“Being a volunteer is a privilege…  I wasn’t documented so I volunteered a lot. And that volunteer work led many doors to be opened up for me.” -Jocksana Corona

On September 8th of 2020, Oregon continues in high alert as another brush fire sparks along Almeda Drive, the 18th fire of the 2020 Wildfire Season. With unusually strong winds and extremely dry conditions, the recipe for an impending inferno is complete. Raging NW through Ashland, Talent, and Phoenix, the Almeda Fire finally ended its rage in the county’s very seat in Medford. It burned 3200 acres of land, destroyed over 3000 structures, and left 3 fatalities.  

Jocksana Corona, a citizen from Talent, remembers that day like an unending nightmare. They had to evacuate four times in 24 hours, their house burned down, their family member was stuck between two fires, their cats missing, and their hopes crashed to the ground. In this episode, Jocksana relates the heart-wrenching story of how they battled through the burning embers of the wildfire and the society’s relief system as a member of the undocumented community. Stay until the end to hear how this story ends! 

As an emergent leader, Jocksana also shares how her prior volunteer works have helped her during these challenging times and how it opened the way for her to support fellow undocumented members of the community before, during, and after the fire. Like Jocksana, millions of undocumented citizens living in the US alone, and they are paying into a system where they cannot access. During a disaster, they are deprived of the right to rebuild, recover, and reimagine. Join the conversation and find out how we can rectify this dysfunction in our system and create a better world for everyone, regardless of status and background.

 

 

Highlights:

  • 00:43 When the Reg Flag Stands
  • 16:22 Stuck In Between Two Fires
  • 21:26 A Tearful, Sleepless Night
  • 27:29 Finding Shelter Amidst COVID 
  • 32:44 Being a Volunteer is a Privilege
  • 40:00 The Beauty of a Community 
  • 45:00 Challenges Faced by the Undocumented Community
  • 54:07 Housing and Undocumented Communities
  • 59:51 54 Days and Reunited

 

Quotes: 

33:40 “Being a volunteer is a privilege that people don’t realize… I wasn’t documented so I volunteered a lot. And that volunteer work led many doors to be opened up for me.” -Jocksana Corona

52:25 “The only way we can get to a place that isn’t so dysfunctional is to have a lot of straight truth, honesty, advocacy, and leadership and that is a brave place to live.” -Jennifer Gray Thompson

54:10 “Conversation about leaving and staying is not even there. It’s more about hopelessness.” -Jocksana Corona

56:05“The requirement of legal citizenship or legal status shouldn’t even be a factor when it’s a big community disaster.”  -Jocksana Corona

 

Meet Jocksana: 

September 8, 2020 was an unforgettable day for Talent citizen, Jocksana Corona. The red flag stands as authorities continue to alert citizens of a fire that’s about to go bigger due to extremely dry conditions and strong gusts of winds. There was no warning from authorities, and Jocksana could only rely on information posted on social media. She immediately warned her neighbors to evacuate as the dreaded fire became imminent. As they drove away, Jocksana could only wish for their home of 17 years and their 4 cats that were left to survive. They were able to get through the fire safely and 54 days later, they were reunited with their 4 cats. Today, Jocksana and her family are now living in Central Point, Oregon. 

Jocksana’s family moved to LA in 1989. She has a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which allowed her to secure a work permit, but not legal citizenship. As a member of an undocumented community, Jocksana faced many challenges. Regardless, she does a lot of advocacy work and is a trusted leader and “lawyer” among fellow members of the undocumented community. 

 

Transcription:

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Once again, welcome to the podcast, Jocksana Corona. I’m hoping that you can start us off today by telling us your very compelling fire story and introducing yourself to the audience.

Jocksana Corona: Well, hello everyone, my name is Jocksana Corona. On September 8, 2020, I lost my home in the Amida Fire in Southern Oregon. It’s been almost nine months actually.It feels like long ago, but yet it feels like yesterday. It’s kind of like an oxymoron, really. I can’t believe how long ago it was. Nine months is not too long, but it still feels like a long time ago. And yet, it feels like it just happened. September 8 was Labor Day weekend, really. My family and I had gone to the coast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and had come back Monday night actually. We unpacked because we got home late from the coast. And Tuesday, my husband went back to work. It was my day off on Tuesday, but my kids, it was the beginning of the week for them for their new school year. They were supposed to start school that same week. And when we got home from the coast, it was super windy. I remember, we were in Crescent City when I realized that there was a Red Flag Warning stating there was going to be a high fire potential and strong winds which were going to be, I think 50 miles per hour winds which were uncommon in Southern Oregon. That’s why there was a big Red Flag Warning. 

