Deportation Wounds

32 min

Many of us are feeling isolated right now as we rely on Zoom and FaceTime to see our friends and family. When this will end exactly is unknown, but for some it will remain their reality. Households impacted by family separation and deportation see this long-distance digital relationship as "normal."

This week's episode, “Deportation Wounds,” brings our host Tonya Mosley in conversation with Isabeth Mendoza, our producer and question asker. After 11 years, Isabeth is seeking help to begin healing from her father's deportation and the traumatic experience.

“I think that the pain and the tragedy of family separation is so deep and so unique that even if it happened to you a month ago or six months ago, or for myself, 11 years ago, the pain is very fresh. I don't know how else to explain it aside from it's very painful. I think the conversation ends with the person [being deported] or it's kept alive by a legal proceeding. But life continues, the family keeps going, and I don't see resources or places that I can go to learn about what to do after this. How does anybody move forward? What is the future for families like mine? And how do we get to live our future and not just imagine it?”

Truth Be Told called upon Adriana Alejandre, licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) and founder of Latinx Therapy podcast as a Wise One. Alejandre says that while struggle, resilience and survival dominate the immigrant narrative, healing does not.

“... those are some of their pillars that help [immigrants] to keep going, to survive their day-to-day, hour-by-hour lives sometimes because of the lack of resources. I think healing is sometimes, understandably so, one of the last things that they have to think about, because most immigrant communities come from a collectivistic culture, and they're taught to prioritize others versus themselves. It doesn't come very naturally and so I think that's one of the reasons why healing gets put on the backburner.”

Family separation and deportation illicit pain, confusion and fear. Alejandre also points out that anger holds hands with these feelings. “We are taught that anger is a secondary emotion. But through my clients, my clients of color specifically, I've learned that that's not true,” Alejandre says. “Anger is valid. If we can learn to expel it and release it in healthy ways when we're aware of it, then I think that it translates into another emotion.”

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Alejandre suggests individual or group therapy but if therapy is not accessible, there are also self-help books, podcasts, diaphragmatic breathing exercises and friends who might be able to relate. Alejandre’s bottom line is "ask for help because I know that we're taught to be independent, to be resilient, to blossom on our own. But it doesn't always have to be that way.”

If the process becomes overwhelming, pausing is essential. Alejandre says, “The only red flag is to just be aware of your avoiding tendencies ... come back to your journey.”

The episode ends with Isabeth speaks with her father about how he feels about their long-distance relationship, his processing of the deportation experience and how he imagines his future. It leads to Isabeth attempting to answer that for herself.

“I think part of the dream is to just be together doing nothing — breathing a little easier because we’re together — and that is a privilege. I imagine laughing, and honestly, not living in fear. I realize what I imagine is us basically living together back in Los Angeles, that’s the ideal right? But no matter what happens, we’ll need to spend more time together, bridge our lives more intentionally and I’ll need to remind myself that this situation is hard, it’s shitty, but us laughing and having joy and sharing love will be my way of taking my power back.”

Special thanks to all everyone who helped in the creation of this episode — Arnoldo Mendoza, University of Denver Sturm College of Law professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández and KQED’s Kyana Moghadam and Erika Aguilar.

Episode transcript can be found here.

Episode Guest:
Adriana Alejandre, licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Latinx Therapy podcast

Recommended Reading:
With masks at the ready, ICE agents make arrests on first day of California coronavirus lockdown from Los Angeles Times
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
My Family Divided: One Girl's Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope by Diane Guerrero
In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero
Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas
Everyday Illegal by Joanna Dreby
Sacrificing Families: Navigating Laws, Labor, and Love Across Borders by Leisy Abrego
Decade if Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s by Francisco Balderrama
The Body Keeps Score by Bessel van der Kolk
Womanist and Mujerista Psychologies: Voices of Fire, Acts of Courage Edited by Thema Bryant-Davis, Ph.D., and Lillian Comas-Díaz, Ph.D.

Recommended Listening:
Immigrant Detention During COVID-19 from Latino Rebels
Border Trilogy from Radiolab
Mija from Ochenta Podcasts
The Person Sitting Next to You on a Plane Could Be Getting Deported from Latino USA
All They Will Call You Will Be Deportees from Latino USA
A Mother Of “Deportation Orphans” from Latino USA
“Deportation Orphans” In Oregon from Latino USA
Deportees in Mexico Tell of Disrupted Lives, Families and Communities from Latino USA
Patty - Detained, Deported & Denied from Love Beyond Borders: Immigration Stories