Yolanda and Leno in L.A., June 6th. (Photo: Leno Rose-Avila).

12 years ago, Yolanda was deported to Mexico.  Well, Tijuana anyway. She had no money and there was no built-in support system for deported women. She was lost in a Mexican border filled with chaos and crime.

Unscrupulous men would troll the deportation drop off sites for deported women, offering them a meal or a hotel room. And most often offering their phones so they could call their families to let them know where they were. These men were trying to lure these women into their confidence so that they might get them strung out on drugs and then traffic them in the sex market. By offering their phones, these men had thus recorded the number or numbers of the deportee’s family.

Then these men would call the family asking for a ransom and threaten about the woman being harmed or killed.

Yolanda, by some miracle, avoided this level of entrapment and was left to find a most difficult path of survival. She was in deep depression, not wanting to even get out of bed to take care of herself. Her life had been destroyed by her deportation.

In addition, she could not see her daughter who lived only a few miles from the Tijuana border.

Yolanda´s image 4 years ago.  (Photo: Leno Rose-Avila).

Here she was. The mother of a DACA recipient, a dreamer, and she was being deported in 2010. What an irony that while her child could stay, she would be deported.

After four difficult years in Tijuana, and suffering a deep depression, one day she realized that she was not the only dreamer mom who had been deported.

She never started an organization before, but she knew she needed to do something for other women and —in the process— she would end up helping herself.

In 2014 she began to organize “DREAMers’ MOMS” to help deported mothers. Soon, many women were coming to her for physical, emotional, and psychological help. Other women, both in Tijuana and in the USA, and other people began offering their assistance.

At Friendship Park in Playas of Tijuana where the border meets the ocean.  Yolanda is the one on the far right.  Sometimes deportees can touch the fingers of loved ones from the USA through the mesh wiring.  They call this ‘the pinky kiss.’ (Photo: Leno Rose-Avila).

While in search for an office, she found another fledging organization ‘Deported Veterans’, headed by Hector Barajas who offered to share office space and expenses.

Years later, Hector and Yolanda got married and continued to work together on behalf of moms and veterans.

Hector —along with other veterans— and some moms, have been able to get their records cleared and were able to cross over the United States

In 2018, I went to Tijuana in search of Deported Veterans. I could not believe that my government would deport veterans. At last, as I found the Deported Veterans office, I also found DREAMers’ MOMS in the same place.

At Friendship Park in Playas of Tijuana where the border meets the ocean.  Yolanda is the one on the far right.  Sometimes deportees can touch the fingers of loved ones from the USA through the mesh wiring.  They call this ‘the pinky kiss.’ (Photo: Leno Rose-Avila).

Yolanda did an incredible work connecting with deported DREAMers’ MOMS and other women who were in the process of being deported.  They helped a lot of women to survive and began a strong campaign to educate immigration rights groups about the plight of deported moms. Building Bridges has been a strong supporter of the DREAMers’ MOMS and Deported Veterans since 2018.

After years of supporting Yolanda and her work, I got very excited when Hector and Yolanda called me to say she would be crossing the border of June 3rd.  And soon after crossing they called again to let me know she had crossed and was once again starting life in the USA. It was the most amazing time for us all.

Tears came to my eyes as I listened to the joy in their voices on that incredible day.

There are many more moms and veterans that need to be brought back home and you can make this possible by electing individuals who will reform our immigration and military system. Yolanda will continue her work to help others and, in the process, keep hope alive.

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