What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Some ‘Dreamers’ face painful reality of no country to call home

The immigration policies of the Trump administration have dramatically changed life for young undocumented Mexicans who came to the U.S. as children. Under DACA, which President Obama implemented in 2012, they were protected from deportation. Now, many have been forced out of the U.S. or left out of fear of deportation, finding they belong in neither country. NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro reports.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Many young undocumented people living in the U.S. worry that President Trump's immigration policies might put them at risk of deportation. For some, those fears have been realized. Others left on their own accord.

    Either way, Mexico has a growing community of people who were born there, but feel more at home in the U.S.

    NPR's "Weekend Edition" Sunday host Lulu Garcia-Navarro met some of them recently, and has this story.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    For Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano, this call is a bittersweet taste of home. When the 29-year-old gets lonely, which is often, he phones his parents in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1,300 miles away from Leon, Mexico, where he lives now.

    He doesn't talk about himself or his new life to his family…

  • Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano:

    I was, like, so happy watching your videos.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    … or to his friends. He prefers to imagine himself just around the corner from them.

  • Woman:

    What are you doing?

  • Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano:

    Oh, I'm just hanging out at home.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    And it is a small home, where the walls are mostly bare and almost nothing is his.

  • Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano:

    Me as a kid. I was like 16 there.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    Except the pictures he's printed from his Facebook page.

    He arrived in Mexico two years ago with nothing and knowing no one.

  • Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano:

    I was 2 years old, I think, the last time we were in Mexico.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    He's now crossed the U.S.-Mexico border twice in circumstances beyond his control, once when he was a toddler with his parents and again when he was, deported as the Trump administration cracked down on the people who call themselves dreamers.

    They were brought as children into the U.S. illegally. Many came out of the shadows in 2012, when President Obama issued an executive order protecting them from deportation, known as DACA.

  • Barack Obama:

    It makes no sense to expel talented young people who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans.

  • Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano:

    I remember the day that Obama announced it. I was just, like, crying in my car after work, just like, oh, my God, something's finally happening.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    Before DACA, he had dropped out of high school to focus on getting a GED and a job. He was fearful that he couldn't advance his education undocumented. But, once he received DACA, he enrolled in community college.

    He is part of a new generation, young, educated undocumented immigrants who gained legal status in the United States under DACA. He thought he was finally safe, but he was caught drinking and driving, a serious mistake for any American, but one which put his status in the United States at risk.

  • Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano:

    Yes, that was the original DUI and then, consequently, led to me being deported.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    In 2014 and 2016, he racked up two convictions of driving under the influence. They were misdemeanors. He was paying the fines, but under the Trump administration's new rules, old convictions were enough to get him deported. After a job interview at a restaurant in 2017, an ICE agent approached him.

  • Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano:

    There was no discretion about it. He literally just pulled me out of my car.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    That same year, the Trump administration decided to rescind DACA altogether.

  • Jeff Sessions:

    The Department of Justice cannot defend this overreach.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    Olivas-Bejarano took the advice of his lawyers not to challenge his deportation. Before he left the U.S., he spent five weeks in a detention center.

  • Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano:

    Being openly gay, I was definitely targeted a lot. People would make comments, like sexual comments, sexual innuendoes.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    He was left at the border after three days on a bus, in shackles, his first time back since he was 2 years old. He could barely speak Spanish.

  • Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano:

    They'd hear my accent and they'd be like, you're not from here are you? Where are you from?

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    Is not being able to see your family the hardest thing for you here?

  • Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano:

    Yes. I think that's the only hard thing, really, is not being able to hug my mom or hug my dad or harass my brothers.

    I'm sorry.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    Here in Mexico, new organizations are springing up, looking to tap into this new generation's potential.

    This is HolaCode in Mexico City, started in 2017 after entrepreneur Marcela Torres saw an opportunity.

  • Marcela Torres:

    The tech sector was looking for people that are resilient with transferable skills that can learn really fast and they know how to speak English and Spanish.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    Her five-month program trains deportees and returnees from the U.S. to become software engineers. And they are also taught other skills for their new life, like how to fit into a Mexican workplace.

  • Woman:

    We're definitely in a different culture than the U.S.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    They receive a weekly stipend and are only required to pay for the program when they get a job. Marcela views her program as solving the returnee's paradox: born in Mexico, raised in the U.S., but at home in neither.

  • Marcela Torres:

    You know, the American dream, like, they grew up with all these cultural messages, but they have also been denied to them consistently on both sides of the border.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    She said that, without programs like hers, this entire generation could fall between the cracks.

  • Marcela Torres:

    We're seeing generation 1.5, which is born in Mexico, raised in the U.S., returned to Mexico. And the amount of people that are coming back, it's also very large, to an extent that, if Mexico doesn't do anything about this, it's going to be an entire generation that gets lost.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    Even without Mexico's help, generation 1.5 is forging their own path here.

    People like Mauricio Lopez, he received DACA protections, too. But once President Trump was elected, with his anti-immigration rhetoric, Lopez decided he'd had enough and he returned back to Mexico.

    He's now teaching English at a charity that helps returnees in a part of Mexico City near the Plaza de la Revolucion. The memorial here commemorates Mexico's revolution. It's become the unofficial hub for deportees and returnees like Mauricio.

    Here in what's now called Little L.A., businesses have sprung up catering to this new community, and one of them is the cactus burrito stand, where they are literally giving people a taste of home, burritos, which are not common here in Mexico City.

    And they have names that remind people of what they have left behind, California, Texas and even Hawaii.

    For Maggie Loredo, home used to be Georgia. She's using what she learned from her experience crossing the border to help this flood of new arrivals over the last two years.

  • Maggie Loredo:

    Once they arrive, they find themselves, many of the times, undocumented again in Mexico in the sense that it's so complex and hard to obtain identity documents that are recognized in Mexico.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    She says the Mexican government hasn't helped enough, so she's taken matters into her own hands, co-founding a nonprofit called Otros Dreams En Accion, Other Dreams in Action.

  • Maggie Loredo:

    We mutually support each other. We are politically advocating on both sides of the border, Mexico and the United States.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    They work out of a space called Pocho House, reclaiming a word that some locals have begun using as a slur to describe American-raised Mexicans. The walls at Pocho House are adorned with mementos from home.

    A map of the United States is studded with pins showing everyone's hometown. And a phrase on the wall captures their feeling of being in limbo, "From here and from there."

  • Maggie Loredo:

    There are a lot of multiple identities that I possess. But, I mean, one I think that I have come to an agreement with myself, that I can be (SPEAKING SPANISH) but I am also (SPEAKING SPANISH) so I'm (SPEAKING SPANISH).

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    Back in Leon, Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano says he is also something in between, caught in the middle of two shifting identities.

    But he now feels it's what makes him stronger. He recently got an apartment in a better part of town and explores his neighborhood with his roommate. He has a job in the city of Leon's bustling shoe industry, which he says has plenty of potential for growth.

  • Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano:

    This is my office. And it's super nice. We just moved in here.

  • Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

    He grew up with the American dream, and now he's hoping that dream can come true in Mexico.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lulu Garcia-Navarro in Mexico.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest