October 7, 2009

Dreams Shattered, Hope Lost: The story of a fifteen year old deportee

“My last Christmas in the US, I couldn’t even think of anything to ask for; I had everything,” Katy told me, as she reminisced on her life in the United States. Katy lived with her parents and her sister in a spacious house in suburban Louisiana. Her parents moved to the US when she was two years old, and were able to achieve the American dream. They had a house, several cars, and two daughters headed for success.

Katy’s father had his own business painting cars, her mother was a housewife, and Katy was a typical American teenager. On weekends, she went out with her friends to the mall or the movies. Tears streamed down her face when she thought of all she had lost – of the life she once lived.

Katy was fifteen years old when immigration agents told her family they had a week to leave the country. She was finishing up middle school, and her sister was enrolled in college. This was their worst nightmare. Their parents moved to another town, in the hopes that they could delay their departure. However, immigration agents soon found the family. When the immigration agents arrived, they handcuffed Katy, who was waiting at the school bus stop. “It was in front of everybody,” she told me.

Katy’s father and sister were taken to a county jail, and Katy and her mother were allowed to stay at a friend’s house for their last four days in the country. Although Katy had been in the US for thirteen years, and her father had been in the US since before she was born, they had not successfully legalized their status, and were deported to a country Katy knew nothing about.

When they were deported to Guatemala, Katy could not believe how drastically her life had changed. They were fortunate that they had a place to go – Katy’s grandmother had passed away and left them a house. However, it was a simple dwelling, with adobe walls, a tin roof, and the bathroom was outside on the patio.

It is already difficult to be an adolescent, and Katy did not deal well with this fall from riches to rags. She fell into a deep depression, and barely left the house for over a year. Unable to read or write Spanish, she never went back to school.

In the US, Katy excelled in school, was popular with her friends, and never got into trouble. She had dreams of becoming a veterinarian, and her sister was already studying to be a doctor. When they were deported to Guatemala, her dreams were shattered.

They have been here for nine years, but the wounds are very deep, and Katy still hurts from what happened to her when she was fifteen. She shed tears for most of the interview. Just thinking about what happened to her and her family was too much to bear.

Katy still dreams of going back to America. Unfortunately, that is not possible right now, and she must continue to make her life in Guatemala.


  1. Your work is so important! Keep it up! We need to hear these voices! This research is going to blow you up!

  2. Thanks, Randal. That is great to hear. It gives me motivation to keep going! Two interviews scheduled for tomorrow!