- Sandra Diaz
"Dreamers" Visit Mexico
CIP Member, Sandra Diaz, had the opportunity to travel to Mexico with Advance Parole this year. This is a blog summarizing her experience. Feel free to ask questions or continue the conversation in the comment section.
For five years now, the Mexican Consulates in the US and the IME (Instituto de Mexicanos en el Exterior) have organized an annual Dreamers Forum. In 2022 they invited current DACA recipients to apply for a three-day forum in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Participants at this forum were divided into groups and given a project to work on and present to the rest of the participants. I was placed in the “Jóvenes en la Política” group where we created the project named “SomosDAYDA” which stands for Somos de Aquí y de Allá.
The mission of SomosDAYDA is to build a youth led movement to empower Mexicans abroad to become civically engaged and participate in Mexican elections. All with the aim to protect immigrant communities and our human rights in Mexico and abroad. You can learn more about the project here: Instagram. Website.
During the process of working on this project we learned that six of our members would be sponsored for a trip to Mexico in April of 2023 to present it to institutions of interest. In our case, we would present to the Instituto de Mexicanos en el Exterior (IME), Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE), and local activist groups. I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the six members who would be sponsored.
We faced an uphill battle to get to Mexico starting with the application process for Advance Parole. The Mexican Consulate in Chicago assigned us to a law office that provided a less than adequate service. Long story short, three of the team members in Chicago never received their Advance Parole document. Our lawyer had no interest in advocating for us in front of USCIS officers so we took matters into our own hands a week before the trip. After countless calls and pleas we managed to get an appointment a day before our flights to Mexico and applied for emergency AP. This also meant that we had to re-apply and pay the $575 application fee, again. After months of stress and uncertainty, as is the theme around DACA, we finally had our AP document.
The trip’s agenda consisted of a week of activities where the first 4 days would include conferences and info sessions, museum visits, and an opportunity to speak to senators and representatives. The remaining 3 days were meant to be used to travel to our hometowns or place of origin. Unfortunately for me, the money I had to use to re-apply for Advance Parole was the money I needed to go to my ranchito. I would miss out on seeing my place of origin and my family that still lives there and have not seen since I was 5 years old.
My first reaction as I arrive in Mexico City is amazement at how large and colorful it is. I could not believe I was actually there. Listening to some of the panelists talk about Mexico's history made me tear up in realization that I don't know the history of my country of origin. This feeling then led to curiosity and excitement about all the knowledge I would attempt to acquire during this trip and after. We had the opportunity to visit the Museo de Antropologia e Historia, which I think was my favorite part of the trip. I learned so much about where we come from, how intelligent and powerful our ancestors were, and how badly the colonizers screwed us, but I’ll save that conversation for another day.
Even though I did not get the chance to visit my hometown, Mexico City had so much to offer. I visited Bellas Artes, El Zocalo, Plaza Garibaldi, El Angel de Indepencencia, and a few museums. There were still plenty of places I missed and hope to get another chance to see.
We also had the opportunity to visit la Camara de Senadores and la Camara de Diputados and have a conversation with them about DACA and our experiences. While I am grateful for that opportunity, I left both meetings feeling like nothing had changed and was emotionally exhausted.
Overall, Mexico is beautiful, its landscape and people are so diverse. A week is not nearly long enough to see all of it. After this trip, I am already trying to find ways in which I can return to visit without abandoning my DACA status.
This trip opened my eyes to a couple of things. I connected with many other participants over how we don't identify with the term "Dreamer" which was used to describe us during the entire program. To us, the dreamers were our parents not us. Consider the fact that this narrative was created over 10 years ago and feels outdated to some of us. At the start of the fight for DACA it was targeting youth and as you can imagine a decade later, not all of us are youth anymore. Just within this group we had "Dreamers" over 40 years old and/or are already grandparents. This also hides the reality that we have a new generation of immigrant youth who were not able to apply for DACA after Trump rescinded it in 2017. DACA was never enough and we need to continue to advocate for a solution and make sure the current immigrant youth and the original dreamers are not forgotten.
During our visit, my group also met with Otros Dreams en Accion, an org advocating for the rights of Mexicans who lived in the US and were deported or returned to Mexico. They spoke to us about the countless barriers they face when returning to Mexico and how hard it has been for them to get an opportunity like the one that was handed to us on this trip to speak to Mexican elected officials.
I keep thinking back to the photo ops and how we were, in a way, paraded around government buildings but when it came to us asking what they can do to help us, crickets. I hope our conversations with these elected officials will lead us somewhere and I hope we have the opportunity to return to Mexico one day without the worry of not being able to come back to the US.
Aside from the stressful politics of it all, visiting Mexico was enlightening. I wish we all had the opportunity to visit the part of the world we are from and learn about all the people that came before us. I wish we could return without a laundry list of graves to visit. And I wish our parents could fulfill their dream of one day returning to the lands that saw them grow into the brave people that raised us.