Building a new life in the flourishing economy of Tijuana deportees

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Oscar Cimota learned of his deportation order the day after the death of his newborn baby. He had two weeks to leave Bakersfield, California, for Tijuana, Mexico. He barely had time to mourn. Like many deportees, Cimota had been brought to the United States as a child. Her parents were from Mexico, but there wasn’t a lot of family. He didn’t speak much Spanish. And, like most undocumented immigrants, he never had a clear path to legal resident status. A decision by the Senate parliamentarian on Sunday thwarted a Democratic proposal to create a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, those who are essential workers and others, leaving millions of people in the same legal vacuum that uprooted Cimota. .

He asked his wife, an American citizen, to stay in California with their other children. “You can’t come with me,” Cimota told him. “I don’t know what Mexico is like. I know nothing. But Cimota learned quickly, and a few years later began posting videos to YouTube, answering questions shared by the tens of thousands of people who meet at his post every year. “For most of you, you’ve never been here before, which sucks a bit.” he said in a video on his channel “Life after deportation”. “Here, it’s different. Reality check. “

Cimota is the protagonist of “Dial Home”, a chilling documentary by César Martínez Barba which is based on call centers in Tijuana, where a deportee economy has developed in recent years. These call centers employ deportees who speak good English and can therefore serve customers in the United States. “The whole experience of being there feels like being in a science fiction movie,” Martínez Barba told me. “There are so many call centers, and there are so many people who have been kicked out who are on the phone every day, still connecting with life in the United States.” The work is notoriously hard: strict shifts, difficult customers. The deportees earn pesos, not dollars. But many Cimota colleagues find solace within their office walls, camaraderie in a common language and a shared experience. “When you’re at work, it feels like you’re always working in the United States,” he says in the film. “As soon as you leave the doors of the call center, it’s different.” In one scene, he finds himself talking to a client in his hometown. “Most people – and I’ve met a lot of them – don’t even speak Spanish,” another expelled said of her colleagues. “They’re just in Mexico now. And they tell each other. They actually say, ‘Hey, where are you from over there? I am from Orange County. “

Outside of his working hours, Cimota tries, via his YouTube channel, to answer the questions of the thousands of people facing or fearing eviction. “What do you need to work in a call center? people comment on his videos. “How much should you earn for a family of 5?” But ten years after living in Tijuana, Cimota still struggles to understand certain things about Mexico. In a video, he tries to answer a question about tattoos and explains that he has been denied some jobs because of them. (He has tattoos with names of family members and a portrait of his son on the back of his hand.) “For some reason in Mexico they have a certain type of prejudice against tattooed people. I don’t know why, and still don’t know why, to be honest with you. But, ultimately, he’s determined to make the most of his situation. “What I want to call this project is, basically, ‘Life After Deportation’,” he says in one of his videos, “because, believe it or not, there is still life afterwards. to have been deported from the country in which you grew up. “

Deportation primarily targets unauthorized immigrants, but is sometimes applied to legal residents who have been convicted of minor or old criminal offenses. The process generally does not take into account years spent in the United States or family ties with American spouses or children. It is presented as targeting violent criminals, but Martínez Barba, the filmmaker, wonders what that has to do with criminal justice. “Why would you want to incarcerate people for a crime they committed in the United States,” Martínez Barba told me, “put them in prison for ten years in the United States and then move on, I don’t know, six or seven months in an immigration prison and then deport them for a crime they committed on American soil? Isn’t prison supposed to rehabilitate someone so that they can reintegrate into American society? “


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