A Deportation and the Vanishing Memories of my Grandpa

April 13, 2017 /

By Layla Ornelas

Image by Crystal Rivera

Mural by UC, Merced studnets and community members


For some of us, our lives revolve around our families. We worry about their health, well-being, and whereabouts. To think of a loved one being separated or missing hurts us inside.

But in mixed-status immigrant families, the constant fear of familial separation and deportation is something you think about everyday.

One day the whole family is together, the next day they’re not. At any moment someone can be deported from their home.

This is a nationwide problem and many families are being torn apart in the process, including mine.

My grandfather was taken from my family in 2010. I didn’t know he had been deported until a few weeks later and it was so upsetting.

 “But in mixed-status immigrant families, the constant fear of familial separation and deportation is something you think about everyday.”

My family managed to immediately contact him, and while he was safe, money was the immediate issue. He had no means of providing for himself in Mexico.  

Every month we started collecting money from various family members to send to Grandpa. Soon his absence began to affect us in other ways, too.

My mom and her sisters grew stressed and depressed. They missed their dad a lot. We also began to struggle financially. We expected Grandpa to only be gone a year at the most, but it’s been almost seven years now. Since then, we’ve struggled to make enough money to send to support him and support ourselves.

But despite the difficulties, we continue to help him as much as we can, hoping to bring him back to us.

Sadly, we do not talk about my grandpa as much as before. I have not talked to him in a few years. I hardly hear anything about him anymore. It seems like the adults in the family try their best to not speak about him in front of the kids, as if it’d trigger something or put everyone in a bad mood.

So now my memories of Grandpa are vanishing.

During the holidays, his absence is most notable. Everyone still comes over to our house and eats Thanksgiving, exchanges gifts on Christmas, and spends New Year’s together. We act like he is still here with us, while avoiding acknowledging that he’s really not.

I miss my grandpa and wish I could spend the holidays with him again. I know other family members feel the same, it just hurts to remember him. We will continue to do our best to get him back here with us. His absence is very hard on all of us.  

We are still a family no matter how far apart we may be, or how many deportations we endure.  Someday he will be celebrating the holidays with us again.


Layla Ornelas is 15 year old art enthusiast and youth reporter. Passionate about LGBTQ and human rights, she feels strongly about making a difference in her community. She comes from an activist background, serving as a junior Brown Beret,  and likes to help others.


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