Elizabeth slept in the airport that night. She arrived in TJ on July 22. It had been eight years since she’d last seen her dad.

“It was devastating. My dad said, ‘God knows what is best for you. Be strong. We will get your baby and family together again.”

It took Elizabeth weeks to recover from the shock of being back in Mexico.

“I didn’t want to go outside. I was scared. I didn’t feel secure. In the U.S., I saw on the news how dangerous Tijuana is.”

It took two months to get her son back. There was a delay in obtaining his passport. She spoke to him every day over the phone. He cried and begged to come to Mexico. The day he arrived was a happy reunion.

“For many reasons, I don’t want to go back to the United States. I can wait until my son turns 21 and get citizenship through him, or I can go illegally to be with my husband. Aldo and I separated. The only good thing that America brought me was my son. I want to stay here in Mexico.”

Elizabeth is still angry about her deportation.

“I wish that they had had more heart. They didn’t care; they just kicked me out. I have adjusted. I like it here. In the U.S., I was in constant worry that I was going to be deported. I feel free now.”


The first time Frank saw a white man was the day his mom’s boyfriend showed up to smuggle him across the U.S. border. Frank was six years old and lived with his grandmother in a village near Tepic, in central Mexico. The boyfriend brought along his own four children from Fullerton, California. He tried to convince Frank that entry into the U.S. would be an adventure, not an illegal activity.

Frank was scared. He didn’t know any English. He was anxious about reuniting with his mother, of whom he had no memory. He’d been a toddler when she left for the United States.

“It was a 32-hour drive from my village to the U.S. border. We stopped overnight at a fancy beach resort. I had never seen anything like it. We collected shells on the beach.”

Frank and family

Frank and I are sitting in plastic lawn chairs on the front patio of his employers’ Rosarito home, while he tells the tale of his entrance into the United States. A shaggy white-and-brown pit bull roams the patio and barks to get our attention. “Shush, Marilyn!” Frank says while petting the dog’s head. Frank is wearing a baseball cap, a Sublime band T-shirt, and cargo pants. Soft-spoken and serious, he reminds me of my junior high school history teacher.

They arrived at the border after midnight. The boyfriend instructed Frank to feign sleep. When they drove up to the post, the boyfriend told the border agents that Frank was his son. The lie went unquestioned. Frank was in.

“I remember the bright lights on the freeway and the bridges. When we drove into L.A., I thought it was the most beautiful city in the world.”

Frank had high hopes for his reunion with his mother. In his mind, she was nurturing and warm.

“My grandmother was very stern. She gave me one too many whippings. I was expecting my mother to be different. I thought she would be soft. She was anything but. I was disappointed. We didn’t speak Spanish because my mom really wanted me to learn English. She wanted me to be perfect at it. She would beat me in order for me to get the words right.”

Frank arrived in the United States during the summer, and by the time school started in the fall, he was fluent in English.

Shortly after his arrival, Frank’s mom and her boyfriend broke up. He and his mom moved from an upper-class neighborhood in Fullerton to San Pedro, where there was lots of gang activity.

“My mother worked harder than anyone I have ever met. She worked 14-hour days. She worked at a bakery and an old folks’ home. I used to go with her to her jobs. I would sweep and mop at the bakery. I played cards and read to the elderly. It kept me out of trouble, for a while.”

When Frank was seven, his mother paid a coyote to bring her other two sons over from Mexico. She wanted her boys to have opportunities she had not been afforded. The younger boys were three and five. After crossing the border, the coyotes made the boys stay with them an extra week. They demanded a sum of money larger than what had been originally specified. It took seven days for Frank’s mom to raise the funds.

“I was ecstatic when [my brothers] came. Before that, it was just me and my mom. She was going through a depression from breaking up with her boyfriend. She was drinking every day. Each night, I thought she was going to die.”

Frank did his best to take care of his brothers. His mom worked during the day, and the boys’ care was left to Frank. They lived in a duplex across the street from Frank’s elementary school. Periodically, he’d leave school to check on his brothers.

“I got in trouble for ditching. My teacher thought I was a bad kid. I knew I was doing what I had to do. I tried to be a dad to them.”

Despite spending nearly all of his childhood — and most of his adult life — in the United States, Frank never attempted to become a citizen. When in 1986 Ronald Reagan signed an immigration-reform bill granting amnesty to immigrants who’d entered the country before 1982, Frank’s mother filled out the paperwork for herself and her children. They all became residents but not citizens.