And I remember being at the coast in our hotel, and I saw that Red Flag Warning. And it had the map of Oregon, and pretty much the whole state of Oregon was in Red Flag Warning. There was not a place where you could safely go and not be in the Red Flag Warning zone. And I remember instinctively thinking this is kind of scary. I’ve never seen a red flag warning in Oregon. And I mentioned to my husband, should we stay here on the coast an extra night because I was scared and I just had a bad feeling about it. But even on the coast, it was still a Red Flag Warning. So my husband said, no, we’re just going to go home. I have to go to work tomorrow. 

So we drove back home. As soon as we got home, the winds were super strong, and our mobile home park had big huge trees. I mean, people knew [inaudible] by the trees. Many of the community knew which term, which mobile home park I lived in just by the trees. They’d say, oh, my gosh, the mobile home park with all those trees. So I was always concerned that a strong wind would knock down a branch on our tree or a whole tree. I lived there 17 years, and I have known families who had a whole tree fall on their roof. Luckily, there have never been any injuries to people. There’s just been a lot of damage to those roofs. One of those people, my mother in law, a cold tree fell on her house about three or four years ago. And when we got home, it was really windy. So I actually slept in the living room because the wind was so strong in our bedroom. The trees right next to our bedroom, and I told my husband, oh, my gosh, it’s going to crush us. We got to go to sleep in the living room. So we did. 

And before midnight, actually, a big branch fell on our roof and they woke us up. My husband went to check it out, and there was a big branch barely hanging on our roof, but it was kind of hanging off. It didn’t fall on the floor. It was just literally on our roof. So the next morning, my husband said, well, I have security, and I made sure that it’s not going to fall on you guys, because my daughter wanted to play outside. My daughter’s spent that morning playing outside with our neighbors. We know our neighbors by name pretty much, all the [inaudible] mobile estates community was an actual community. My daughter has a friend who like, she’s literally two weeks older than her. We heard her mom and I were pregnant at the same time with both with my young daughter and with my son. I mean, we have kids the same age, and the community was like a big family. So my daughter was playing outside with her friend and her friends cousins, and they were just talking about the wind . It was sort of windy, and we were fostering kittens. And that’s why they had to come over because they wanted to see the kittens. Were like known as the crazy cat family because there’s always cats or kittens in our house that we’re fostering. So after they saw the kittens, they were playing outside and the wind was really strong. So I actually had a short video of my daughter playing outside and the wind was super strong. My video shows the trees like, and my daughter’s hair was like straight at angles. I don’t know what angles, 90 degrees angles, it was just like this. It was pretty much flat like horizontal because it was so strong, the wind, then my video shows the roof of metal roof just swinging because of a wind. 

About 20 minutes later, I got a text from Ashland alert saying that there was a fire. They gave a street, but I didn’t know the streets. I was lucky that I was lined up for the Ashland fire, not fire alerts, but just emergency alerts because I was a student at SOU, at Southern Oregon University. I had an on campus job, so I was pretty much always [inaudible]. And so I was signed up for the Asheville alerts. And I graduated in June of 2020, and completely forgot about the alerts that I have signed up for. So I never unregistered for those alerts. So in September, when the fire started in Ashland, there was an alert sent out to people who signed up for those Ashland alerts, and I happen to be one of those people. And I remember thinking, oh, there’s a fire. I looked at the street, and it didn’t look familiar. So I didn’t think it was, I really do have a clue of where it was. But then, within a minute or two, I got a second text stating that residents should be alert and evacuations were in progress for certain streets. 

And I remember thinking, oh, gosh, that’s like less than a minute a part. I went outside, my daughter was still playing outside, and I happened to look across the street, and one of my neighbors was outside looking towards Ashland. It was a mother daughter, and an older mother daughter, the moms in her 80’s, 70, the daughters in their 50’s, and they were both looking toward Ashland. And I looked at them from their porch. I looked across to their porch, and they pointed out like, oh, there’s smoke coming from over there. And we could hear the sirens because we live pretty close to highway 99. We can hear the sirens of the firefighters and police. So I told them, there’s a fire in Ashland. And I told them, I just got a text, and I know that Ashland is evacuating. So as I was walking my way towards them, I was kind of talking to them. As I was walking towards them, I looked towards the direction of where they were looking, and I could see the smoke, and they looked way too close. I told them, I mentioned the street from the text, and they didn’t know where that was. But I told them, that looks way too close. 

So then I got onto Facebook, and I started seeing if there was any information. And I could see posts from friends who live, and asked my friends who are still currently in school at that time. There was a lot of information from friends going on on Facebook, but nothing by the police department, there was no information on their behalf. But pretty much, I went by information provided by friends in the community. So I told my daughter: “You know what? We’re going to get out of here.” And I told my neighbor’s: “Guys, we need to get out of here because it just doesn’t look good. The wind was still blowing really strong. Well, that fire is gonna reach us quickly because of this wind.” So I called my husband, because I don’t drive. So I called my husband too and told him that there was a fire in Ashland, and he needed to come get us. He worked about 20 minutes away from our home so he said: “Okay, I’ll be right there.” For the meantime, me and my daughter were going door to door knocking on our neighbor’s doors, letting them know that there was a fire. 

