On the night of November 8, 2016, 26-year-old Maggie Loredo, like millions of others, was messaging her friends with growing anxiety. “Watching the election… It just all fell apart,” she recalled two months after Donald Trump’s victory. But Loredo was watching the election results not from the United States, a country where she lived for most of her life, but from her hometown of San Luis Potosí, Mexico, where she had returned eight years before.
Loredo came to the United States as a toddler with her family and decided to move back to Mexico after graduating high school. Barred from receiving financial aid from public universities in her home state of Georgia and with no way to legally work in the United States, Loredo thought it would be easier to attend college in the country where she was born. But in San Luis Potosí, she found that the officials at the Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretary of Public Education) were incompetent and unable to give her the appropriate guidance to validate her high-school diploma.
In the meantime, she says she became the victim of labor abuse in a job at an English school that exploited and stole from her. “There was no way I would get another job, because I didn’t have a college diploma or experience or a lot of recommendation letters,” she explains. She says it almost felt like being undocumented again, despite being a Mexican citizen. It would take five years of navigating the government bureaucracy before she would be able to start college.
Loredo is one of around 500,000 Mexican youth who were raised in the United States but have come back to the country of their birth. Some have found themselves or family members deported, while others, like Loredo, left because they felt chewed up and spit out by the US government due to their undocumented status. In 2014, Loredo co-founded Otros Dreams en Acción (Other Dreams in Action, ODA), a support group for Mexican deportees and returnees. Along with the organization’s other co-founder, Dr. Jill Anderson, a Mexico City–based researcher, ODA members help each other readjust and respond to life in Mexico.
ODA is part of the growing migrant-led activism network in Mexico doing this kind of work. These groups help returned and deported people who have not lived in Mexico in years—oftentimes they have no memory of living there—revalidate their legal status in Mexico, access educational and job opportunities, and re-acclimate to the culture. They also advocate for public policies to support them, like easing documentation requirements for deportees and returnees enrolling in education institutions.
Since the election, the reality that deportees and returnees have already faced has become a more urgent fear for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, including the more than 702,000 Mexican-born immigrants protected under DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. An executive order passed by Barack Obama in 2012, DACA allows some undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as minors to receive work permits and two-year, renewable relief from deportation. Although President Trump has not repealed DACA, he has sent mixed messages about whether the program will continue. News recently broke that Juan Manuel Montes-Bojorquez, a DACA recipient, was mistakenly deported on February 18, after the Department of Homeland Security erroneously claimed his protected status had expired. Montes-Bojorquez is suing the US government with the National Immigration Law Center. Inconsistent deportation targets, expanded definitions of criminality, and more leeway for federal immigration agents to act autonomously has sent the immigrant community and their allies into panic.