“Brian” arrived in Rochester when he was 2 years old. At age 12, he returned to Mexico when his father was deported there.
Now 19, Brian has returned to the U.S. — illegally — to finish a high school degree and try to earn a student visa to attend college here.
Brian is a nickname he picked up in elementary school in Rochester. He prefers not to use his full name since he and his parents aren’t yet U.S. citizens.
Brian’s younger sisters — ages 10 and 14 — are U.S.-born but say they worry their parents could be swept up by immigration officials at any time.
“Every day, they come home and sit and wait for my parents to come home,” Brian said.
He too, constantly checks in with his parents and sisters. Brian has made sure his sisters know where to find their important paperwork — their passports, Social Security cards and immunization records — should their parents be detained and deported.
“It’s stressful thinking like this,” he said.
That stress was magnified this weekend as Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out operations to round up thousands of undocumented migrants throughout the U.S.
Karen Edmonds, founder of Project Legacy, which provides support and resources for youths in Rochester, said she has seen that stress affect young people she works with — documented residents and undocumented.
“They’re fearful,” she said.
That fear has a psychological impact along with alienating children and students from their peers and possible activities, she said.
“Their parents don’t want them to be involved in activities,” she said. “They sometimes won’t even let them play outside.”
When Brian was younger, he was involved in multiple activities.
“I had friends here. I went to school. I was in Boy Scouts. I had music classes,” he said.
That changed after his father was detained after a traffic stop. He was met by immigration officials as he was released from custody at the Olmsted County Adult Detention Center, Brian said. The next time they heard from him, he was in Mexico.
Brian and the rest of the family returned to Mexico to stay together.
“I cried when I left,” he said. “I begged my mom to leave me here.”
Resuming school in Mexico was difficult. English had been his primary language — especially for reading comprehension. He found little sympathy from his teachers, he added.
“I needed to learn Spanish really quick,” he said.
He was bullied and never really fit in, he said. Teachers were indifferent to his struggles whereas he said he received encouragement from his teachers in Rochester.
“Teachers here push you to be someone,” he said.
He recalled learning about U.S. history and how generations of immigrants came here for better lives. He said he wondered why his family wasn’t afforded the same opportunity.
“We’ve human beings,” he said “We should have the same opportunities and rights as people who came from other countries for the same reason — to have a better life.”