Because by this time, it was about 11:30 AM, and it was the first week of school. Many parents were at work, it was a weekday, it was a work day, so many parents were at work. I knew that many of our neighbors, their kids were home alone. So me and my daughter were going door to door knocking on our neighbor’s doors, letting them know that there was a fire, and that we were going to evacuate, and we were encouraging them to evacuate. And then my son, I told him: “Hey, text your friends. The ones that you know that are home alone. Let them know that they should let their parents know to come get them.” So my daughter and my son were texting their friends via Snapchat, Instagram and whatever social media that kids use, coz they check their social media more than they check their texts. I mean, my son’s 16, and my daughter’s 13. So it’s a good thing that they know about social media, and we’re quick to alert their friends. So I immediately put a Facebook post with a picture. I took a picture of the smoke, and I put it out there like, I even made a public post. 

Usually, my Facebook is private, but I made my post public and I posted, Hey, fire in Ashland is really close. If you live in Talent, evacuate now. And I posted that we were evacuating, please evacuate as well. And I posted a picture of what I could see from my hometown mobile estates. And I put, please share and like. Just share it, and share it as much as you can. I know that like people, average people in Portland, I had a friend tell me that she lived in Portland and she’s on my post being sent. So she said that she’s living in Portland, called her family and friends who live in Phoenix and Talent. And that’s a lot of it, it was just the momentum of you gotta use what we have. Social media is a double edged sword. It’s good and it’s bad. But in this case, I know that a lot of the information was shared over and over by social media, and I know my posts went everywhere. So we ended up evacuating within, by 12:00 o’clock. My husband had made it home, and he said that he initially thought that I was kind of just exaggerating, but he could hear my concern in my voice. So he said that he just decided to leave work and come check it out. He said that as he drove from Medford to Talent, he initially couldn’t see the smoke. But then as he made it to Phoenix, he could see the smoke. And as he made it to Talent, he could see the traffic jam. People evacuating Ashland were heading north, and he could see the traffic just getting bad. And he was going south because he was trying to get home to us. 

So as soon as he made it home, me and my daughter were still outside knocking on doors and looking for our cats because we had pets and our cats are indoor and outdoor. So my son, my husband, as soon as he pulled into our [inaudible], like we kind of made eye contact, and it’s just the look on his face. I knew it was bad. So my daughter was still knocking on doors, so I kind of followed him to our driveway because he was driving. He was driving slow enough where I was just walking behind the car, and he told me: “We gotta go now.” So I could tell him, okay, so he would call for my daughter, we’d like, okay, Abby, come on, let’s go. And I went inside, and my son had already gotten all our dogs on their leashes, and had gotten the few cats that were indoors into their crates, and he was ready with them. It didn’t even occur to us to pack, we were too concerned to let our neighbors know, and trying to get our cast that we didn’t even take anything. We just had what we were wearing, our shoes, and that’s it. We don’t take a single thing with us other than like our cats and dogs. We even took our neighbor’s dog who was out of town. She had gone to California, and she was paying my kids to watch her dog, feed her, give her water and take him on walks. So my son was like, oh, we gotta take the dog. We’re not gonna leave him. Obviously, we weren’t. So we ended up leaving with like an extra dog, our two dogs, four cats. 

And I remember, my daughter didn’t want to go because we still were missing some of our cats. And my husband said: “Get in the car. We can’t wait for more. They’re just gonna have to fend for themselves.” And my daughter had like a little plastic pool, just the summer pool. So my daughter got a hose, the water hose, and started filling up her water pool. I mean, there was still water in it, but she decided to fill it up to the top and just let it run. And I still remember, she looked at me and said: “Well, if the fire gets close, our babies can jump in the pool.” Referring to our cats. And I just remember thinking, that’s so sweet. But I don’t think the pool’s gonna do anything, but I will tell her that. She was just like, Mommy, they can just jump in the pool. If the fire gets here, they’ll jump in the pool. And I remember, I tell her, okay, that’s what they’ll do. It’s a good thing. You left the water running, sweetie. So we got in the car, and we left at about 12:05. And it was just chaos. Their traffic there was, it was bumper to bumper. We can literally walk. If we would have gotten off the car, we would have been moving faster. I mean, this was 2005. The fire hadn’t reached Talent, but it was less than a mile away. And the traffic was really bad, especially from people coming from Ashland. The freeway had been closed by that time. It moves so fast. I know that by the time we were on Valley View road, which is half a mile away from our house. By the time we were there, we were hearing on the police scanner that the fire had jumped the freeway and it was already coming towards us. 

