Armed with the power of their stories, young undocumented immigrants, so-called DREAMers, have made themselves the faces of immigration reform. Their stories, about coming to the US as children and growing up to find an uncertain future, play in Washington as an urgent call to grant undocumented immigrants a path to stay in the US.
Yet as is often the case of shared narratives, some people don’t fit. A new project out of Mexico City aims to tell the stories of "Los Otros Dreamers," young immigrants who grew up in the US without papers but were either deported or decided that they’d take their chances in Mexico.
The project, a book in progress, is the work of Mexico City-based, American academic Jill Anderson and Mexican photographer Nin Solis. They are travelling around Mexico to meet young people who in recent years have come back to Mexico and are now trying to build lives for themselves. "This is a new collectivity of young people," Anderson, a PhD in American Studies, told me. "This is the generation of the children of the mass migration from Mexico and they’re now back."
Anderson and Solis launched a kickstarter campaign to support the project, which they plan to self-produce and then shop around to publishers. They’re looking for donations to help move the project to completion.
Solis’s images are coupled with deported and returning young people’s own words. The book offers readers in the US and Mexico a clear view of a community that’s mostly invisible in both countries. "I heard people speaking English and I assumed they were gringos, but they are from here and from there," Solis told me, of young deportees she met near her house. "I hope this project raises their visibility."
Some of the young people in the book, which is called "Los Otros Dreamers," hope that this visibility will help change U.S. and Mexican policies. On the US side, it’s about the passage of immigration reform. In Mexico, it’s about broader government recognition of the needs of young people who return. Some need help finding work or a home. Others, those who hope to go to college in Mexico, often find that Mexican institutions don’t respect US school transcripts. Years of school in the US, can mean nothing in Mexico.
Hector Bolivar is one of the people in their book. He’s lived in Guadalajara, Mexico for two years, since he left his life, his friends, and a musical instrument business that he started in Los Angeles. He told Anderson and Solis:
The entire idea of an undocumented student was taboo and no one, including myself, knew what to do with me. […] On my 29th birthday I had a moment of reflection. I was living in the US alone by this time, my family having moved back to Mexico a few months before, and I came upon a discovery. I was tired. I looked at my past and my future in the U.S., I looked back at my accomplishments and my failures, realizing that it was as good as it was going to get for me under my current legal status. In late June I bought my plane ticket dated August 7th, 2011. I began saying my goodbyes to everyone I knew, not knowing if I would see any of them again.
Through the book project, Bolivar has now met with others like him. And he says that he’s intent on breaking the taboo around those who return. He plans to open a store front music shop in Guadalajara.