Robert Vivar and Yolanda Varona met three years ago at Friendship Park in Tijuana, on the Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexico border. They were there to connect with their U.S. families — both deported grandparents, the two had a lot in common.
Today, they work to impact U.S. immigration and the lives of the deported, while living abroad. The group is called DREAMers Moms, and they consider themselves a Tijuana-based chapter of the U.S. group DREAMers Moms from Miami.
When a couple of years ago Varona told Vivar she wanted to create an organization in Tijuana that would help deported mothers connect and maybe even legally reunify with their children in the U.S., Vivar said he was 100 percent on board.
Vivar has been working with deported veterans at the Deported Veterans Support House, in Tijuana, called the “Bunker” for several years. He understands the struggles of the many deported men fighting to reconnect with families living in the U.S.
The two founded DREAMers Moms or Madres Soñadoras in 2014, starting with four people and growing to several dozen.
“A lot of women needed to find a place where they belonged. We learned there was a lot of guilt and shame and many of the women didn’t want to talk about their lives. They thought they were worthless, even though most had no criminal past — their only crime was being undocumented,” Vivar told Fox News Latino.
The group began reaching out to local Tijuana shelters and other non-profits hoping to uncover what the deported mothers needed.
Most of the women are mothers whose children were born in the U.S. or are allowed to be in the U.S. legally through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA is an American immigration policy that allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday, and before June 2007, to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation.
According to U.S. Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE), in the first half of 2014, 22,088 undocumented immigrants identify as parents of U.S. born children. Activists say many of those parents live in Tijuana.
Varona was a U.S. resident, living in the El Cajon neighborhood of San Diego, California for 17 years until she was deported to Mexico in 2010 after it was discovered she was living in on a tourist visa.
“We don’t want to go back as undocumented individuals. The goal of this group is to return legally with our kids. To go back and live better than before,” Varona told The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Since their inception, Dreamers Moms has worked to petition such things as opening the Friendship Park more than once a year and to more than just five families — as it current is.
“We’ve petitioned Customs and Border Protection (CBT) and now we’re collecting 500 signatures to seek assistance from Congress,” Vivar told FNL.
“CBT’s argument is that more people means more of a security risk, and that items would cross back and forth between people. But, we think this would hinder people crossing the border illegally. It’s out of desperation that people look to cross into the U.S. illegally,” Vivar said.
“Just last year someone in our organization tried to cross into San Diego, and he didn’t make it. He was found dead. It was out of desperation to get back to family,” he said.
DREAMers Moms also launched a voter registration drive for Bernie Sanders. Vivar says the group supported him because he was the only one of the presidential candidates to vocally speak out in favor of reunification of deported parents with their children.
Fox News Latino asked Vivar if the group would be working for Hillary Clinton now that Sanders has left the race, and he said that since Clinton has not publically offered any support for family reunification, they saw no reason to work for her campaign.
“If Hillary would publically voice her support, and it’d be something truthful, maybe, but her donors are people who are running 'private prisons' that house undocumented women and children. It would be hard for us to put together action of support for her,” Vivar said.
DREAMers Moms has been actively promoting the U-visa. This is a nonimmigrant visa set aside for victims of crimes (and their family members), who have suffered extreme mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
“Sadly, only 10,000 of these visas are given out in a year. We had one woman who took advantage of this," Vivar says.
Yolanda also got the visa and she’s now waiting for it to be processed.
Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for FoxNews.com. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.