here have trouble with their papers, like school papers. They probably graduated or they have college and they come here and it's like they have nothing. Maybe something to accommodate that.
Lizzy: Yes, I've heard that from a lot of people.
Yordani: Yeah. That's definitely the number one thing.
Lizzy: Did you have trouble with that, your papers from high school in the U.S.?
Yordani: I mean, I came and yeah they had to ask me for like get my transcript. I mean the school did give me my transcripts. Other people here have trouble with that, they won't get their transcript unless they were there in person. I mean, I guess I was lucky that I got those. I guess I didn't really struggle too much with that, but I see how other people do.
Lizzy: So making the education system easier to try to transfer-
Yordani: To validate their studies, yeah.
Yordani: So they can integrate to the schooling system here.
Lizzy: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, that's huge. What about in the U.S.? What do you think the U.S. government could be doing differently in how they treat or how they support migrants, migrant families like yours?
Yordani: I really don't really know how to answer that.
Lizzy: It's kind of a broad question. So maybe, is there anything that you wish average people in the U.S. understood about migrants? Migrants from Mexico? Is there anything that you wish people understood better about you?
Yordani: I mean, I guess why they go there. It's not like they just go, just because they want to take away from them. You know? They do it for a reason. It's like if Mexico was as big as them, they would probably do the same, possibly. I don't know.
Yordani: So like, yeah, I guess. Yeah... Give them different people's viewpoints on why they go there. Yeah, don't just assume they just come over to take over.
Lizzy: Yeah, yeah. Understand that people have a reason for doing it.
Lizzy: And do you consider yourself more Mexican or more American?
Yordani: Well, I have no clue. I guess I feel more Mexican because I know that I was born here. I knew that I was not born over there. So it's like, I guess I feel more Mexican, but at the same time I feel sort of American-ish and Mexican American-ish. I don't know. I don't know, I don't know, I guess it's both.
Lizzy: Hard to know how to...? Like 50/50 or?
Yordani: 50/50. Yeah.
Lizzy: Which 50% would be... Like, what's the American part of you?
Yordani: I guess just the culture, I guess. Yeah, I had Mexican parents, but it's like I interacted more with Americans, so it's like... I guess, the music. Yeah, the music, I guess. Yeah, not too sure. The lifestyle, I'm used to having more money, and the style too like... here I guess. Well, here in Mexico, it's more varied, but where I'm from, el rancho , they dress a certain way. They have their own style. I don't really follow that. You know, like they dress in their hats and stuff like that and like I don't really do that. Like the music too, I don't really feel like I really like Mexican music. It's like I'm forcing myself to do it because I want to fit in, but in the end I don't.
Lizzy: Do you feel like you stand out there?
Yordani: Yeah, definitely. Like the type of music I listen to, sometimes my ideas are very different.
Lizzy: Like what kind of ideas?
Yordani: I guess like my religion, I guess I was born into Christianity, and here it's like Catholicism, so it's like, my family is Catholic. It's like, "Oy."
Lizzy: So not, yeah, not quite the same here?
Yordani: Uh-huh (affirmative). It's like, I guess-
Lizzy: Do people treat you differently because of that here?
Yordani: I mean I had some friends who were like, "Sometimes I've been discriminated." Like, "Oh you're American" tu vienes de alla because they know that I come from over there. Like, "Nah, you're from over there, you're American, you can't be a part of this", or something like that. So yeah, then I'm , "Nah, I'm Mexican too. I was born here. Yeah, I lived over there, but I was born here." So it's like, yeah they don't see me as too Mexican. I see myself as Mexican. It's because of that I said not too much.
Lizzy: I've heard a lot of people say things where it's like you don't feel like you belong here, but you don't belong there either.
Yordani: Yeah. There's a saying. Ni de aqui ni de alla. [neither from her nor there]
Lizzy: Do you feel like that?
Yordani: Yeah. I mean now I feel like more part of here now that I have spent more time here, so I'm getting used to it here. I guess I'm seeing myself more as a Mexican citizen now. I'd still like to go there though, I still want to... I don't know. I guess I was a citizen, I wish I was a citizen of Mexico and the United States. That'd be fucking awesome. I live here and then over there, it's like... Yeah, that'd be sweet.
Lizzy: The best of both worlds.
Yordani: The best of both worlds.
Lizzy: And then you could see your family more.
Yordani: Yeah, definitely. That'd be pretty cool.
Lizzy: Well as we start wrapping up, because I know we got to get you back to class too. Is there any last thing that you feel like you haven't had the chance to share or that you want people to understand about you or people in your situation?
Yordani: Let's see... Well, I really feel like this was all my fault. I hung out with the wrong crowd. I mean part of it was my status, but mostly it was my life decisions, you know? I hung out with the wrong crowd. I guess I didn't really have guidance. I ended up in a position where I didn't like being there. I guess I found the solution was to leave.
Yordani: I mean that was my reason for coming over here. I felt so trapped in the game. I was like, "If I just go over there, I'm going to be forced to not play video games. I'm going to be forced to reintegrate into society and just change, you know? Like, just coming back here is going to change me." And it did, I guess it worked, I saved myself, I guess.
Yordani: I mean I was kind of dumb because I could've seeked help. I could've like... I guess I didn't know where, I didn't know where.
Lizzy: Yeah. And I know I said we were done, but just one last question. So you're just finishing school now. What do you hope for, for your future? What are your thoughts for your future here?
Yordani: Well, yeah. Yeah, definitely becoming a good software developer. Just establishing myself as good. I mean, I don't want to be the best. I want to be up there. I don't want to be the best. Like I want to set goals for myself, I want to accomplish them. And yeah, maybe if getting a visa doesn't work out, like my parents get deported, I'll be there to support my mom.
Yordani: I guess them bringing me over there did teach me English. It did give me like... It put me in a better place than most people here. So I'd say, I guess I want to give back to them. I guess that's part of the Mexican culture too, is to give back. So I guess I want to do that, also for myself, you know?
Lizzy: To be able to support yourself, but also your family if they need you.
Yordani: Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).