ICE raids and deportation has been on the minds of many Latinos living in the states lately — especially those who are undocumented. It’s a harsh and often traumatic reality, especially when families are separated. While Republicans argue left and right about how undocumented immigrants are here illegally, we all know that the immigration policies currently in place intentionally make it that much harder for immigrants to come here the “right way” and obtain citizenship. In fact, Fresno State alumna and artist Liseth De La Cruz Santana recently created a mural to bring awareness on the deportation problem in the U.S. and the impact it has on people who migrate to the U.S. as young children and are later deported as adults.
The project is part of De La Cruz Santana’s dissertation at UC Davis, where she’s currently working on her Ph.D. in Spanish with an emphasis on human rights. The mural has been created by a team of artists lead by De La Cruz Santana and is titled, “Playas de Tijuana Mural Project: Who Are the Real Childhood Arrivals to the United States?” It’s funded through a grant provided by the Mellon Public Scholars Fellowship and located at Playas de Tijuana and focuses on the stories of six people who migrated to the states as children, including some who were later deported or are currently at risk of being deported as adults.
De La Cruz Santana’s inspiration to create this project was influenced by her own family. Her parents migrated to the states and were later granted permanent residency but her father crossed the border from Playas de Tijuana to get in and it took him nine days. The beach holds a lot of significance not just because the artist’s father crossed the border from there but also because a lot of recent migrants from Central America cross the border from there in their quest to seek asylum in the U.S. These are just some of the reasons why De La Cruz Santana chose to hold the mural at that location.
The mural features the faces of real Latinx immigrants on a long steel border wall. It even includes an interactive component with a barcode that activates first-person narratives on visitor’s phones. All you have to do is scan a canvas portrait along the mural with an iPhone or scanning app. All the faces on the murals consist of people De La Cruz Santana personally knows, including Karla Estrada and Jario Lozano who are both DACA recipients. Monserrat Godoy and Tania Mendonza who are DREAMer moms. Isaac Rivera is a repatriated childhood arrival who migrated to the states when he was six and was deported as an adult after being stopped at a border checkpoint in Temecula. And Andy De León is a U.S. Veteran and Repatriated Permanent Resident. After living in the states for more than 50 years, he was recently deported after his green card was revoked. The trauma of growing up in a country to then be deported and separated from your family and the only place you call home is very real and that’s what De La Cruz Santana aims to capture. She wants folks to see that behind these deportations are real people with real stories.
“I really want people to see the stories,” De La Cruz Santana told The Sacramento Bee. “The biggest reward is the people who are showcased there are going to get some sort of help… for me, that’s the big thing.”
She also hopes that the mural will help to raise money to provide legal services to the deported immigrants who are seeking to reunite with their families. In addition, with more funding, De La Cruz Santana wants to continue building the mural all the way to the ocean in efforts to “erase” the border.
“The border is there separating both countries and its a way of taking it back,” she says. Central Valley muralist Mauro Carerra, who painted crosswalks in Fresno, also assisted De La Cruz Santana with her mural on the border.
Her mural speaks to the fact that all immigrant’s stories matter. Their stories deserve to be humanized and ethical immigration solutions and policies need to finally be presented to immigrants who choose to migrate to the states. Enough is enough.