Vidal X, pseud.

Basic Interview Metadata

Interview Text and Audio


Vidal discusses his immigration experience as a native of Oaxaca, Mexico coming to the United States with his family in 2001. He talks about his father’s experience and how he became legalized through the immigration reform under President Reagan. He discusses some of the racial, cultural, and linguistic barriers he encountered during the first years he was in the United States. He speaks about the experience of being separated from his mother after she had to exit the country in order to become legalized. He discusses the responsibilities he had during that year and how that impacted him. He also talks about his educational experience in the United States.



José Cisneros: My name is Jose Cisneros. I’m in Global Studies 382 with Professor Hannah Gill. I’m at the University of North Carolina doing an interview with Vidal. Vidal, where were you born?
Vidal: I was born in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico.
JC: And, when did you first enter the U.S.?
V: I first entered the U.S. between the years of 2001-2003
JC: OK, and before that were you the first person…with your family, along with your family to come to the U.S.?
V: Before that my dad entered the United States when he was younger around like 18-20. Yea, he was the first person.
JC: OK and, do you know like what year he came and where…where did he come to?
V: So, he went to a couple of states. At the beginning of his years, like I don’t know what specific years but he went to California and then Oregon. In California he did like vineyard trimming for like grapes, and in Oregon he cut down trees and harvested trees for like Christmas time. In Texas he did everyday labor, every work. In Florida he picked oranges and tended to those types of trees and also did landscaping.
JC: Do you know what year he first came to the U.S.?
V: I think he mentioned like around like 80…around the 80s I believe.
V: But I don’t know the specific year.
JC: All right, so what was the, the way that you came in? Were you documented or were you undocumented?
V: Yea, me and my brothers, sister, and my mom were undocumented when we first entered the United States.
JC: OK so, was your dad here in the U.S. or was he…did he come with y’all?
V: Yea, he went back and actually crossed the border with us.
V: Yea
JC: Was he, was he documented too when he came in?
V: Yea
JC: Oh, so he crossed the border with everyone even though he was documented. OK and, around that time like what were some other situations that were in Mexico like that drove you to like, your family to want to come to the U.S.?
V: (sic) I think for my mom and my dad…also, my uncle and my aunt they were kind of in the same age so they decided that our whole two families move together. I think it was like a decision between them two to see if they could like improve….cause we definitely weren’t like, we weren’t hurting…like everyone was hurting there but we weren’t hurting the most out of like the whole community that we were in then. So, I think my parents decided to try to get a better future for us because, since we were going to school he was trying to put us through school, and you know, I think that basically the most.
JC: And, did your dad try to maybe like petition for you and your family? Did that work out or?
V: I think he was in the process of doing it while he was over there but I think he mentioned that it took a long time and we, he gave up trying or like gave up waiting, so we decided to move here.
JC: OK and when you first moved, you said early 2000s? Where did you first come?
V: First we went to, we arrived at Fresno. Well, the whole thing when we immigrated to the United States it was kind of weird. We were separated my family. My mom, it was me, my brother and we went different ways. It was like a different route and it was kind of safer. But, my sister, my mom, and my dad, and my other little brother that which didn’t want to leave my mom, they went through like a different…it was much harder that route, so we arrived at different times. Me and my brother, we arrived at Fresno and then like a couple of weeks later my parents, my sister, and my brother arrived there.
JC: And do you know how long it took for all of y’all to like reuniting once you were in the U.S.?
V: It took around like a month.
JC: Wow, OK.
V: Yea, so it was, it was…like when you think about it, it’s like a month is a long time for like a little kid. And even like…
JC: So how old were you when you first came in?
V: I think I was 8, 8 or 9.
V: Yea, and my brother was around 3, so he was much younger than me.
JC: Is he your only sibling?
V: No, so I have a sister who’s older than me and my, my twin brothers that are twins.
JC: OK, and who’s the oldest?