“I got a Social Security card and was able to get a driver’s license when I was a teenager. I didn’t try for citizenship.”

More from SDReader

Comments

ImJustABill Oct. 11, 2012 @ 11:52 a.m.

"When you get there, you discover that the dream doesn’t exist. I was disappointed."

I really wonder if the Mexican gov't does much if anything to dissuade its citizens from entering the US illegally. It seems they could at least have some public service announcements warning people about the risks. I don't hear any such PSA's on the Mexican radio stations - just a lot of propoganda about how much the Mexican gov't is helping people.

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MetalllianStallion Oct. 14, 2012 @ 6:08 p.m.

Ask yourself the question, why is a TSA agent sticking his hands down my pants in the name of 'Homeland Security' yet our borders are still wide open?

Ultimately I blame the U.S. government and the corporate interests who control this country and have allowed many parts of California to be turned into third world status. I have compassion for people to a point, as the people interviewed do a lot of finger pointing at the same U.S. government that is giving 'FREE' healthcare,food stamps, section 8 housing to illegal aliens(excuse me, undocumented democrats as Obama refers to them).

It's true that the U.S. prison system is a for profit, just like the war on drugs (wink) as they are allowed to be shipped into this country with the help of our beloved CIA. Why are the FEDS determined to shut down all these legal Pot shops? Follow the money, illegal drugs keeps the price on the street much higher, + allows a fresh supply of cheap/free labor in prisons for non violent criminals.

In the last interview where the man who served in the U.S. military but refused to become a U.S. citizen is widely viewed by many people of Mexican decent. The 'Reconquista' is a movement calling for Mexico to “reconquer” America's Southwest. In so many words, breed out the Gringo, that stole our land. I agree the native Americans got the shaft by the white man, but the Mexican–American War is much more complex. The fact is that if 'ALL' of California was Mexico, then the Oregon border would be having the same problems today.

This short 17 minute documentary gives a history of America/Mexico relations of the past leading up to the reasons behind illegal immigration today.

BATTLE FOR THE REPUBLIC http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8037363480810425705

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MetalllianStallion Oct. 14, 2012 @ 6:15 p.m.

2010 Statistics by our beloved Homeland Security. Data compilled from Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security reports indicate: 83% of warrants for murder in Phoenix are for illegal aliens. 86% of warrants for murder in Albuquerque are for illegal aliens. 75% of those on the most wanted list in Los Angeles , Phoenix and Albuquerque are illegal aliens. 24.9% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals 40.1% of all inmates in Arizona detention centers are Mexican nationals 48.2% of all inmates in New Mexico detention centers are Mexican nationals 29% (630,000) convicted illegal alien felons fill our state and Federal prisons at a cost of $1.6 billion annually 53% plus of all investigated burglaries reported in California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Texas are perpetrated by illegal aliens. 50% plus of all gang members in Los Angeles are illegal aliens 71% plus of all apprehended cars stolen in 2005 in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California were stolen by Illegal aliens or "transport coyotes". 47% of cited/stopped drivers in California have no license, no insurance and no registration for the vehicle. Of that 47%, 92% are illegal aliens. 63% of cited/stopped drivers in Arizona have no license, no insurance and no registration for the vehicle. Of that 63%, 97% are illegal aliens 66% of cited/stopped drivers in New Mexico have no license, no insurance and no registration for the vehicle. Of that 66% 98% are illegal aliens. 380,000 plus "anchor babies" were born in the US to illegal alien parents in just one year, making 380,000 babies automatically US citizens. 97.2% of all costs incurred from those illegal births were paid by the American taxpayers Statistics

$397 billion dollars have been paid to families containing illegal immigrants through social services since 1996. Most of the money goes to schooling for U.S. citizens and for children.[13] The number of illegal aliens who are in prison is over 300,000, about 3% of the total.[14] Sex offenders comprised 2% of illegals who have been arrested. Nearly one million sex crimes were committed by illegal immigrants in the United States, in the seven years 1999-2006. Each sex offender averaged 4 victims. [15] Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household. Most of the costs were incurred by U.S. citizens, however, not by the illegals. On average, the costs that illegal households impose are less than half that of other households. In terms of welfare use, receipt of cash assistance programs by illegals tends to be very low, while Medicaid use, though significant, is still less than for other households. [16] California spent more than 11 billion dollars per year on illegal immigrants.

