Liliana 'Lily' Ramos dresses herself prior to visit with an immigration lawyer in Tijuana, Mexico. She was deported, leaving behind her three American-born children living in Bend, Oregon. “There are days that I don’t feel like getting out of bed,” she said. “Sometimes I cry like I can’t stop. But, if I cry too much, then I’ll be broken and won’t be able to move on. I have to be strong for my kids.”
A framed picture of Lily with her two girls, Ashely (center) and Karleen (right), sits in her home in Bend, Oregon. Lily considered bringing her kids, Brian, 19, Ashley, 16, and Karleen, 11, along with her to Tijuana, but does not have support from family in Mexico. Also, while her kids speak Spanish fluently, they do not read or write the language, which would drop them several grade levels. “No quiero que sufren,” she said. "I don’t want them to suffer."
Outside the deportation office, Lily recounts her meeting with the immigration officer. Lily had been hopeful of President Obama’s words supporting the possible pardon of 300,000 non-criminal undocumented immigrants. “They said I have to leave the country,” she said. “What Obama said was a lie.”
Friends from Lily’s church surround her in a prayer circle outside the Department of Homeland Security in Portland, Oregon. Lily, originally from Mexico, has been living in the United States for 21 years without proper documentation. After receiving information from her social network that applying for political asylum was a reasonably easier and faster path towards citizenship, she applied for, but was denied political asylum in the U.S. In essence, she turned herself into the authorities.
Lily felt most worried about leaving her youngest because she senses how difficult the separation will be for her.
Lily asked her mother, Micaela, to move from Los Angeles to Bend to watch over her three children. Micaela quickly found a job in Bend working as a hotel maid.
Since her mother's departure Ashley has adopted more of the house-hold responsibilities.
Lily confirmed a school phychologist for Karleen at the start of the schoolyear. Karleen finds it hard to face her mother's deportation. "My friends help me not think about what's going on," Karleen said.
Micaela prays for Lily with her grandson, Brian. They are a devout Catholic family, the church has become their support network and safety net.
On September 24, 2011 Lily drove herself across the border into Tijuana, Mexico. The immigration officer that finalized Lily’s deportation comforted Lily with the fact that her son could apply for his mother to naturalize once he turned 21.
Lily was able to find a room to stay in Tijuana through her church community. In exchange, she cleans the home. Lily must enter and exit the home quietly, and does not feel comfortable her surroundings. "I will never feel whole without my kids," Lily said.
Lily says she does not feel accepted back into Mexico, her birth country. She is unsuccessful in attaining work, misses her family, and received word that her three children are feeling depressed back home in Oregon.
Lily waits in the lobby of an immigration lawyer’s office. Unable to afford the lawyer, she hopes the free first consultation will answer pressing questions about the possibility of her re-entry into the U.S. The lawyer tells her she will have to wait at least until 2015 until she can apply for reentry.