And just a few days before that fire, before the Alameda fire, I don’t even remember where there was a fire. I don’t know if it was California, somewhere there was a fire where it moved fast, and some families were evacuated via helicopter. I don’t remember where I saw it. I mean, I saw it on Facebook or something, but I can’t remember the location of that fire. I remember I was watching that on my computer, and I didn’t realize that my daughter was watching the video as well. But she told me later, that day of the fire when the traffic had stopped completely, she thought the same thing was going to happen to us. She said that she could picture helicopters coming to get us which she never told me at that moment. But if you want to say a couple months later, she told me that she thought that the same thing was going to happen to us, we’re going to be trapped. Eventually, it took us an hour to get out of there and make it to Medford, which is where my husband’s cousin lives. It was so windy, there was fire starting everywhere. I know that there’s a lot of people out there who are saying that this fire was deliberately started, and the fire was started by many people. It was an organized thing. I don’t believe that. I generally don’t believe that. I know how windy that day was. I know how the embers work, I just don’t believe that happened. But I don’t believe that it was purposely set. I don’t believe it was an organized event like, no, it was just bad. A lot of bad elements worked together that day to make it the way it became. 

But we happen to be in Medford, we were there all day. And by 6:00 or 7:00 o’clock, the fire started, literally, across the street from where we were. And we could actually see the flames that were way bigger than the house behind us. And I remember thinking, oh, my gosh, in the morning when we left Talent, we could see smoke, and I knew that the fire was less than a mile away. But there was still like half a mile gap between us and the fire. But when we had to evacuate the second time that evening, the fire was literally across the street. We can see the flames and everything. We spent the whole day at my husband’s cousin’s house, and their neighbors across the street happened. We knew them because my husband used to play soccer for many years. And the guy across the street used to be the goalie for the same team where my husband played for many years. So we actually greeted him when he got home from work, and he’s like, oh, you guys live in Talent, right? I’m like, yeah. Like, home gone. Like, we don’t know. We were just kind of talking across the street. He had just come home from work. I remember him telling us, wish you guys the best. Where’s your mom? Referring to my mother in law. 

And at that time, probably, the whole situation sucked because my mother in law was working the day of the fire. She had actually been quarantined due to COVID. She tested positive for COVID in early August, and she got really sick. She missed almost a month worth of work. And that day, the day of the fire was her first day back to work after being off for a month. So she tried to get home when she heard about the fire. She tried to get home, she called us, we had already evacuated and my husband told her to not go home. But yet, she still went home. She didn’t want to not go home so she made it home and wasn’t able to take anything. I don’t know if she made it all the way home, but I know that she couldn’t get anything. She was trying to leave Talent to meet us at Lisa’s house, the fire in Phoenix started so she ended up having to turn around. The police department told her that she needed to turn around because the fire had started in Phoenix and it was really bad. So she ended up having been stuck between the fire in Talent and the fire in Phoenix, and her phone died. 

And I remember the last time we talked to her, she was telling us goodbye because she didn’t think she was gonna make it out. She was scared. She didn’t speak English. She just was going by what people were doing, turning around, new cars were telling people to turn around, and she had no way of understanding what was going on. She knew that there was a fire in Phoenix and she was stuck between both of them. There was no going north because the fire in Phoenix was preventing people from going north, and she couldn’t really go south because the fire and Talent was keeping her from going south so she was literally there for hours. She says that she heard explosions for a couple hours. And she said that she literally thought she was gonna die. When we finally saw her that evening, she made it to my husband’s cousin’s house, and she wasn’t even there for five minutes, literally. When me and my husband were talking to Jr who’s the neighbor across the street, he’s like, how’s your mom? And we’re like, Well, she was stuck, but she’s made it out. We’ve made contact with her. Somebody who was in her vicinity let her borrow their phone charger so she was able to charge her phone enough to make that call and let us know that she was safe. Because last time we spoke to her, she pretty much told us that she was stuck with timber fires, and she didn’t know she was gonna make it out. 

So for two hours, we had zero communication with her knowing that she was stuck with timber fires, but we were trying to make the best of it. We didn’t tell the kids what was going on. They just kept asking about grandma. Because the last time they heard grandma talk to us on the phone, we were still in the car, it was a speaker because of Bluetooth, and my husband told her to don’t go home. But she’s like, no, no, no, I got to go home. So my kids knew that grandma was going home and they kept asking us if she made it home. Where’s Grandma? But we didn’t tell them that she was stuck between both fires until she called. If that was the last time she was going to talk to us, I wanted her to say goodbye to the kids. So we did have my kids. We did tell the kids that she was stuck between both fires, and they were concerned. But it would have sucked if she wouldn’t have made it out and we wouldn’t have kept our kids from saying goodbye. 