V: My sister.
JC: Your sister, OK.
V: Yea.
JC: And, then, after you were in Fresno like what was the next step? Where did you go?
V: So, the next step was…so we had two families so we decided to stay together, my aunt, uncle, and aunt. We went to Madera. It’s like a little smaller town, and we found like a house and they tried to get us into school and stuff.
JC: OK so did y’all have any connections there or?
V: (sic) Yea, we had some family ties there that kind of helped us to maneuver throughout the whole like the whole thing the family there.
JC: So had your dad been there before he went to Mexico to come with y’all? Had he lived there?
V: Yea, I think he lived there for a while.
V: So, he lived in Madera and he lived in Fresno for a while. Fresno’s like a more city-type of like area, and Madera’s more kind of smaller.
V: Yea and, but yea my dad lived there for some time there too.
JC: And how long did you stay in that…Madera you said?
V: Madera we stayed in for a couple of years, I don’t know how long, 4-5 years.
V: Yea, and then my parents decided to move here.
JC: To North Carolina?
V: Yea
JC: And, where did you move to North Carolina?
V: To Graham, NC. It’s around Greensboro.
JC: OK and have you stayed there like since then?
V: Yea, we stayed there.
JC: OK, so once you go to the U.S., how was your experience like first of all for you as a student, as an immigrant student encountering like a new culture, a new language…what was that experience like?
V: As an immigrant student, I had no clue. For some reason, my brothers and my sister they picked up the language pretty quickly, and I did not. I think up to this point, I still have like trouble like with grammar and with like everything that goes with the English language. And, so I definitely had trouble with getting all that together and like as a student, it definitely impacted me for a long time.
JC: So, how long were you in ESL classes if you were ever part of that?
V: I think like they had some programs like that, so I was there for like…I want to say until like 5th grade.
JC: OK, and were you aware of like your undocumented status during that time?
V: I think I had some kind of an idea, but I didn’t like fully grasp the idea that they could just send me back to Mexico.
JC: Now, for your parents, since your dad was documented and your mom was undocumented, how did that affect your mom…like maybe in terms of labor opportunities?
V: (sic) Labor opportunities, she definitely had a harder time finding a job, and the jobs were…my dad, he had a hard job but the labor, you know, it was…they knew that he was legal and he has rights, and even though my mom, you know, still had rights. But, it’s harder for her because she doesn’t know English and because she doesn’t know how like things worked at the beginning. She was definitely had to find some jobs that were like more harsher.
JC: And, your dad up until this point was he…had he become a U.S. citizen or was he still a resident?
V: He became a U.S. citizen in 2008, I think.
JC: OK, so it was after you had all moved to the U.S.?
V: Yea, yea.
JC: OK, so like in terms of your overall family situation, how do you think it affected the family that your dad was the only one who was documented and everyone else was undocumented?
V: I think for some time…do you mean like a family structure kind of thing?
JC: Hmm maybe, or like—I don’t know—maybe fear of maybe on your dad’s part because he knew he was the only one or like how did that affect the family just overall?
V: I think we were kind of really like as a family we were shut off because of fear of getting like cut and stuff, so we didn’t usually go out and like, you know, eat somewhere and like at the beginning we were kind of fearful. (sic) And, my dad, he…I was like specifically like said, “Oh you know, you gotta watch out.” Go to school, you come back and then that’s it. You got nowhere else, so like after school programs were kind of like, like occasionally but he tried to emphasize that it’s kind of dangerous out there…
JC: Risky?
V: Yea, it’s risky to be out there.
JC: So, you mentioned your dad came in the 1980s to the U.S.?
V: Yea
JC: When, do you know when he became legalized and how that worked for him?
V: I think he, he got his residency or his…in, I don’t know when Reagan was in term.
JC: oh…
V: Yea…
JC: OK so in the 1980s?
V: Yea.
JC: So it was through the…
V: —I forgot what it’s called.
