Varona is the mother of two of the 800,000 people, most of them Mexicans, who could face deportation after U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday eliminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
DACA gave work permits to people known as “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States illegally as children by immigrants like Varona. Trump scrapped the Obama-era program, but delayed implementation until March to give Congress a chance to draft an alternative.
After Varona was deported in 2010 and separated from her two children in the United States, she set up a chapter of Dreamers’ Moms in the border city of Tijuana.
The group, founded in the United States by parents of Dreamers and other activists, has organized legal education workshops for immigrants across the United States.
The Tijuana chapter has 80 mothers whose children in the United States could lose the legal protection that originally convinced them to risk registering with the U.S. government to join DACA.
“We want them to keep fighting, they can achieve better things there,” Varona said by telephone. “In the unfortunate case that the police arrive to deport them, we will be there to help them.”
Varona said Trump’s decision would drive young people to “live in the shadows” again. She stressed how difficult it was for these youths to return to Mexico, where they have lost family ties and sometimes do not speak the language.
Afraid of Mexico
Some 625,000 young Mexicans are enrolled under DACA. The Mexican government has offered them legal support and help finding work should they be deported from the United States.
But many Dreamers fear returning to an unfamiliar, violence-plagued country offering salaries that are a fraction of what they can earn in the United States.
Iliana Flores, a 28-year-old Dreamer in San Diego, across the border from Tijuana, said she was afraid of taking her two young, American-born children back to Mexico, where she said they would not receive a good education and would be surrounded by poverty and violence.
“I fear for the future of my children there,” she said.
Like millions of Mexicans living in the United States, Flores sends part of the U.S. dollars she earns back to her family, who live in Durango, to help them make ends meet.
“The situation in Mexico is unfortunately very difficult,” she said.
The U.S.-Mexico border is home to the largest per capita wage differential of any land border on the planet, with average U.S. wages about five times higher than those in Mexico.
Carlos Martinez, a young man who came with his parents to California at the age of 11, said he feared he would expose his two children to rising violence and extortion if he was to return to Mexico.
The murder rate in Mexico hit a record high this year, reaching levels not seen in homicide data going back two decades.
“To be honest, I’m afraid to live in what was once my country,” Martinez said.