So we had to make the decision to let them know what was going on. And when she made it home, she got out of the car and she was shaking. Her hands were shaking. She started sobbing. It was a relief to see her, she was so broken. She was absolutely shaking. And that’s when we went inside the house and I was like, okay, junior, senior, we’re going to be with my mother in law. And we weren’t even inside five minutes when suddenly we started hearing screams, get out, get out, get out, which happened to be Alan, my cousin’s husband. Her husband Alan started screaming, get out, get out, get out. And he’s a marine. I mean, he went to Afghanistan a couple times, like he does not panic. But I knew the way he was screaming to get out, get out, get out, he meant it. So I was in the kitchen talking to my mother and sitting down with her when we started hearing screams, get out, get out, get out. So I ran to the front, and I could see the flames across the street. And Jr, who I had just been talking to two minutes ago, I could see him carrying two kids. One on each side, and his wife carrying the baby just getting in the van because the fire was right behind their house. So we evacuated there really quickly. My mother in law was shaking, but we had to go. 

We went to Grants Pass, where a friend of mine told us to come over here and spend the night here. But by then, it was a caravan of people. It was me, my husband, my kids, my mother in law, my sister in law, my brother in law, his wife and their three kids. I mean, there were a lot of us, and we had four cats, my two dogs, my mother in law had her dog who she managed to be able to save. So there were a lot of people, but my friend said, just come on, we’ll figure it out. Laying the carpet in the living room, but we’ll figure it out. 

So we tried to sleep through the night, but we took shifts. My husband and his brother were taking shifts, listening to the police scanner, trying to figure out where the fire was moving. I did get some sleep. My daughter and I slept in the spare bedroom. Nobody wanted to take the bedroom. I was like crying, I’ll take the bedroom, me and my daughter will take it. And my daughter, it really sucked. She literally cried herself to sleep. She kept saying, kept calling the names of the cats that we had left behind, and she kept saying, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. We loved you. She named them one by one. She was so sure they were gone. She was sure they had perished. She just kept sobbing, especially because some of her friends are messaging her through Snapchat. The families who stayed behind because they thought that there was going to be a warning or help when there really wasn’t. Again, the double edged sword of social media. If I would have realized how much stuff my daughter was seeing because of her friend sending her pictures, I would have taken their phones. My daughter knew our house was gone because one of her friends texted her and told her, your house is gone and burned. And that’s how my daughter found out. 

Then the next day, people were able to go into Talent, and they were sending her pictures of burned cats thinking he is one of your cats. I mean, I know there was good intent. But, gosh, it’s up. Even the day after the fire, I posted pictures of our missing cats. I said, hey, if anybody finds these cats near Talent Mobile Estates or near Arnold’s road, please let us know. So people were always tagging me every time there was a burned cat. So my daughter pretty much cried herself to sleep that night, calling out our cat’s name. She was so sorry. And it really sucked. I told her: “Sweetie,  they’re smart. They got away, I’m sure of it.” But in my heart, I was sure that they were gone as well, but I was just consoling her. And she got maybe three or four hours of sleep. I got two hours of sleep, I think. And then when he woke up in the morning, my brother in law, my sister in law, my husband were up and they said, hey, there’s fires around, which is not too far from here. There’s fire everywhere. We were literally surrounded by fires. So my husband said, we can’t stay here. We are just going to be stuck here if another fire hits because my friend lives in Grants Pass, but in rural Grants Pass, it was more like a forest. And I was like, yeah, no, we’re not staying here. We made it out tonight, but we got to go back. 

So we went back to Central Point. We were there all day with my brother in law, who at that time lived in an apartment. And he’s like, well, you guys can all stay here. But he lived in an apartment, and we have four cats. We had our two dogs because my neighbor’s dog was my mother in law’s dog. And we’re like, no, you’re so gonna get kicked out of here. Because he lived in low income housing. They’re not even allowed to have pets themselves. So I told him, we can stay here. We’ll stay here during the day, but we’ll figure it out, go to a hotel or something. And my husband was like, what hotel is going to take us with all of these pets? So I thought, well, yeah, so I made a post on Facebook asking if anybody was willing to foster her pets. And my daughter was like, no, we can’t give them up. We can’t. She said one of the things that always reminds us is persistence to keep all of them, to keep all our pets because we lost everything. We have nothing. The only thing we saved were our pets and we can’t just give them up now. And this was a day after the fire. My daughter immediately was like, no, I don’t want to lose them. We lost everything. So people started offering to shelter our cats. We had four at that time, four were missing and then our two dogs. People did offer to foster our cats separately, not together, because there’s a lot of pets. 

