Loyola students, faculty and guests gathered in the McCormick Lounge at Coffey Hall for a discussion on deportation, forced return and visa justice and following the event two activists reunited relatives after a decade, according to the organizer.
The hour and fifteen minute discussion on April 14 focused on the experiences of three activists – Rossy Antunec, Maggie Loredo and Yerisell Molina – who traveled from Mexico to educate the Loyola community about the hardships of those who endure a deportation or a forced return to Mexico and a Justice visa.
The activists are members of a Mexico-based organization called Otros Dreams en Acción and were deported or forced to return to Mexico after living in the United States for several years, according to event organizer Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz , associate professor. in the anthropology department.
The organization advocates for more dignified policies and conditions for people in Mexico and works to change narratives about deportation and undocumented status. They strive to expand their reach across borders, according to Loredo.
Loredo said they are also trying to define family separation, redefine immobility, and educate the public about its implications for mixed-status families, U.S. citizens, residents, and institutions, among others.
“Part of the message is to insist on the right to their mobility and to insist that we are still part of these communities and that we can be part of many communities and disrupt these traditional discourses that have had a lot of space but who also refused space from us,” said Loredo, who co-founded the organization in 2015 after returning to Mexico in 2008.
Loredo said the group’s goals are to increase access to family reunification, international mobility and more dignified programs for those returning or being deported to Mexico, among others.
Antunec, who returned to the United States after 13 years, said she wants society to uplift people who go through similar circumstances by recognizing them instead of victimizing them and viewing them as “assets”.
Dealing with post-deportation consequences is an “energizing process” and experiences differ based on several factors such as ethnicity, social class and whether they are north or south of the border, depending on Antunec, which has been championing the cause since 2013.
Antunec added that some people experience criminalization and discrimination based on skin color, among other things, due to their undocumented status and struggle with mental illnesses due to separation from family.
Antunec noted the cost of deportations and forced returns on relationships after not seeing them for more than a decade.
“I feel strange for them,” said Antunec, who was reunited with his family for a few days. “It’s been 13 years now. Relationships break down. Returning to the United States does not mean that the exile process is over; the process of exile is eternal.
When Molina returned to Mexico in 2011, she said she was bullied and neglected by her university and found she spoke “kindergarten Spanish.”
“Something I’ll never forget is being told, ‘We don’t know what to do with you,'” Molina said.
Additionally, Molina said she was forced out of her job in 2019 because her Spanish writing skills weren’t strong.
Antunec said her target audience at the event was Loyola students who are undocumented or benefit from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – an immigration policy that grants amnesty from deportation and work permits to those who came to the United States undocumented as children. .
Although Antunec said she personally does not want to return to the United States, she said she knows many others who have been deported or forced to return to Mexico want to because they have “ties stronger” in the United States.
After sharing his experience, Antunec invited participants to reflect on their privilege and realize that the immigration system worked in their favor but not for many others.
Molina, who has also been reunited with her family, compared her situation with those unable to see their family members due to COVID-19 restrictions, but stressed that her physical separation from her family was longest – 11 years.
Molina concluded his speech by emphasizing the need for better immigration policies on both sides of the border.
During the event, activists sought to generate interest among attendees to join their efforts. They welcomed ideas and strategies to advocate for these issues in different ways and encouraged participants to volunteer for the organization and send a letter to representatives.
The activists were sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, various Loyola departments and the Latin American and Latinx Studies program, Gomberg-Muñoz said.
“It’s a very expensive process,” Gomberg-Muñoz said. “Visas have to be paid for, flights have to be bought, and accommodations have to be made.”
Speaking of the university, Antunec said Loyola has been an ally to her community for several years and has helped her obtain her visitor’s visa and provided her with resources so she can attend the event.
“I hope the event will cultivate stronger, long-term relationships between the Loyolas and young activists and scholars in Mexico City,” Gomberg-Muñoz said.
Attendee Jacqueline Wence, a psychology student, said she realized during the event how much she was previously unaware of the situations people go through when they are kicked out or forced back.
After learning about the activists’ experiences, she said she would support the group by raising awareness of the cause and providing monetary assistance.
“[The cause] is really important because it touches the house; my parents are also immigrants so if they had been deported it would have been something close to what [the activists] lived,” Wence said.
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