JC: …the immigration reform?
V: Yea, yea.
JC: Under Reagan’s presidency?
V: Yea, and then where he gave like a lot, a ton of people.
V: Yea.
JC: So he became legalized during that time?
V: During that time…
JC: And, like how long was he legalized before he went back for all of, the rest of the family?
V: (sic) I think he became legalized like in one year and I think one year, and then he went back and back and forth.
JC: OK so he wasn’t here?
V: Yea, he wasn’t here the whole time.
JC: …continuously, and then went back?
V: Yea.
V: So, I saw…I did see my dad, like my brothers and sister saw my dad.
JC: And before he became legalized did he travel to Mexico?
V: Yea, he still travelled.
JC: He still travelled? OK.
V: Yea.
JC: So, at what point did your dad decide to like apply for y’all to become legalized?
V: At, so he…I think he was trying to apply for us here, but we saw that, he saw that it was going to take a long time cause it took us around 15-16 years to get legalized so when my even my sister was born, he tried to get her legalized, so it took a long time.
V: Yea.
JC: So when—do you know when the process started and like when it was ended?
V: So I think it started, I want to say like in 1994 right after I was born.
V: And then, and in the like the winter of 2010.
JC: 2010? Wow, so it was more than 10 years.
V: Yea, it was a long time.
JC: OK, so if…so you came into the U.S. during the process of becoming legalized?
V: (sic) Yea, but I think we got, so I think that throughout the whole process we were kind of stagnant for a long time of just sitting there waiting, and I think actually we kind of started the process again but it was much easier. So, it was kind of like a continuing process but I think it was actually cut off and I think we had to start from the beginning.
JC: When?
V: Like 2004-2005.
JC: And you know why was it you kind of had to start over?
V: I think because everything got kind of lost like all of our paperwork got lost, and we just couldn’t figure it out, and even then we still struggled with I think when we came to North Carolina, we found a lawyer and he wasn’t a lawyer and so he took a lot of our money.
JC: Oh, OK.
V: Yea, so we were a part of that like a, like the…
JC: A scam?
V: Like a scam, and a lot of people in my family were scammed though him.
V: Yea, so I think he was like a well-practiced person in that field, but he wasn’t a lawyer and so when we tried to contact him again and again he wasn’t there.
V: So, we had to find like a new lawyer.
JC: An actual lawyer?
V: An actual lawyer, and after that it kind of—it wasn’t like a reasonable price but it was like a step by step.
JC: OK, and do you know when that process started with that lawyer?
V: In 2008. Yea.
V: Yea.
JC: So, how was the process like, like who—did all of y’all become legalized at the same time or did person by person case or how did that work?
V: So, the immigration services sent us a letter saying that it was impossible for us to stay in the United States and become legalized, so in winter of 2010 we had, like we had to go to Ciudad Juarez.
JC: Oh, in Mexico?
V: Yea, and we were there for like two months I believe or a month, and I think that was the time when there was like a lot of deaths and stuff, so there was like really…it was an experience going there, and so we had to get like check-ups and like medical stuff. And, that was basically it in just that whole trip kind of. And, after we came back, after we came back that’s um, like a couple months later they sent us our residency.
JC: OK, so your whole family, except your dad?
V: Except my mom.
JC: Except your mom. OK.
V: Yea
JC: And, why was it that your mom couldn’t?
V: Because she was like over-age.
JC: OK, so only your siblings went out of the country for two months?
V: Yea, about two months.
JC: And, who did you stay with in Ciudad Juarez?
V: We stayed with like a caretaker.
V: And, but my dad travelled with us and my mom stayed back here in the United States.
JC: So, was the process different for anyone else in the family or was it kind of the same for everyone?
V: I think it was. I would say it was the same for everyone but for, for my mom. She had to leave like 2011 to 2014.
