Father's Deportation Challenges Peruvian UCLA Student

This story was written by Jessica Chou, Daily Bruin
What "Victor" remembers of Peru is a carefree life, playing soccer in the streets and having fun with his cousins.

But, for the third-year University of California at Los Angeles political science student and his family, staying in their native country was not an option.

Years of political violence plagued the South American nation, breeding instability and economic hardship that forced many Peruvians to emigrate northward.

Many of those who chose to stick around found themselves attending a lot of going-away parties.

Though Victor's family was lucky enough to leave, a series of hardships awaited him as he worked to get a public education as an undocumented immigrant in the United States.

One weekend last year, Victor went home to Pasadena, Calif., for his weekly visit from UCLA.

His mother had already left for her housekeeping job at 6 a.m., and his father was getting ready for work.

Victor and his 11-year-old little brother were still sleeping when two Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers knocked on their door.

They had come to take Victor's father, an undocumented immigrant.

Victor was shocked at the sudden change of reality.

"My little brother was crying, and I cried, and my dad (was) crying. It was hopeless. It was a disaster," Victor said.

It was a nervous feeling he had never felt before, he said, and a curious weight of responsibility fell upon him when he saw his little brother crying.

The sudden disruption shook their lives to the core.

Victor tried to keep busy by staying focused in school.

But seeing his mother waiting by the phone and crying every night was hard to deal with.

"Seventeen years of us being here, and they take my dad away?" Victor said. "What about all the taxes that he has paid? Is that just going to go to waste?"

While the fear always lingered in the back of his head, Victor said he never thought his family would be separated.

The fear lessened with each year in the U.S. So when Victor's father was deported after 17 years of working and raising a family here, the shock was unbearable.

The event seriously complicated Victor's life as a student. As an undocumented immigrant, he was already barred from receiving financial aid, but with the detainment of his father, Victor was forced to take over family responsibilities.

He had to commute home every day to make sure that his mother wasn't too stressed out and his little brother had someone to talk to. He also had his own schoolwork to think about.

His father's gardening business came under Victor's supervision as well.

"I never had so much responsibility before, but for it to come all at once -- that's difficult," he said.

He had trouble juggling it all.

During classes he would get calls from customers with complaints.

They would need help, for example, fixing faulty sprinkler timers. The problem was that Victor didn't quite know how to fix sprinklers or set their timers. The business was still a mystery to him.

So Victor had to learn.

"I had to do the bills ... every month," Victor said. "That affected me in school a lot. And I ended up dropping out of class at the end of the quarter."

Victor said he even considered dropping out of school completely so he could devote all his attention to his father's gardening business. But his mother talked him out of it.

His parents, he said, sacrificed too much for him to get an education.

"I couldn't let them down," he said, adding that he hopes to use his education to change what he views as unjust treatment of undocumented immigrants.

It has been almost six months now since his father's deportation, and Victor says life is finally beginning to sttle down.

His mother and little brother, however, will soon be moving to Peru to reunite with his father. Victor, who still has a year to complete at UCLA, is staying.

"It's calmer than before, but it's still not the way things are supposed to be."
© 2008 Daily Bruin via U-WIRE