LatinaLista — What do 9-year-olds care about immigration reform? Most, unless their loved ones are under threat of deportation, don't care about this adult issue or even know about it. They are more concerned with sports, hanging out with friends, playing video games, going to school, etc. — just as they should be.
But for a group of fourth graders in Berkeley, California, the national debate over immigration reform has invaded their world — and they're wasting no time in telling Congress and the President what they think.
It's all because one of their friends, Rodrigo Guzman, was deported to Mexico with his parents. Rodrigo, who was brought to the U.S. when he was 2-years-old and barely speaks Spanish, was returning home from a Christmas visit to Mexico to see relatives. It was at a Houston airport that immigration officials noticed that Rodrigo's father's visa had expired.
So, the family was whisked on to the next plane back to Mexico and told that they would not be able to reapply for a visa for five years — the time when Rodrigo and his friends would be starting high school.
Rodrigo's friends eventually found out and were shocked and mad that anyone would do this to their friend. With some help from their parents, Rodrigo's friends created a website, Bring Rodrigo Home, a Change.org petition and are asking their local political officials to help bring Rodrigo home. The young students, now converted into activists and dubbing themselves the "Rights Fighters", even plan a trip to Washington DC to ask President Obama to help their friend.
If they didn't know anything about the immigration debate happening across the country, they do now — at least the part that keeps their friend Rodrigo away from them.
On the Bring Rodrigo Home website's blog, Rodrigo's mother explains what happened and why she worries about how her son is handling the situation.
My name is Reyna Diaz Mayida and my life changed in Houston, Texas on January 10, 2013. Houston was where my family and I were refused entry back into the US from Mexico. It was where we were turned away from coming home to Berkeley, California.
I always returned to Mexico to renew my passport and would always comply with the law by renewing my visa every six months. Every six months my partner, our son Rodrigo and I would go to Tijuana to renew our visas. But we grew afraid. The boarder patrol agents there would ask a lot of questions and by then our son, Rodrigo, did not speak Spanish very well. The last time we renewed our visas was in August 2011.
Rodrigo’s father used to work at a fraternity house in Berkeley as a cook. I worked cleaning houses. We lived in a studio apartment in Berkeley. Everything we had is back there. My partner’s mother got everything — she is a resident of the country. She isn’t a U.S. citizen so she can’t sponsor us.
We had a car, a Jetta 2000, which I think my partner’s sister now has. We lost everything: furniture, photos, everything. The biggest loss was Rodrigo’s school, which he has attended since he was 5.
Rodrigo is having a difficult time adjusting to Mexico. I recently enrolled him in school, although he is a little sick right now. Every day, he is sad and doesn’t want to go to school. It’s difficult to send him and the teacher has called me several times to pick him up for vomiting. I am not sure if it’s the food here, the mosquitos, but he is sick, sad and depressed. School is very different than what Rodrigo is used to. It’s all in Spanish and they’re being taught Mexican history. I suffer making Rodrigo do his homework. It is a big change for him. Before, I never had a problem with Rodrigo wanting to go to school but now I do. He just doesn’t want to go.
My life is very different in Mexico. We are sad because I have no work. I am a public accountant and attended university, but I don’t have any connections here. My partner just found a job as a salesman, working from 9 in the morning to 7 o’clock at night, in which he earns $4,400 pesos ($350) a month. I just received the light bill and it is $1,100 pesos ($87), a quarter of what he earns in a month. The cost of living here is high, compared to that in California, yet the salaries are very low. In Berkeley, we did not have a house, but we lived well enough because we both worked.
Family and friends can barely help us. We live in my mother’s house, but everyone is in the same boat financially as us. They cannot help us with money. I have to find a job. It’s very hard living in Mexico knowing I can’t return to Berkeley for at least 5 years. I tried to look for someone to bring me back. It’s a major risk, but it is better than dying of hunger. I’m most feared and worried that I can’t find work. We have a little bit of savings and that is almost gone. I’ve had to sell some jewelry my mother had given me as a gift.
I’m also worried about Rodrigo. I worry that he is not happy, that he is not receiving a good education. There are no classes here every Friday, and when the teacher is absent, school is cancelled. School is often cancelled because of teacher strikes, too. I don’t have money to send him to a private school.
Our future is very uncertain now that we can’t live in the U.S. for at least five years. We spend our days depressed. Our future was uncertain (in Berkeley) because we had no papers and were afraid to drive or travel. At least we both had work. At the moment, I don’t see a great future for us.
It’s hard not to lose hope but when I learned about the Bring Rodrigo Home – Kids For Kids campaign at: www.bringrodrigohome.org, it gave me a glimpse of hope. My mom only cries.
My one wish for the future would be that I want to return to Berkeley and be able to work without any fear. I would also like to move on from cleaning houses, to be able to grow.
Please sign this petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/bring-rodrigo-home And help my family return home to Berkeley. Thank you. Reyna
Reyna Diaz Mayida is the mother of Rodrigo Guzman, a fourth grader at Jefferson Elementary School in Berkeley, California. She has been denied re-entry to her home in Berkeley, California. She cannot apply to return home for another 5 years and is forced to live in Mexico.