Latinitas - A Strong Voice for Latina Youth

Hello girls! It's been a while since I don't get in touch with you. This is partly because of what happened at me at the bridge one Monday I was heading to Latinitas office. 

Let me explain how afraid and frustrated I was that day starting from the moment I walked out of home. As every normal Monday, I had to go to my internship at Latinitas office. I had to bathe, get on some clothes, have breakfast, brush my teeth and prepare my stuff for the day, which includes my documents for the bridge. Among those, I had to prepare my passport, my visa student, my SENTRI card, my I-94 permit, my SEVIS comprobation, my tourist visa (just in case), AND (I didn't know this) my I-20 form. The fact that I didn't know about the I-20 form derives from a confusion. I remember one introduction session at my campus for international students when the speaker told us this type of form was ONLY NECESSARY if one goes to school. 
Don't get me wrong girls, that morning was a special and out-of-routine one. All my documents were (I don't know why) outside their usual place at home. I had the opportunity to take the ones I need and just carry them at my bag (when I usually carry them at the car). My judgment was this: if I am not going to summer school, if I am not even going to UTEP that day, and if I am only going to a place that has nothing to do with my school, then I can leave my I-20 at home. My judgment was: I don't need the I-20 because I am not going to school; my premises were: they always let me enter anyways and they don't ask me for any documents, so I'll just go with this. I didn't know of the big mistake I was committing until after.

I was traveling inside my car alone through the express line that I have since the beginning of this year. Once I reached the stand, I showed to the official my SENTRI card (the ID card you need to show if you have the express line).

-Que llevas?
-Where are you going?
-To work -another mistake. Until that day, it was normal for me to say I was working with Latinitas even though it is only an unpaid internship and with the word "work" leads to the type of thinking.
-Where do you work? Do you have your employment card?
-No no, sorry. I do not actually work. I am doing an internship with Latinitas, it is an organization from here in El Paso. 
-But they pay you
-No, it is an unpaid internship. 
-Ok, show me your documents then.
I passed to him my passport, my SENTRI card, along with my student visa and I-94.
-So you're a student
-And your I-20?
-I don't have it. I am not going to school.
-You don't have it?
-It is at home
-You know I can take your passport away because you don't have your I-20 with you? 
I stood silent. I didn't like how all of this was going. There were already too many questions and it just didn't feel okay. I felt attacked even though I wasn't lying at all.  
-So you're now not a student?
-No no, right now I am not at school but I am registered for the Fall. I am not taking summer school and for this visit to El Paso, I am not going to UTEP I am just going to my internship - I felt pressured to say all the information I was thinking. 

From this, he goes onto his cabin to check some records and takes all my documents away with him. Then he gives my an orange paper and tells me I am not going to pass to El Paso and that I have to go into the offices inside for a questionnaire while other officials are going to register my car. 
-Pass to the line number 5 and wait there until an official comes. 

I felt very nervous and scared. I waited there for almost 30 minutes and I didn't know nothing about the rules there. I immediately sent messages and emails to my boss telling her I wouldn't be able to come to the office that day. The thoughts about my education started arising as time passed by. Where did my documents go? Will I ever get them back? What happens if I cannot cross to El Paso anymore? What will happen to my education here? Did I just commit a violation to the rules? What did I do wrong? 

Another official came and told me to leave my cellphone inside my bag.
-You cannot use that miss. Not here. Not even when someone sends you here. Come with me, we'll go to the offices inside.

We entered to the offices and they told me to sit down at one of the large pillars of chairs across the individual rooms. There was a man seated at a desk with a flag from the US filling out some forms and there was another man seated closed to the paydesks immigration has, the ones where people comes and asks you for information, except that this official was busy with some passports. 

The official with the passports and the one who escort me there talked briefly and the guy of the passports starts talking to me calmly,
-Ok miss, calm down first. Explain what happened.
I explained to him the situation. I told him I was only crossing to El Paso because I had an internship with Latinitas, an organization dedicated to Latinas within media and technology. I told him I was a writer at the magazine, that I was not taking summer school and that I was only crossing to El Paso to be there at the office of Latinitas. I told him the only problem here was that I didn't bring my I-20, it was at my home, and that there was a confusion with the other official. 

