- Ana Laura Lopez started selling edgy t-shirts as a means of income and coping after being deported from the United States, back to Mexico.
- Today, she runs Deportados Unidos, which helps other US deportees re-adjust to life in Mexico by providing job opportunities and the chance to share their voice.
- Over 130,000 people have been deported so far in the fiscal year, 2019.
- Business Insider Today visited Deporatdos Unidos’ workshop to see why Its designs resonate for many, as massive immigration raids and a humanitarian crisis unfoldi on the US/Mexico border.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a copy of the transcript.
Edgy designs supporting immigrants and calling out President Trump – that’s how one woman overcame her pain after being deported from the United States.
Ana Laura Lopez: When I was deported to Mexico, the first thing I did was to cry. I fell in a strong depression and it was difficult to go out.
Narrator: And her designs resonate for many more than ever, with massive immigration raids and a humanitarian crisis unfolding on the US-Mexico border.
Ana Laura Lopez is one of the hundred of thousands of people who have been forced to return to their home countries after years, or even decades, living in the US.
Now, she sells products like these all over the world. But in countries like Mexico, many have struggled to rebuild their lives.
Lopez: And to arrive here and ask yourself what are you going to do? Now what? If everything I had and I built is in the other side of the border, how do I start from zero?
I don’t have a house or a job, I don’t know where to go, I have no one.
Narrator: So far, the company has used about half of its profits to help at least 250 recent deportees re-adjust to life in Mexico. They train them on starting a business, help people fill out legal paperwork, and offer teach them how to make t-shirts.
Lopez started Deportados Unidos, which translates to, “Deportees United,” three months after arriving in Mexico City on September, 2016. She had left her two children behind in Chicago, and decided that the best way to cope was to try and help others.
Lopez: We just want to work and the opportunity to start again and in Deportados Unidos we have focused on that population, people over 30, that isn’t fluent in English to be considered for a job.
Narrator: At first, Lopez and four other recent deportees sold sweets in the streets, and their signature T-shirts were their uniform.
But people were often more interested in the shirts than the desserts.
Lopez: And I told them: “Guys, it’s not about candies, we will sel t-shirts!” And Deportados Brand became a challenge and an opportunity to reinvent ourselves.
Narrator: Gustavo Lavariega, who creates many of the designs, spent two years in a detention centre before being deported. He also has children still living in the United States.
Gustavo Lavariega: I tried to stay because my daughters are American citizens. And it’s exhausting to be in detention centre, after detention centre. Abuses and a lot of things.
So I decided to go out, to accept my deportation and I went out deported.
Narrator: Now in Mexico, he pours his feelings into the motifs that decorate shirts, cups, pillows and bags.
Lopez: Every design has its own story, a reason why we did it. Most of them come out from our experiences. It has also become a relief, and a resistance and pacifistic protest.
Narrator: Over the years, the activist messages became began selling internationally, through Facebook.
One of their biggest markets: the United States.
Lavariega: Our fight is to make visible the difficulties, right? Of family divisions and deportations.
Narrator: Ana was deported under President Obama, who gained the nickname “deporter-in-chief” for hitting a of about 2.7 million deportations over 8 years.
The peak was in 2012, when more than 400,000 people were forced to leave.
In comparison, Trump deported an average of about 241,000 in each of the first two years of his presidency.
But Lopez’s company is focusing their ire on the current president because the tone toward unauthorised immigration coming from the White House has changed dramatically.
One specific design calls out the president in a way that we can’t even show you. But customers love it.
Lopez: We haven’t had any problem with any design. For example with “—- Trump,” it’s in fact one of our best sellers, it has had a big acceptance from people in the United States.
Narrator: Another popular design is the Chingon and Chingona, which translates to a less polite word for awesome in Mexican slang.
Lopez: As I lived there in Chicago, I wanted a design that at first sight looked like Chicago, and it has a lot to do with feminism too, right? A woman proving how much is her value and that she is capable to do a lot of things wherever she is.
Narrator: Her two sons, now 16 and 17, live in Chicago with their father.
The youngest is an American citizen, and has visited Ana two times. But she hasn’t seen her eldest since she left, because he was brought to the US as baby and is currently applying for derived citizenship through his dad.
This business is her way to give her children hope, no matter what side of the border they find themselves on.
Lopez: That you have to preserve your dignity and with our heads held high. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have documents, if your world fell apart. And that if they want to come some day, I want them to be happy because this country is also their country to come and enjoy.
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