But eventually, a friend of mine reached out and said, just come on over to my house, it doesn’t matter, bring them all, bring all the pets. And she had two cats herself. And I was like, well, cats are mean to new cats. And she’s like, don’t worry about it, we’ll just figure it out. So we went to her house. And she lived actually less than a mile away from where the fire started, and the fire had started just down the street. But when the fire started, she evacuated herself. But the wind turned, if the wind had been the other way, like her house would have been gone. But the wind just turned the other way and her house was spared. You could walk to where the fire started. And my husband said that, actually, that was a safe place to be. Because if the fire started again, there was nothing to burn. All the fuel, everything that had burned would keep the fire from reaching us again. So we were there.  After leaving Grants Pass, we went to Center Point at my brother-in-law’s house where we were trying to figure out what we were going to do. Before we could actually figure out what we were going to do, another fire started in Central Point. We could actually see it. My husband is actually one of the people who called 911 because we were like, there’s some smoke over there. The next thing you know, there was a fire. So my husband called 911. And he didn’t want to tell the kids. But at this point, I’m like, no, we need to be on full alert. Get the kids in the car. Let’s go. 

So yeah, we evacuated a third time. So we evacuated Talent in the morning on Tuesday. We evacuated Medford leaving on Tuesday. And we left Grants Pass in the morning. Because the morning of Wednesday, because there were so many fires around us, not close enough where we needed to evacuate, but we weren’t going to wait for that either. So then we ended up pretty much evacuating four times, four times in a 24 hour period. But the fourth time, we ended up going to Ashland where my husband said that it would be the safest because the fire had started there and there was no fuel for it to burn again. And we were there pretty much, Wednesday night through Sunday morning. Because on Friday night, we ended up having the Girl Scouts center reach out to me. They called me saying that they were aware of our situation. My daughter’s a Girl Scout. She has been for nine years since she was in kindergarten and she’s going into eighth grade now. So we have eight years in Girl Scouts, and both my husband and I have been involved with Girl Scouts. I’m a camp leader, my husband does, not just our daughter, but like the troops. So we’ve been pretty involved since my daughter was in Girl Scouts since kindergarten.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: So now you’ve been evacuated several times, you end up back in Ashland. And for those who don’t know about the Alameda fire, it was started in Ashland on the Greenway. And then it whipped up the Greenway, which turns out to be really efficient, and carriers have wildfires. And a lot of the fires that you are referring to have to do with Ember cast fires. Embers can go up to five miles ahead. It’s terrible for the listeners who are not familiar with how the dynamics of mega fire are very difficult to manage. Then the Girl Scouts, which we have a long history of, reached out to you, and took the story from there.

Jocksana Corona: Yeah. They reached out to me on Friday letting us know that they were aware that the two registered Girl Scouts have lost their home. One of them had an RV. So they were kind of set, and they had homeowners insurance. So they didn’t feel that they needed the support from Girl Scouts. So they asked them, they said that they wanted to reach out to us, wanting to know if we needed shelter and they would offer a shelter. They actually offered a shelter. They said anywhere you want to go, any of our Girl Scout facilities. Because of COVID, everything’s locked down and closed. They were so supportive. 

They were like, if you want to go to the coast, we have a facility on the coast. If you want to go camping in the woods, we have a facility in the woods. And I said: “No, I have a job, so as my husband, and we can just take off.” So they said: “Oh, how about the Medford Girl Scout Center?” And I said: “Yeah, we can do that.” And the Medford Girl Scout center is, there’s a girl scout store right next to it. The Medford Girl Scout Center is almost like a small community center for Girl Scouts. There’s a small kitchen, there’s like the stall bathrooms, and then there’s like a big open space. It’s equivalent to about a small gym. So that’s what I knew what they were talking about when they said the Medford Girl Scout Center, and I had been there many times hosting events for our troop or helping out with community events. So I told them: “Yeah, that’ll work.” But then she said: “Okay.” So it’s just you guys for a ride? And I said, no, it’s actually us, four, and my mother-in-law, sister in law. 

I mean, they know us, so they know that we’re a family of four. So they said: “Okay, how did you go from a family of four to a family of six.” And I told them that my mother in law and sister in law also lost their home because they lived in town mobile estates as well. And she said: “Well, I got to talk to our supervisor because we are offering shelter to the Girl Scout family which consists of four.” And I told them: “If we can have my mother and my sister in law, we can’t accept the shelter.” We’re not going to be like see ya, good luck. So they called me within an hour and said, that’s fine, that they would offer shelter to us six. But because of COVID, and they made it pretty clear that they would only be offering shelter to us six, they couldn’t offer shelter for more people because of quarantine. We would be considered a quarantine area.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: And that’s actually a really important point how you had to navigate your magnifier also included a whole other comorbidity at COVID. And so a lot of the strategies that we would typically advise, or use, or implement during a disaster, we’re not even available to most people. So you move in with your family to the Medford Girl Scout Center, and shout out to Girl Scouts, by the way. How long were you there?

