In 2017, University of California professor Robert Irwin launched a project, Humanizando La Deportacion (Humanizing Deportation), to document the experiences of men, women and families deported from the United States.
The result is a powerful, ongoing collection of more than 275 video documents of these deported people telling their own stories, along with sights and sounds from their lives. The majority speak Spanish; the videos are presented with clear English subtitles. Some stories are spoken in English or other languages from Mexico, South America, Africa and the Caribbean. The videos generally run from five to ten minutes.
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The first video, collected in 2017, features Gerardo. The father of two daughters born in the U.S., Gerardo now lives a meager existence in Tijuana, sometimes sleeping on the street, occasionally working menial jobs and earning enough for plain lodging, and occasionally getting help from his parents. Once he was deported and landed in Tijuana, he was not only homeless for several days but did not have any way to reach his family in the U.S. His parents eventually helped, and now his wife and children stay in touch and occasionally come south to visit with him. He became a target for deportation after 12 years in the U.S. following an auto accident and a DUI arrest.
A recently posted video allows Gustavo to tell his story (in English). He came to El Paso as a child with his father and mother, pending a full asylum hearing for his father, after his family was targeted by a cartel in Juarez. His father was deported seven months later after his asylum was denied, and now Gustavo and his mother live with the anxiety that they too may face a knock on the door from ICE, and they worry constantly about their father and husband, now living in Juarez and trying to duck the cartels.
These videos are best experienced as sound documents – the visuals are a bit choppy and seem at times gathered from vaguely related images. But the testimonies of these hundreds of people deported from the U.S. are deeply moving. They add the details of full and productive lives as Americans cut short – the work of men and women as laborers and professionals, as neighbors and parents and mentors and pastors, now halted; the end of refuge
In addition to Professor Irwin at UC Davis, Humanizando La Deporticaion, is led by site coordinators in Tijuana, Mexicio City, Guadalajara, Juarez, Monterrey and Tapachula, and field researchers in Mexico, the US and elsewhere. The fieldworkers are mostly students, many from UC Davis, as well as university students in Mexico and additional faculty and scholars from both sides of the border.
The full project site is here: http://humanizandoladeportacion.ucdavis.edu/en/