From this, the official of the passports goes with the other official seated at the main desk with the flag and tells him about my problem and he asks him if I have to be suspended from any document.
He then turns around and starts talking to me in a very loudly voice
-No miss, you cannot do this anymore. Your identity here in the US is of a student. You have to bring all your documents to validate your identity here. Your I-94, your passport, your SEVIS, your visa student, AND YOU NEED TO BRING ALSO YOUR I-20, (Yes, yelling) you need to bring all your documents and if you do this again you won't be able to cross to the US ever again. You need to take care of this. I am understanding you are enrolled at the fall right?
-Ok, so take care of your documents, you are not the one entitled here with the rules. 

From there, he only talks to the official of the passports. On a brief time, this official tells me I only need to get back to Juarez for my I-20 and that I will be able to cross to El Paso, but in the meantime, he will take my I-94 and he recalled to me this invalidates my visa student and that without this permit, I am not able to study at the US. 
-I'll take this out -he told me while he was rapping off my permit - and I will return it back to you when you have your I-20 ready with us. 

Then, I walked out with the official who first walked me. As we were heading to my car, he told me another official will come and direct me for my return to Juarez. 
-Just wait here and another official will come and tell you how you can return to Juarez and then, when you reach home, take your I-20 and get back here. Deliver it to us so you can continue with your visa. 

His words calmed me a little bit. I was recovering all senses now that I had hope to recover all my documents and just, keep doing what I was doing since I began studying at the US: reaching my dreams. 
Everything was okay, I didn't have the feeling of guilt, fear, and frustration anymore. I wasn't con ganas de llorar ya; until the official who got me into inspection returned.

-Qué te dijeron allá adentro?
-solo tengo que ir por mi I-20 y me van a regresar mis documentos.
He then put a face of disgrace and told me:
-Give me your SENTRI card 
I gave it to him and he just disappeared.

The feeling of not being able to control the situation returned. I was scared again. The guilt, frustration and fear came back as soon as I didn't see him. I didn't know what was going to happen with my SENTRI or with my documents at all. I was confused.

My heart rate increased as I saw him approaching to my car with some forms
-Ok mira, lo que va a pasar es que te vamos a quitar tu sentri. Lo que acabas de hacer es una violacion y no vas a poder usar la línea express por una semana. No vas a poder cruzar hasta que en esta fecha (señala la forma) vengas aquí a las oficinas y les expliques la situación y ya ellos sabrán si se te quita permanentemente o se te regresa. Mientras tanto no puedes cruzar. Allá fueron buena onda contigo pero cometiste una violacion entonces se te tiene que castigar este tiempo que no vengas para acá. 
-pero entonces no regreso con mi I-20? Que va a pasar con mi internship? 
-ahorita vas a tu casa y arregla allá lo que tengas que arreglar, pero por la express no pasas hasta esta fecha que vayas a las oficinas y veas tu situación. 
He made me sign the form that I was agreeing to his judgment and that I was accepting I had committed a violation at not bringing one needed document. I felt so confused about this situation labeling it as a "violation." I wasn't trying to pass any arms or marijuana, I simply confused a function of a form. I simply told the truth of where I was going, and I was going to be punished because of that? 

I left from there crying all the way home. I told my mother what was going on and begged for her to make me company because I had to return there and I didn't want to. I was so scared to be there again with people yelling at me and telling me with rudeness what I had done. I was so afraid of my education, of my future; I didn't achieve to calm myself until my mother hugged me and told me nothing was lost until that date comes.

Afortunately, we got there and at the end of the day, passing through judgments, jokes, and despotism from part of the officials, I got my documents back, even my SENTRI the following week I was there. Everything passed from a situation of terror to a situation of instant relief and cautious for the following times to come. 

Right now, I am just glad I survived my first experience with immigration officers and I wanted to share this with you so that you don't make the same mistakes I did. Do not feel like they are not going to question you. Be prepared with every single paper you have. Keep record of your belongings at your car. Be aware of your status as an outsider. Do not get too confident with them.

Lastly, be a little dishonest. Sometimes crude honesty can get you in a lot of trouble. 
my ownn

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