Jocksana Corona: We were initially told, okay, you guys can stay for two weeks. And then in two weeks, we’ll have everything figured out and go ahead and move out. But two weeks later, we were still looking for housing because it’s hard to find somewhere to move into when you have that many pets.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Okay. So you are two weeks in, and one of the things that happens in all disaster areas, especially with wildfires is there. It’s not like the wind and rain. Often, people can go back to their homes and make do while they go through a mediation process if the home isn’t totally gone. But in Mega fires, everything is gone. Everything’s just gone. It’s like a bomb went off. So housing is at a premium. And also in an area, I had a very tight housing market and some parts are very expensive. And very importantly, in Talent, in Phoenix, which were most affected by the Alameda fire, it held a huge amount of the workforce, and the workforce has to go to work the next week. I really appreciate the fact that you included that part in your story, that you didn’t have the luxury of being able to just go to a different part of the state and hold up for a couple of months. But you figured everything out. All great points are very important. How many people you knew were displaced, and the issue with trying to navigate this system with FEMA?

“Being a volunteer is a privilege that people don’t realize… I wasn’t documented so I volunteered a lot. And that volunteer work led many doors to be opened up for me.” -Jocksana Corona

Jocksana Corona: Yeah. I knew from the beginning pretty much. I think from the day after the fire, once I was in Ashland, I felt a little bit safe. Once we got the call from girls counseling that they offer a shelter for two weeks, to me, two weeks was outstanding. To me, two weeks was like, oh, my God, we don’t have to worry where we’re gonna go tomorrow. But immediately, after getting that call, I knew that there were so many other families who didn’t know what they were going to do tomorrow. So there was this heaviness of like relief. But at the same time, guilt. There was this guilt that I didn’t have to worry where my kids were going to be in the next two weeks, because I knew that many of my families didn’t have that luxury. And I feel that I am privileged to be able to be a volunteer at Girl Scouts. I feel like I’m privileged to have been PTA President at my school or at my kids school. I have done a lot of community advocacy work as a volunteer, but even being a volunteer is a privilege that people don’t realize. Many of my communities, like you said, we’re in the workforce. They were working in the fields, working in the orchards, working in restaurants, working in hotels, in the hospitality business. And then I’m undocumented. I grew up undocumented. I was born in Mexico. 

So for many years, I couldn’t work. I mean, I’m not someone who likes to play the victim role. I couldn’t work because I wasn’t documented so I volunteered a lot. I did a lot of volunteer work because I wasn’t going to sit at home and do nothing and cry because I’m undocumented. That’s just not who I am. So I guess being undocumented did allow me the opportunity to do a lot of advocacy work and volunteer work. And that volunteer work led many doors to be opened up for me. I got to get involved with a lot of community advocacy work. And after the fire, many of the agencies that I had volunteered for in the past reached out to me asking, what do I need? What resources do I need? And I pretty much use that outlet to remind people that there are many, I’m not the only undocumented person here, I’m just one of many people. I’m one who’s open about my legal status. So many families are not open about their legal status. One thing that allowed me to be open about my legal status is the fact that my husband is a US citizen. So I’m technically a mixed status family. My husband is a US citizen. If my advocacy work, being open about my lack of legal status got me deported, then I know that my kids still have a dad who’s legally able to stay in the United States, and I don’t have to worry about what happens if both of us get deported. So that’s a privilege that I have, and I use that privilege. I’m open about my legal status. 

And yes, I have DACA, but a lot of people don’t realize that DACA is just a working permit. It does not grant any legal status, does not grant me anything but the ability to legally work in the United States. Yes, I have a social security that I can work for legally, which I’m pretty fortunate that once I got back, I was able to go to college. Paid for it completely out of pocket because I was not eligible for FAFSA, I couldn’t get financial aid or anything like that. I paid for school out of pocket. I did a lot of advocacy work for undocumented students as well throughout my education. I got to attend different conferences where I got to educate people about the obstacles that undocumented students face here in Oregon and in the nation. I use, again, my privilege, because education is a privilege. Being able to volunteer is a privilege, being able to do social work is a privilege. It’s a lot of work, but it really is a privilege. And people think that, oh, no, all these hippies are just doing all these things because they want you to know it’s a privilege. It really is. So I use the privileges that I’ve been granted, and I use that as a platform to speak for those who don’t have those privileges. My mom didn’t have that privilege. My mom being undocumented, she had to work hard to raise her two daughters. She didn’t have a partner. My dad pretty much was never in the picture. Only when he needed stuff, he’d show up and be like, I want to be a family. And then he’d take off.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: One of the things that when I met you, you were talking about, I was really moved by you when you discussed the concept of home, and what your home meant to do. If you can briefly tell our audience that in this area of workforce housing, Talent Mobile home parks were destroyed. And your home had 100 units in it. And 93 out of 100, I believe, were not insured. And at the same time, many people were of mixed status. So if you could give us, if you could let the audience know your story of how you found your home and that it meant so much to you. You also use your home as a beginning place where you’ve done all this volunteer work, completely contributing to your community in really meaningful and impactful ways.