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SanDiegoPeanutGallery Oct. 15, 2012 @ 12:59 p.m.

I find many things alarming about this article. First and foremost, is the idea that a Mexican woman would come to our country, be deported and believe afterward that she is better off in TJ? That speaks volumes on the decline of the U.S.

Also, why was Frank, an illegal, allowed to serve in our military? He wasn’t even a U.S citizen yet he was in our navy!!? Lastly, I was floored when Frank mentioned how great the food in prison was. What the hell are we doing? Why are we spending tax dollars stuffing our prisoners!! Our country is going to hell in in a hand basket!

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hiccera Oct. 16, 2012 @ 11:30 a.m.

@SDPG - he was not illegal when he joined up - you do not need to be a US citizen to join and serve in our military - in fact, it is a valid path to citizenship - those who serve and get out with an honorable discharge - here is a link for more info http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/immigrationnaturalizatio/a/milcitizens.htm

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anniej Oct. 15, 2012 @ 11:26 p.m.

SanDiegoPeanutGallery: the person i speak of is in prison for life, and DESERVES to be there. having said that - i am not sure what prison Frank was in, but for anyone to claim that prison food is good - well lets just say i would like to know what they are comparing it to.

i am NOT a bleeding heart - but one has to at least question if what we are doing serves a purpose? is there a better way? would it not serve the tax paying public better if prisoners were required to make better use of the time they are sentenced for. case in point, education? learning of a trade? working, i mean real work while they are in prison - this sitting around stuff, what is accomplished?

regarding the focus of this story - it is tough. i am saddened that any human being would have to leave their home land in search of a promising life. mexico, such a beautiful country, with such beautiful people - yet the entire nation of is being held hostage by various criminal agents. surely the mexican people are deserving of better, far better.

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1ELISAGALEZ Oct. 16, 2012 @ 10:56 a.m.

First I wanted to thank every single person who is taken the time to view and review this history and at the same time let everyone know that I decided to sign in just to answer all your questions about my deportation

None

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hiccera Oct. 16, 2012 @ 11:50 a.m.

some attitudes just make a man wonder - even after deportation Elizabeth is still upset (i can understand - no one likes being caught in the wrong) - but still, she feels she could come illegally or wait until her son is, a legal citizen, is an adult and go join him as a citizen - i don't think it works this way - once deported does one ever get a shot at citizenship again? Elizabeth, I hope your husband comes to join you - please girl, don't come back illegally, you knew the first time you were in the wrong, even at 17 years old - to disregard our laws because you feel the need to be with your husband (or for whatever reason) is simply wrong - believe it or not, you do not have a right to be here even if your son is a citizen - so don't be upset, let the sting of deportation wash off of you and make a good life where you are

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1ELISAGALEZ Oct. 16, 2012 @ 12:57 p.m.

Many of the words this history haves are being altered one of the reasons why i decided to sign in after reading my own story because i like to make clear what exactly happened. I never said that i would like to returned to u.s.a illegally, that would be stupid of me.After my deportation my husband filled the divorced papers so we are no longer married, When they ask me during the interview if i would like to go back to u.s.a i said:nope at this moment maybe when my son grow's up ill have the opportunity to fix my papers i dont know if i do good if i don't i really don't care what it counts is that he is a us citizen and he would have all the opportunities on he's time, and i think we all deserve the right to be in u.s.a but legally, what it makes me upset is the racism of the people , it is so sad to go grocery store to Walmart, , food 4 less etc, and see american people, legal us citizen asking the Mexican people for a dollar to get something to eat, why ? if you are american and can be working at in office desk prefer to be on the streets i don't understand..I am happy here at Rosarito Beach and i have found more opportunities of growing no just as a person as a business women too and nothing is better then freedom..I FEEL FREE AND SECURE

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Siobhan Braun Oct. 16, 2012 @ 1:37 p.m.

Elizabeth, I am really glad you shared your story with me. I think it is great that you are on here answering questions. I recorded our interview. If you would like me to send you the section where you say the only way you can come back is if you do it illegally, I'd be more than happy to. It's true you never said you wanted to come back illegally. I think people implied that. However you did say that the only way to come back would be illegally or through your son.

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David Dodd Oct. 17, 2012 @ 12:30 p.m.

