Episode 2, The Daughter

For Isabel Gil, who left her home state of Michoacan 20 years ago, the reunion with her mother was an overwhelming experience. Undocumented life in America has prohibited her from ever returning to Mexico.

Her mother had been brought to the United States on a US tourist visa, attained through a government program that reunites undocumented immigrants with their parents in Mexico, often after many decades apart.

“It’s wonderful”, she told CGTN. “Even if I’m never able to go back to Mexico, at least I’ve had the chance to be with her again. 

For Isabel, who first crossed into the US illegally through El Paso, Texas, separation from her family hasn’t been the only hardship of undocumented life in the USA. 

She fled her home state of Michoacan, one of the most murderous regions of Mexico, in fear of the gangs and violence, but in America, she has lived through another sort of hell.

“It’s a daily fear”, she told CGTN at her home in the leafy suburbs of a major American city. “Not only for yourself, but for your family. You go out to work in the morning, and you never know if you will return in the evening.”

Today, with the Trump administration’s more aggressive anti-immigration policy, Isabel’s fears have only worsened, and with good reason.

The US deports thousands of people every month back to Mexico, regardless of the time they have spent in America, and often to the most dangerous regions of the country. It’s one of Isabel’s greatest fears.

“In Michoacan there is a lot of murder, and kidnapping”, she said. “Deportation would mean going back to that with my kids. I’m scared of being forced to live through something like that.”

Paola Chavarro is a US immigration attorney, and says Isabel’s case is not unusual, and there’s not much to be done about it.

“Once you enter illegally, it’s almost impossible to become legal”, she told CGTN.

“A lot of them are afraid of buying a home, even if they have the money to do so. They are afraid of investing in a business. They’re afraid because they’re here today, but they could be deported fairly soon.”

For Isabel and her family, the threat of a return to Mexico is real, and while they plan to stay in American for as long as they can, they are prepared for the worst.

“If you are forced to go, then you have to accept it, but as long as you can be here, you stay,” she said.

“The oldest tells me that I should go alone, and that he’ll come and visit me when he’s older. But I wouldn’t allow it, no way. Wherever I go, they

For Isabel, one of America’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, it’s a life lived on the edge.

“You have to live in the moment, and hope that when you leave the house in the morning, you will return again at night. Because you never know.”

For Isabel, deportation would mean losing everything, so with no real prospects for immigration reform, she sees this life in limbo as her best option, living among the undocumented in America.