JC: So, that was after you and your siblings…
V: Yea, after we came back, and then we did the process for her and the immigration services sent another letter saying that if my mom…the best case scenario for my mom would be to leave the country and finish the process there, and finish the process in Mexico or she would be deported
V: So, she decided to go of course because she didn’t want to get deported but she did, she went freely and the course of 3 years, 2 years, 3 years. And, my sister was like going to college and I stayed home. I just…I basically had to stop being like a student and stuff.
JC: OK, so how old were you when your mom left the country?
V: I think 16.
JC: 16, and you were still in high school?
V: Yea, I was still in high school.
JC: And, did you have a job before you mom left or did you…?
V: I had one job.
V: So, I had to get like two more.
JC: OK, so you had three jobs and you were in school?
V: Yea, so like in…I had three jobs. Well, one was, one was like an internship during the summer and then during the weekends, and another job was like full-time during the week, and another job was part-time at like a cleaning-custodial service for like an hour or two.
JC: And, did you work those three jobs those three years that your mom was out of the country?
V: Yea, I had to work those three jobs.
V: There was not a way for…because my mom and my dad had gotten like a house, so we were…there was no way to, to do that.
JC: And, you said your sister was in college during that time too?
V: Yea, she had just…
JC: Had she already started college before your mom left the country?
V: It was like right.
JC: Right when your mom left she had started college?
V: Yea.
JC: OK, was your sister at home or was she?
V: She was off. She was like at her campus.
JC: OK now, did your sister…was she able to support you and your brothers financially?
V: Financially, she wasn’t. She couldn’t even hold a job at her, at her school, Wake Forest because she, she didn’t get work-study because she had her full ride.
JC: OK, so her expenses for college were not a financial stress on you or your parents?
V: No.
JC: OK, so what did your like parent do? Where did they go to in Mexico and like what were they doing during that time?
V: So my mom…my dad he had to leave for like another two months to go leave my mom in Mexico and back in our hometown in Oaxaca.
JC: In Oaxaca?
V: Yea.
V: And, then he came back and but that’s where my mom stayed for most of the time.
JC: OK, so your dad came back after how much time?
V: So he like left my mom two months and then came back.
JC: And, did he travel back and forth or did he stay
V: He took a plane.
V: But when we went to Ciudad Juarez, we drove but when he went to leave my mom they took a plane.
JC: And, then he left her and he came back and did he go visit her often or?
V: He visited her once when his, when his dad died.
V: He passed away, and he stayed there for another month because of course, his father passed away, my grandpa.
JC: Yea, yea…
V: And, that was like a hard time too.
JC: Yea.
V: And, that was like between…like right at the middle and so he got to see her.
V: But, me and my brothers, we didn’t get to see my mom in quite a while.
JC: OK, so when your mom was out of the country were you already legalized?
V: Yea, I was legalized.
JC: OK, you and your siblings?
V: Yea, me and my siblings.
JC: OK, so your mom was the only one because she was an adult?
V: Yea.
V: Because she was an adult.
JC: So, how old was your sister when she became legalized?
V: The same…oh, how old? She she’s like two years older than me.
JC: So, she was barely 18?
V: Yea, barely 18.
JC: So, if she would’ve been older, she would’ve maybe had to go through the same process as your mom did?
V: Yea, I think it was like the cutoff day was like a couple days
JC: OK, wow.
V: She barely got it.
V: She barely got it…yea, cause her birthday is like in January 23rd and we came back like January 12th or something like that.
JC: Oh, wow. OK. So, when your dad left the country and then came back, was he able to have the same job?
V: Yea, he took…he had a lot of days like saved up for it, so he had planned it. But it was, I think there was like…he almost got fired because of that. But, because he like, he had like good work ethic and stuff they didn’t took him.
JC: OK, so it wasn’t…it wasn’t a problem?
V: Yea, there was on problem.
JC: OK, now in terms of school, how did that time period affect maybe you and your siblings in terms of school like?
