After the loss of DACA protections, an undocumented immigrant earns a new life in Mexico: NPR



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Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano crosses his neighborhood in León, in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. Olivas-Bejarano was deported to Mexico after living in the United States for 26 years.

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Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano crosses his neighborhood in León, in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. Olivas-Bejarano was deported to Mexico after living in the United States for 26 years.

Alicia Vera for NPR

When 29-year-old Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano returned for the first time to his hometown, the Mexican city of León, he did not speak the native language.

"I hardly speak Spanish now," he says.

He arrived alone in León and today, almost two years after his deportation, Olivas-Bejarano still has not seen his family in person.

Sitting in his small apartment furnished with personal documents, he looks at a homemade photo album containing images printed on Facebook. He is full of memories of his old life in America: picnics, Pride parade, family anniversaries in Tulsa, Okla.

Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano consults an album containing photographs of his stay in the United States at his home in León.

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Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano consults an album containing photographs of his stay in the United States at his home in León.

Alicia Vera for NPR

Now it is more than 1000 km away from them and is part of something new: a generation of young people who are neither Mexican nor American, undocumented or fully able to participate in the society around them, and they bring a different attitude. , and expectations, in the country of their birth.

The parents of Olivas-Bejarano left León for the United States at the age of 2 years. They found themselves in Oklahoma, where Olivas-Bejarano and his siblings born in the United States were raised.

Growing up in Oklahoma, Olivas-Bejarano's parents had warned him that someday his citizenship could be questioned.

But it was not until he saw other students taking a driving class that it hit him: he was undocumented and that meant he would be offered fewer opportunities than his American peers.

"I was all excited about" Oh, I can enroll in this class. I would get my driver's license. "And that's when my parents thought," Well, no. You are not going to follow normal steps like everyone else. Things will not be the same as everyone else. "

The sun enters the kitchen of Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano in his house in Leon, furnished with odds and ends.

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The sun enters the kitchen of Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano in his house in Leon, furnished with odds and ends.

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It was his life, living in limbo, until a change in immigration policy gave him the opportunity to stay in the United States.

The change took place with the creation of the Deferred Action Program for Child Arrivals, known as DACA, in 2012. This program has allowed Olivas-Bejarano – and hundreds of thousands of people who have been brought to the United States as a child – to remain legally in the country. , free from the threat of having to leave the country they called their country of origin.

Olivas-Bejarano says to remember the day when DACA was announced by former President Obama.

"I literally called my boss and she did not even need to know what I was talking about." She said, "I know, I've heard it! I'm so horny, I'm so horny! ""

"I was just like crying in my car after work just like" Oh my God, something's going on. ""

But then, in 2014 and 2016, he was caught driving while intoxicated, misdemeanors that the Obama administration had not considered to be deportable offenses.

However, these standards have changed with the Trump Presidency. In January 2017, President Trump signed a decree that extended the scope of US immigration and customs law enforcement to apprehend undocumented immigrants, regardless of their age. criminal record. Later this year, the president announced that he would phase out the DACA.

In June, DUI's accusations of Olivas-Bejarano overtook him. He had just had a job interview for a bartender job, but when he came out and headed to his car, he saw an ICE agent approaching him. from him.

"As soon as I saw it, it was a bit like an instinct, you say to yourself" Oh shit. "Like:" I hope he does not come talk to me. " I hope he does not come to talk to me ""

He wanted to run away. The officer proceeded to take him out of his car and, under the eyes of the restaurant staff, handcuffed him.

Olivas-Bejarano says the most difficult of his immigrant status is to be separated from his family in Oklahoma. But he says the risk of illegally returning to the United States is too great for him.

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Olivas-Bejarano says the most difficult of his immigrant status is to be separated from his family in Oklahoma. But he says the risk of illegally returning to the United States is too great for him.

Alicia Vera for NPR

He describes this day as upsetting.

"I had to come to this realization in about 15 minutes, you know, you're about to be kicked out."

ICE detained him for several weeks, first in Oklahoma, then in Texas. Finally, on the advice of his lawyer, he voluntarily left the country, leaving the possibility to return legally one day.

He was chained and put in a bus that dropped him off at the southern border. He remembered taking a break at the border crossing in Laredo, Texas, to witness a scene from another world.

"I remember watching and seeing Texas, then seeing and seeing Mexico," he said. "And just like: I'd like to stay here and not have to worry about going anywhere."

"And then, while passing over the Mexican border, I had the impression of going on another planet – it was two different worlds."

In his new world, the country where he was born, he had become a stranger again.

In November 2017, he settled in León, center of the Mexican footwear industry, where a large bilingual community supports him. Yet, the focus of Olivas-Bejarano stood out.

"My neighbors would end up calling me" gringo, "he says, amused." Which is really strange to me because I've always thought that gringos were whites, and then, here I am obviously Mexican. "

He spent his first year in Mexico in denial, until he spent part of his life in the United States in his new world. On her 29th birthday, her friend Elise visited him in León.

"In fact, see her at home, holding her in her arms and hug her and look like" You're here! "It was like," No, it's your life now, you're here and your friend came to visit you. This is not a dream. Wake up." "

The nights are the most solitary, he says. When he calls his parents, about twice a week, he does not talk about his life in León – he likes to pretend to be close by.

In fact, if his parents visited him in Mexico, they could not return to the United States with their other children.

"Part of the family was probably the hardest thing … not being able to kiss my mom or dad or harass my brother," he says, laughing and tears.

Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano buys fruit at a market in León, Guanajuato, earlier this month. His Spanish has improved over the two years he has spent in Mexico, but his American accent is noticeable in a large bilingual community.

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Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano buys fruit at a market in León, Guanajuato, earlier this month. His Spanish has improved over the two years he has spent in Mexico, but his American accent is noticeable in a large bilingual community.

Alicia Vera for NPR

Despite the loss and sadness, he declares he has no desire to return to the United States.

For the first time in his life, he wants to choose to cross the border himself. "I am in fact against illegal immigration," he said. "Too much risk for me, I would not want to end up in jail for 10 years."

Instead, he says that there should be better legal migration routes so that people do not have to put their lives in danger.

But in Washington, Congress and the Trump administration have been trying to identify what these paths might look like. Although the DACA remains in place despite the legal difficulties associated with its gradual elimination, the program does not provide a path for citizenship. In the meantime, the president's latest immigration proposal, announced last week, does not say what to do with immigrants who have entered the country illegally.

Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano returns home to León, Guanajuato.

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Gilberto Olivas-Bejarano returns home to León, Guanajuato.

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For the moment, Olivas-Bejarano's English and her education have earned her a customer support position at Charly, a Mexican multi-million dollar sportswear company.

After six months of work, Olivas-Bejarano is already in the running for a promotion.

As he rebuilds his life in León, Olivas-Bejarano said he has a lot to offer Mexico, alongside his well-educated immigrant youth immigrants.

"I mean, you can teach English to children here in Mexico, just as you can teach Spanish to children in the United States, but you can not teach American culture, you can not teach Hispanic culture.

"And that's what I bring, it's a different point of view," he says. "New ideas and … a reader."

A training that begins to mark Mexico.

NPR collaborated with the PBS NewsHour, which will include a report by Lulu Garcia-Navarro during its broadcast on Monday, May 20, 2019.

NPR's Emma Bowman produced this story for the Web.

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