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How to Survive Separation- A Guide for Girls

Step one: Don’t cry.

A stranger looking to take you away will exploit your weakness.

Step two: Understand that your body will adjust under the direst circumstances.

Yes, your body is a powerful system of interconnected underestimated durable wires able to sustain through the most arduous conditions. No matter how cold they try to make it, your body will tell you what you have to do to keep warm. No matter how bad your neck or back hurt when you sleep, the strength in your bones, muscles, and most importantly mind will adjust to the conditions. Remember, you’ve survived worse.

Step three: Don’t struggle.

The authorities looking to keep you away from your family, will use any excuse to keep you detained if you struggle.

Step four: Remember that you are strong.

If you ever feel the need to break out of this system you’ve been going through; you are not alone. If you stay strong, you will have a better chance of seeing the next days through.

Step five: Keep your shoes tied tight.

In the case that you are deported, there’s probably nothing left for you in your home country. You will do a lot of walking when you decided to make one of two choices, find a place to sleep or return to the United States. Regardless, you will need your shoes.

In the event that you have been removed from the detention facility and on your way to a family member’s house or a foster home, follow the next steps:

Step six: Don’t get comfortable

Depending on where you go there will be other challenges to look for. If you are with family, they are most likely struggling too, thus, you will be low on their list of priorities and responsibilities. If this happens you will probably be sleeping on the floor or on some old mattress that will probably have bed bugs and other pests that will harm you.

If you are in a foster home, there will be others looking to take everything, especially your shoes. If this is the case, your priority in a foster home will be to sleep with one eye open. Not because you might be killed, although that is not such a farfetched idea to be wary of, but because there will be at least one person looking to take something from you, both material and physical.

Step seven: Don’t become a statistic.

There are people looking to make an example of you. It is true that you will be hungry, but they will catch you if you steal and categorize everyone in your situation just the same. They will prosecute you to fullest extent of the law and tell everyone that you are part of a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. They will then throw you in prison or juvenile hall and continue to blame you for their hard-earned money being used to keep you in line.

All because you were hungry.

All because your extended family couldn’t afford to feed you, but were forced to take you in. All because you were trying to run away from the foster home where they kept trying to take your shoes, and you stole some cash to make a getaway to any place other than that shit hole you were in.

Don’t become a statistic.

Remember, you are not alone, there are so many others just like you who are hungry, thirsty, in need of money, lonely, the list goes on. Every situation is different, but you will figure it out. Try your best not to become a statistic.

Step eight: Don’t go anywhere alone.

If you followed step one, you haven’t shown a weakness. But someone has been following you since day one. Someone has been asking themselves, “If she goes missing, will anyone notice? Will anyone look for her? Will anyone care?” If you couldn’t help but cry because of the solitude you felt when you were ripped from your mother’s arms, unsure of when you were going to be able to see her again, or if you ever will. Or if you cried because the people who wore the letters ICE on their backs didn’t treat you like a human being, but instead they treated you like a dog who was just a nuisance begging to eat with its eyes that hadn’t eaten a decent meal in who knows how long because the ice box they kept you in was so cold and dark that you lost track of the days. Don’t fret, your stronger now than day-one-you.

But this is an important step if you didn’t cry, and even more important if you did.

Don’t go anywhere alone, because the person who is following you thinks that they know you’re vulnerable. And although they don’t know that you’ve only grown stronger in this situation because every obstacle that has come your way, you’ve broken through it with such ferocity that they don’t know who they’re messing with if they cross you, don’t go anywhere alone. Even though you will survive another obstacle, you don’t want to find yourself outnumbered.

Step nine: Look for a friend, preferably a girl.

And not the girl who you know is just trying to be around you because they pity you. Fuck them. You don’t need pity. Look for a friend who is in the same situation as you. Not necessarily the immigrant thing, but a girl who understands that the world is underestimating them. A girl who you feel, in your gut, will get you and what your goal is: survive. Because even though you don’t need anyone to survive (you know you’re a bad ass) it’s always better to have a second set of eyes to watch those who are lurking around trying to keep you from your survival. There’s always one.

Step ten: Fly under the radar.

Given your circumstance, this may be something you’ll struggle with every single day. If you’ve ended up in an orphanage, you won’t be able to tell anyone about the boy who looks at you weird, because they’ll ignore you. When said boy makes his move, no one will be there to help you. He’ll also find out that no one came to help, so he’ll escalate.

Because that’s what cowards do. They know they’re worthless at everything, and only go for what they think will be an easy win for them.