Respectfully, I was very disappointed in this piece, Siobhan. First, you blew the lead; precisely WHY did this gal want to come to the U.S? In other words, you might have been better off leading with the motivations and expectations vs. impressions and results. It has been my experience over the last 20 years here that the reasons most Mexicans cross are entirely misunderstood and generally neglected in media. "Encouraged" isn't a proper explanation.

Second, it would have balanced the piece if you could have gotten some sort of an explanation and clarity of the deportation process from the U.S. authorities. Yes, they certainly do threaten to detain you for years if you fight deportation, but you skipped over their reasons for this and why it's legal for them to do so. This also asks the reader to make a moral judgement concerning the way their own country defines human rights and so on.

In other words, there could have been other angles that would have lent clarity and balance to your own angle. If you do more pieces on Mexico, I encourage you to dig a little deeper. You are likely to discover tidbits that might surprise you but would certainly surprise the reader.

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Joaquin_de_la_Mesa Oct. 18, 2012 @ 12:25 p.m.

Unfair, R.Gringo. This story wasn't about motivations for crossing or the deportation process from the government's standpoint. It was about the human experience of migration, followed by the shock of deportation. I believe the author captured that.

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David Dodd Oct. 19, 2012 @ 2:11 p.m.

How can there be "shock" at deportation without knowing the motivations for crossing in the first place, Joaquin? The human experience of migration dates back several decades and that wasn't in this piece, the perspective is lost when it becomes about some Mexican that paid a bunch of money to get over the big metal fence for unknown reasons. I'm not sure what Siobhan captured here, and I think my comment is entirely fair. It would be like writing a piece about WW-II and leaving out WW-I, the perspective surrounding why it ever happened in the beginning would be completely lost. Siobhan is a very capable writer, but this piece didn't settle well with me.

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Joaquin_de_la_Mesa Nov. 8, 2012 @ 2:20 p.m.

Sed Contra... you're still missing the point. You CAN write stories about WWII by narrowing in on individual stories of individual people, without tackling the causes for the whole war, let alone prior wars. That's what Siobhan was doing here with regard to deportation. It would have been a mistake for her to plow into root causes for immigration.

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FlatRabbit Nov. 17, 2012 @ 5:48 p.m.

Wow, I do the same thing. I "repectfully" blast my co-workers in pulic forums. I Recently rented a billboard telling my subordinate how much more my opinion was worth than his. They will never learn will they refriedgringo.

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1ELISAGALEZ Oct. 17, 2012 @ 11:38 p.m.

Hi Siobhan, the people is getting very confused with this history for the way is been posted one story after another... i saw a letter this morning of someone named Jim Dwyer saying that; " Not only is it incredibly slanted, but it absolutley makes no sense, and here’s what I mean.

Elizabeth Gonzalez paid a coyote a sum of $3000 to lead her into America when she was 17. I assume she spoke Spanish. Yet, when she was deported, she said, “When I first got [to Mexico} I could not speak Spanish at all.” What? She completely lost the ability to speak Spanish in the 20 years she was here? I can see that you’d forget a lot, but not speak Spanish at all? In the interview, it said “Elizabeth’s accent is thick, but her English is good.” To me, that makes it sound like English is her second language.and besides that i only live onside us during 8 years from march 2003 - july 2011

So, what do we have? We have someone who came here when she was 17, couldn’t speak English. Yet, when she was deported she couldn’t speak Spanish! And now, when she speaks English she has a very thick Spanish accent. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. That’s what I mean, it’s very slanted. You have this poor person deported back to her own country, yet supposedly she can’t speak the language. As if that would stop a deportation.

I’ve got no problem with you guys writing articles about deportation, and whether it should or should not occur, but don’t slant the facts; don’t twist them. And it’s quite obvious that they were in this one.."

I just realized that are getting involved frank's story with mine... . How could I forget my first language when what is learned hardly forget, the Spanish will always be my native language...

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robclements Oct. 17, 2012 @ 4:46 a.m.

Rosarito Beach is nice, the waves are so much larger there, there are good things where ever you are located

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mc925 Nov. 1, 2012 @ 1:28 a.m.

By 17 most teens have finished high school and do not have $3,000.00 in cash to pay a smuggler. Once here, you did not go to school, instead you decided to roam our country, and when you were detained then you knew about the law and your rights. Your sister has provided for you in many ways but she did not try to obtain a green card for you by submitting an application? Deported people are not allowed back. When your son grows up he will be able to come back to live or work but he will not be able to obtain a green card for you. As the saying goes: You made your bed...

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