MEXICO.- Elísabet Barrios was only a few weeks away from seeing her maternal grandparents before they died in Mexico because the papers to be able to travel as a beneficiary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) did not arrive on time.
Instead, they were given to him just to see on the last day of his paternal grandfather’s life. It was a Friday afternoon in late June. The original plan was to visit him on Saturday and return to California the next day, where he emigrated at the age of four in the arms of his parents. He had never come back.
But her father called him: “Your grandfather is very sick, visit him soon.”
Elísabet ran to Mexico City from Guanajuato, where she had a social agenda to participate in the Leadership Without Borders Forum at the Fox Center.
He entered the room where his grandfather lay. 26 years had passed. He was not fully aware. Elízabeth hugged him, kissed him on the bed and sang a Purépecha song close to him: Flor de Canela, I sigh when I remember you/ I sigh/ don’t cry anymore, don’t sigh anymore, neverand I will forget…
Elisabet sang in Spanish with determination. She spelled each letter as if each one of them were the symbol of a family member, as if it was the last thing her granddaddy would hear.
And it was. The next day she died. “It was something incredible,” says Elisabet.
Now, with documents in hand, he knows that he fulfilled two agendas in style: one for the family and the other for the community.
“We Mexicans are surviving in isolationeven though we are the same coin with two sides: in the United States we are surviving the migratory systems and in Mexico the economic systems”, comments Elísabet, who is a researcher of migratory policies at the University of California.
“So what we want to do now is find out how the struggles are connected and what to do to support each other.”
Elízabeth Barrios was born in Mexico City 30 years agobut she had no memory of this country but of the other, which is not hers because she does not have citizenship, but at the same time she does because the school and her growth as an adult is American, although culturally she feels Mexican.
Many times he wonders why his parents emigrated and they tell him. That because of the insecurity, that because of the money, but he still has doubts: about the structural issue that pushed them, about the economic, political and racial systems. What would have happened to me if I had stayed in Mexico?, he repeats to himself
“My wish was to come to know and discover how Mexican I am. I feel Mexican but I didn’t know if it’s easy to fit in, if my Spanish is so good”, she details.
“Now I know that yes and that little by little I am finding people who, although we do not have the same struggles right away, we can support each other making noise on social networks, marching at the same time in both countries or promoting art, painting, poetry and songs about our problems”.
For now, the main challenge facing the young dreamers from various universities who visited the Leadership Forum is related to legal limbo.
In 2012, then-President Barack Obama created by executive order what he then called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) to help hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants brought by their parents to the United States as minors, without immigration papers.
DACA gave documents to more than 825,000 “dreamers”as they are also known, but has had a lot of opposition from Republicans and the program spends it between courts, between continuity and disappearance.
He currently has a federal lawsuit filed by attorneys from several states, led by Texas, whose main argument insists that Obama did not have the authority to create the program, which is not a matter for the Executive.
In Mexico, young people from Elízabeth’s generation and the rest of society struggle with insecurity, the control of organized crime; corruption and lack of rule of law. But above all with the economy.
79% of young Mexicans have problems finding a job due to lack of experience and because they do not speak English, according to research by Manpower Group Latin America.
The young returnees could make synergies to support those who are here. In fact, there are already academies that some deportees are founding in Mexico, but a greater connection is needed.
“We want more opportunities to be able to see each other physically among Mexicans here and there,” acknowledges Elisabet Barrios. “That is very important and we are looking for a way to do it.”
At his grandfather’s wake Elisabet Barrios called her father on a WhatsApp video call. Through the phone he greeted cousins, uncles, brothers-in-law, nephews, his sister and even gave a few farewell words to his father that came from the soul and heart of distance and technology.
She saw her father for the last time in the coffin, spoke to him and felt the human warmth through each movement of the daughter who went from here to there with the cell phone in her hands, between candles and incense, between friends and relatives. Elisabet’s partner did the same with the other son of the deceased who lives in the United States.
“It was like a gift from the universe, unexpected,” says Barrios.
But the distance continues and the law and the papers. She had the flight back to California on Sunday and could no longer be at the funeral of the leader of the Barrios. But she felt satisfied that she fired her grandfather on behalf of those who couldn’t.
She was only on hold for the immigration officer to let her re-enter. Those who travel with DACA papers are left at the mercy of US officials. At the discretion of these is the permission to return or not. She finally got in and, back at work, she is still “digesting” everything that she went through and what she wants to do in Mexico.
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