If you fly under the radar, you will find a moment when you’re alone with that boy and teach him that no one can mess with you. But be quiet about it, because they listen to boys more than girls.

If you’ve ended up with family, keep flying under the radar. You’re still a stranger, and a stranger is fair game. You don’t want to be at the helm of a family scandal, because they will always take the family’s side. You’ll just be considered an outsider who wants to mess with the harmony and they’ll send you away. So, if your cousin, uncle, or maybe even an aunt is making you feel uncomfortable, lay low. Teach them, like you would the boy who looks at you weird, that no one can fuck with you. The snakes will always want to strike, and their venom will flow through your blood, and your blood only. If you fly under the radar, you can teach them their lesson and they too, the cowards, will want to keep a lid on they learned.

Step eleven: Get used to being alone.

Not entirely alone, because if you’ve followed step eight, and you better damned well have followed step eight, you have a buddy with you. What this step means is emotionally alone. Chances are, your family has been sent back to your home country or is possibly still detained in La Hielera. The family that you do have left, may or may not be willing to help you. And you have to be understanding about this because they don’t want to be associated with you, fearing the ruin of their law-abiding ways. Or maybe they don’t want to help because they fear you will cause too much attention and their expiring visas or undocumented status may be in jeopardy.

People see you like a virus, and the only thing that viruses do is corrupt everything around them. It’s not your fault, it isn’t theirs (mostly), it’s just survival. If there’s one thing you don’t want stopping you from surviving is loneliness. You’ll get through it, but you won’t believe how many people fall victim to the solitude.

Loneliness makes you do stupid things, like find other lost souls, other viruses, whose contagion is so profound it would only be a matter of days before you’re both infected beyond repair. Get used to it. You’ve gotten used to so much, but this might be harder than most.

Step twelve: Don’t self-destruct.

The biggest precursor to this is wallowing in self-pity. Chances are your parents are trying to come back to their home, not their home country, but the home they’ve built in this foreign land. One’s affection to the life they’ve built, no matter on what part of the planet, is so strong that there is no other choice but to fight everything in your path to get back to it. To get back to the roof that holds so many precious memories.

You know better than anyone else that your parents are being driven back by that force. And although it’s all shit, although you know that your entire family is on their heels fighting several moments of violence to return to their new roots, don’t self-destruct. The idea that your family is fighting to get back together will drive you to places in your mind that are so dark not even a flashlight will help you navigate out of there. Don’t think about all the negativity that’s surrounding you. Instead, think about your siblings, your tio, your tia, your Mama, your Papa that are all going through the same thing and stay focused.

The only goal right now, is to be with your family. If you self-destruct, if you ignore these steps, if you slap that boy who looks at you weird in public, if you shout at that person or people who think they “get” you, if you steal, if you cry, if you allow that thrum of anger clawing its way up your throat to paint everything in your sight red, they win. That boy who looks at you weird, that girl who thinks she’s better, those people in the red hats, the men in the ICE uniforms, the lawyers who regret going into immigration law, the people who jumped in front of you in the never-ending line to leave the ice box, and anyone else who thinks you don’t belong in their country, they win.

Step thirteen- Ensure the love for family overpowers anger and sorrow.

There isn’t much guidance with this. There isn’t one particular way to master this. Sometimes, your family is the one who you fight with the most, and it might be the hardest step to follow. But through it all, your family will unconditionally love you. They will not tag you with any adjective that describes you other than daughter, sister, cousin…family. And if you keep their memories in your heart, the good ones, the ones when you open tamales on Christmas Eve, or the time when you all snuck food out of Hometown Buffet because you knew you wouldn’t able to afford food for the next few days, and laughed at the chismosos throwing dirty looks your way, or the time when the family car left you all stranded right after that cheesy luchador event, but you all had luchador masks and made the best of the walk home, or the way you felt when your Mama was by your side very single day after you ate some bad esquite and swore to never eat another cup again only to see your mama making you a fresh home-made batch so you wouldn’t have to get them off the elotero anymore because she knew how much you loved corn smothered in butter, mayo, and chile. If you keep their memories in your heart, this step will be the easiest. If you keep this love close to your heart with utmost care, the journey back to your family may not come as soon as you would like it, but they will be with you so often that it will feel as though no time has passed.

See volume 2 if you’ve remained in the detention facility for longer than a week. If our data is correct, and it most likely is, you’ll be in a detention facility for at least a month. That will require other steps to follow.

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