V: My siblings, I think it definitely impacted them. They saw that I had to do all these things and at the beginning they didn’t realize that, but towards the end they started helping more
V: So, the first year and half was probably the hardest.
JC: Yea.
V: Because we weren’t used to it. I wasn’t used to like cooking and stuff. I did not know what to do, and my brothers were kind of young…just like kids. But, for me it didn’t really affect because I had never had like the best grades so I just kind kept that. I never had like straight As, so I kind of just kept with the Bs, and I think a couple of Cs and some As towards the end, but my brothers they definitely kept their grades up. They’re right now, they’re like one and two in their class.
V: So, I think that motivated them. You know, like they’re kind of prideful that they’re pretty smart, but I think it did motivate them that my…I guess.
JC: Just wanting to work to for your mother?
V: Yea, just trying to like keep it up. Yea…
JC: So, when your parents were in Mexico, did they have any education opportunities, like higher education?
V: In Mexico, I think my he got out of school at the age of…or I don’t know what age but he got out of school like 6th grade.
V: And, my mom she finished high school and then she was…I think her…she was trying to go like try to be a teacher but her dad passed away so she couldn’t.
JC: OK, so your mom was the only one who finished high school?
V: (sic) Yea, she was the only one like in high school to go in Mexico.
JC: All right, so once your mother was finally able to come back, when was that?
V: When was that? This was like…it was this past summer, I believe. Yea, this past summer.
JC: Summer 20…?
V: 14.
JC: 14?
V: Yea.
JC: So..
V: This was like three years…
JC: So, what grade were you in when your mother left and what grade were you in when she came back?
V: I was in 2000. It might’ve been 2013. Yea, it might’ve been 2013. I forget.
JC: Were you in college already when she came back?
V: Yea, I was in college.
JC: OK, so maybe like…
V: 2013 I believe, so it was last year, since last…
JC: So after your first year of college she came back?
V: Yea.
JC: So she wasn’t here during the first year?
V: No, she was not.
JC: OK, OK so now that everyone is legal, right?
V: Yea.
JC: How has that affected your family in all different types of aspects, maybe like being able to travel or have more opportunities in school or labor?
V: Yea, I think like emotionally our family was kind of, kind of like not torn cause it was kind of just…we didn’t have that much emotions cause we didn’t have anyone like fall apart or whatever, and at the end I definitely saw that my dad kind of just stopped being like showing any type of emotion…happiness, like angry so he couldn’t. But, when my mom came back it was kind of like, at the beginning it was harsh because we didn’t…we had grown up. So, three years is a long time for like three boys and like one dad, so like basically four boys that lived in the house for four years, like three years. So, we…it was hard for me to, you know. Because my mom came back and like she still thought that we were like little kids, and she tried to like…what’s it called? Spoil us.
JC: Spoil you?
V: Yea, spoil us and I was like, “What are you doing, mom? We’re like old.” And, my brothers definitely took advantage. They were like, “Oh, yea wash my clothes and you can like do all this,” and I’m like, “What are you doing, man? Like you had been doing this for three years and you just stop now. That’s where, that’s where we’re at now, like it’s starting to become like a more of like a cohesive family type of thing. My dad is definitely shown like different…he’s different. We definitely know that he’s there now.
JC: You feel his presence more now that your mother’s here?
V: Yea, and like before, like he didn’t used to get angry for whatever, like we argued. He was like, he just left us to be alone instead of figuring it out or whatever, but now he’s trying. He’s trying to be like a, you know…I guess like a, like a father because he was a father but he now…
JC: A more active role?
V: Yea, a more active role in the family and like in our lives.
V: And, that’s basically at the point that we’re at now where my mom she’s trying to come back in the family and try to be, I guess a part of it because, you know, she was gone.
JC: Yea.
V: But, and there is some conflict in where my brothers, they occasionally, like you know, they…I guess they don’t really realize she’s just trying to engage with them.
JC: Yea.
