What’s the Plan B If You Get Deported? A Generational Divide

Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2015

If immigration officials catch him some day and he is deported, Angel Estrada, 48, already knows whom he will call, and at what hotel in Mexico he will meet his family before attempting to rebuild his life in his hometown of Cuernavaca.

Estrada’s daughter, Karla, 24, who like her father is in the country illegally, has no plans to leave so easily–or quietly.

“If they are going to deport me, they are going to have a very bad taste in their mouth,” said Karla, who has lived in the United States since she was 5. “I’m going to call this person, this organization, this lawyer. I’ll get on Facebook . . . Twitter. I’m going to do a media circus. I’m going to stay in this country.”

The debate in the Estrada home showcases a generational divide in many Latino homes in California and elsewhere–driven by a national debate over immigration and a steady move in California toward easing restrictions on people in the country illegally.

Angel Estrada and his wife, Gloria, came to “Pete Wilson’s California,” as he calls it, during a period when hostility toward illegal immigration in the 1990s prompted voters to approve Proposition 187. They were young and in the country illegally at a time when they could be easily rounded up with little protest, and so they learned to keep their heads down, to trudge along without drawing attention to themselves.

Their daughter, a recent UCLA graduate, grew up in the digital age, with immigration activists ready to wage battle on social media and via street demonstrations for people just like her. To Karla, her immigration status is not something to hide.

Sitting next to her father in the living room of their Chino home, she disagrees when her mother says in Spanish: “It scares us when she talks about it. We tell her, ‘Karla, don’t talk about that. Don’t be so open about it, there on Facebook.'”

“My parents always say it’s better to keep quiet, not say anything and just try to blend in,” Karla said. “For me it’s no longer about blending in. It’s more like ‘Yes. I’m undocumented and so what?'”

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Karla is a participant in President Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives a work permit and a deportation reprieve to people who were brought to the U.S. as children and stayed illegally. Even before she got her reprieve, she said, she felt that there was a large, digitally and politically savvy network of activists ready to stand with someone like her.

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Karla helped organize protests in Costa Mesa and acts of civil disobedience in Washington. By 2010, she started to identify herself as “undocumented and unafraid.”

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Karla and her parents still disagree on some matters, particularly on the handling of the immigrant rights movement. Her father and mother cringe every time they see a Mexican flag at rallies, saying that “it’s in poor taste” and a “disrespectful” act that only serves to anger politicians and Americans.

“These are extremists that don’t represent me. I think they have to realize that they are in someone else’s country and have to adapt themselves to this country,” Angel Estrada said. “We have to behave well because the country is watching us.”

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