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Activists From Mexico City Travel to Loyola to Share Experiences With Deportation and Visas

Eisha Shah | The PhoenixThree young activists traveled from Mexico City to speak to the Loyola community about their experiences with deportation.

Loyola students, faculty and guests gathered at McCormick Lounge in Coffey Hall to attend a discussion on deportation, forced return and visa justice and as a result of the event, two activists reunited with relatives after a decade, according to the organizer.

The hour and fifteen minute long discussion 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 on the ordeals of those who experience deportation or forced return to Mexico and visa justice. 

The activists are members of a Mexico-based organization called Otros Dreams en Acción and were either deported or forced to return to Mexico after living in the U.S. for several years, according to the organizer of the event, Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz, an associate professor in the department of anthropology. 

The organization advocates for more dignified policies and conditions for people in Mexico and works to shift narratives on deportation and undocumented status. They are working to expand their reach across borders, according to Loredo.

Loredo said they also try to define what family separation is, redefine immobility and educate the public on its implications on mixed-status families, U.S. citizens, residents and institutions, among other things. 

“Part of the message is to insist on the right to their mobility and insist that we are still part of these communities and that we can be part of many communities and disrupt those traditional discourses that have had a lot of space but have also denied space from us,” Loredo, who co-founded the organization in 2015 after returning to Mexico in 2008, said.

Loredo said the group’s goals are to increase access for family reunification, international mobility and more dignified programs for people who return to or are deported to Mexico, among other things.  

Antunec, who returned to the U.S. after 13 years, said she wants society to uplift people who experience similar circumstances by recognizing them instead of victimizing them and consider them “assets.”  

Eisha Shah | The Phoenix The group works to promote the creation of more dignified programs for immigrants.

Coping with post-deportation consequences is an “energizing process” and experiences differ depending on several factors such as the individual’s ethnicity, social class and whether they are north or south of the border, according to Antunec, who’s been advocating for the cause since 2013.

Antunec added some people experience criminizalization and skin color discrimination among other things due to their undocumented status and struggle with mental health illnesses because of seperation from their family. 

Antunec noted the cost of deportations and forced returns on relationships after not seeing them for more than a decade. 

“I feel strange to them,” Antunec, who reunited with her family for a couple days, said. “It’s been 13 years now. Relationships break. Coming back to the U.S. doesn’t mean the exile process has ended; the exile process is everlasting.”

When Molina returned to Mexico in 2011, she said she experienced bullying and neglect from her university and realized she spoke “kindergarten-Spanish.”   

“Something I will never forget is being told, ‘We do not know what to do with you,’” Molina said. 

Additionally, Molina said she was forced to quit her job in 2019 because her Spanish-writing skills weren’t strong. 

Antunec said her target audience at the event were Loyola’s students who are undocumented or who are recipenents of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — an immigration policy that grants amnesty from deportation and a work permit to those who came to the U.S. undocumented as children.

Although Antunec said she doesn’t personally wish to come back to the U.S., she said she knows many others who were deported or forced to return to Mexico desire to because they have “stronger ties” in the U.S.

After sharing her experience, Antunec invited attendees to reflect on their privilege and realize that the immigration system worked in their favor but didn’t for many others. 

Molina, who also reunited with her family, compared her circumstances with those who were unable to see their family members due to COVID-19 restrictions, but highlighted her physical separation from her family was longer — 11 years. 

Molina concluded her speech by emphasizing the need for better immigration policies on both sides of the border. 

During the event, the activists sought to spark an interest in attendees to join their efforts. They welcomed ideas and strategies to advocate for these issues through different mediums and encouraged attendees to volunteer for the organization and send a letter to representatives. 

The activists were sponsored by the dean’s office of the College of Arts and Sciences, various departments at Loyola and the Latin America and Latinx Studies Program, Gomberg-Muñoz said.

“This is a very expensive process,” Gomberg- Muñoz said. “Visas have to be paid for, flights have to be purchased and accommodations have to be made.”

Speaking of the university, Antunec said Loyola’s been an ally to her community for several years and helped her obtain her visitor visa and offered resources so that she could attend the event.

“I hope the event cultivates stronger long-term relationships between Loyola people and youth activists and scholars in Mexico City,”  Gomberg-Muñoz said.

Attendee Jacqueline Wence, a senior psychology student, said she realized during the event how unaware she previously was to the situations people experience when they are deported or are forced to return.

After learning about the experiences of the activists, she said she will support the group by spreading awareness of the cause and giving monetary aid. 

“[The cause] is really important because it hits home; my parents are also immigrants so if they would have been deported it would have been something close to what [the activists] have experienced,” Wence said.

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