V: And, I guess they think that they’re old and…but, I think that it’s working now. Every day, every time that I go back…cause you know, being a college student you go back and then you come back and then you don’t stay there for a long time. Even in the summer it’s hard. So, when I go back every time I see a progression, progression of like communication growing and just like more…family’s more compact. And, economically wise, my mom’s doing, I guess, much better than she was. And, my dad’s still like having that good position. He’s moving up roles in the factory that he works at. He used to be like a laborer. Now, he’s like a mechanic, so he’s getting better wages. And, my mom she had to go back to that job too, so yea…I think we’re doing…
JC: Are you better now?
V: Everything’s much better. Yea, like for me, it’s definitely a relief that we don’t have to…I guess I don’t have to go through all that.
JC: Oh, yea.
V: But, it was definitely like a learning experience for me, I take.
JC: So, are any of y’all U.S. Citizens now?
V: Yea, because my dad he got his citizenship before we went back to Mexico, we became citizens.
JC: OK, so everyone’s citizen, a U.S. citizen now?
V: Yea, except for my mom. She’s trying to get hers.
JC: She’s trying to get hers? OK, so during the time that your family was going through this whole turmoil to become legalized, were there any resources in school that helped you or just provided support for you and your family?
V: So, we did have one. It wasn’t in school but it was like a, like at college at Elon University. They have like a program called “Elon Academy,” which they help underrepresented students like gain college access.
V: That’s what my sister got it, and then I applied for it and got in. The helped us get to college, but more importantly, they also got a lot of petition signatures for my mom when she was out of the country. But, it wasn’t connected…I guess it was kind of connected to the school but it wasn’t like a direct resource from the school.
JC: Did they also support any like emotional or psychological support during that time?
V: Yea, they tried to. They realized that for me, I guess, they realized that I definitely was going through something, but I don’t know why…I kind of just, I didn’t feel it and I stayed…and just kind of tried to stay strong for my family. But, they did support.
V: Yea.
JC: And, you said that was not directly from your school?
V: Not directly from the school.
JC: So, from your school you didn’t feel any type of…or didn’t find any resources that could help you?
V: Yea, no.
JC: Just because it was stable during that time?
V: Yea.
JC: OK, so overall how would you say this experience that you had to go through along with your family impacted you and your life overall?
V: I definitely appreciate everything that I received, even just like the little things that I received from my family. And from like from everyday, you know life…being here at UNC it’s definitely a privilege to be here. And, it was definitely like hard to apply and all the things that I had to go through, but I don’t regret going through all that because I came out…I went, like I came out…I went in as like a sixteen year old who was like trying to do everyday whatever a sixteen year old us, and then came out like an eighteen year old, twenty year old like I would say like a young man as my mom would call me. So, yea I think it…I appreciate what I had to go through that experience.
JC: So, when you applied to college you were already a U.S. citizen?
V: Yea, I was already
JC: OK, so it didn’t impact like your ability to go to college?
V: Yea, but before that so like 2009 I was like, “What am I doing?”
JC: OK, so there was a period where?
V: There was a period.
JC: Close to graduation time your senior year?
V: No, like in my freshman year.
V: That’s when my sister got in the program, and she was like a junior. She was already dreaming of college. She was like, “What are you trying to do?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” And then, it’s like…there’s nothing for me out there. I was like, “Well, I’m just like going into like a day job, factory job. There’s no point in me trying to like do well in school if I’m not going to gain anything from it. So, there was a point of like a resentment of where I wouldn’t be able to move forward, even though I had some kind of…academic.
JC: And, when your sister got, she said Wake Forest?
V: Yea, she went to Wake Forest.
JC: Was she undocumented at that time?
V: No, she was documented and like I think she was in the middle, so she was kind of like borderline. She hadn’t received her residency yet.
V: So, we had to send a lot of paperwork for that first year.
V: Yea.
JC: All right, I think that’s it. Thank you for your time.
V: No problem.