Jocksana Corona: Yeah. My husband and I moved to Talent Mobile estates in 2003. My husband and I were both immigrants. Yes, my husband is a US citizen, but he was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and I was born in Puerto Rico. Both him and I actually came to the United States in 1989. But he came to Oregon, and I went to California. And that’s where my mom settled. His dad was in the process of becoming a legal resident. So after many, many years, 20 years almost took him to become a legal resident. That’s when he was able to apply to become a citizen, because Carlos was still a minor when my father in law became a US citizen. So that is how my husband got legal status. I didn’t have that opportunity. My mom came here undocumented. So my mom didn’t have an established status. Therefore, she couldn’t apply for status for me and my sister. So we’ve pretty much grown up undocumented, but we both are immigrants. Both my husband and I, he’s only two years older than me. 

So he came to the US when he was six, I was four. And he does remember that live in Mexico. When he became a resident, his legal residence, his parents went to Mexico. And when he was 18 years old, he remembers going to Mexico and seeing his grandparents and the life that he left 12 years earlier. I’ve never had that opportunity to go back to Mexico. But for us, it was very important as immigrants and as kids, children of immigrants, it was very important for our kids to have a stable home. I remember small pieces of Mexico, but I don’t actually remember living in Mexico. I remember just small things, then I moved to California. And Southern California where due to legal status, and just a lot of stuff. My mom always moved. I can’t even count them out, the amount of times I’ve moved as a kid. 

So when I moved to Oregon and I met my husband, it was very important that my kids never had to move so many times. Because even my husband and Mexico, he had a sad place. Then they moved to Southern California for just a short while, then they moved to Oregon. And in Oregon, they settled in Talent, then they moved to Phoenix, and they moved to central point and then my husband and I moved to Tallinn, so he’s moved a few times, less than five times, but he has moved out often. So for us, it was very important that my kids never had to move. So when we purchased our house in Talent Mobile Estates in 2003, that was home to us. At that time, it was a two bedroom, two bath home. We’re tired after having two kids, we added a third bedroom in 2017. So it was then, a three to three bedroom, two bath. But yes, that is where I did a lot of my community advocacy. I even taught English, I taught ESL in my living room where people paid me with like tostada, food. Because I never charged for my services. But people wanted to pay me, and I refused to take their money. So eventually, they started bringing me food for like, oh, they would ask me, what do you want? And I was like, no nothing. It’s fine. So then returned to my kids. Oh, Mika, what do you like? What’s your favorite food? My daughter would always say tamales. So they always brought the mothers. And then my son was like, oh, how about enchiladas? So that’s how my ESL classes at home got paid for, with meals by our neighbors. 

Now, it went on for a couple years, and same thing. When I was PTA president, I did a lot of my volunteer work at home, like maybe translated forms, translated things for teachers. I did a lot of things from home because I couldn’t legally work. But I was home with my kids. So I got to know a lot of my community because a lot of my community came to me when they needed forms translated, when they needed the letter, read and translate it for them. And they have letters from their teachers. So just recently, I ran into one of my neighbors who told me that they refer to me as [inaudible], like a lawyer. I was like, really? That’s what you guys called me? Like, yeah, you were everybody’s lawyer because I translated forms for them.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: But you’re also trusted though. And I really think that, especially when you’re serving a Latino or Latinx community. I’ll say whatever people want me to say. But trust is incredibly important, and they trusted you. They knew that you were effective, and they knew that you cared about them. So I just want to put in there that, yes, all those things are true, and you were trusted.

Jocksana Corona: Yeah. Yeah. I know that I was trusted. Because when people, when the agencies that I had volunteered for in the past reached out to me, like wanting to pay for a hotel for me and my families, I would ask them, okay, if you already allocated those funds for me, because you know I’m undocumented, can you hold those funds and pay for another undocumented family. So then I reached out to families who I knew were undocumented, and said: “Look, I have a certain person who’s willing to pay for your hotel stay. However, they want to make sure that it’s an undocumented family, because they know that you we lack resources.” We can’t just go to FEMA and have hotels paid for us. So I did have a list of undocumented families who would reach out to me and say: “Hey, if you know someone who’s willing to pay for a hotel, whose main goal, or whose priority is to help undocumented families, then please add me to your list.” So I did have a list of undocumented families who would reach out to me, and then I would reach out to different agencies and say, hey, I have a family of six, a family of four, can you pay for their hotel? And I did that for about two months, and then funds kind of dwindled.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yes. If they do, and that’s actually one of the reasons why we exist because we’re here for the long term. Most of the donations and the help comes in the first six to eight weeks. And if you’re lucky, maybe 12 months. But for the most part, that’s not common, that people really start to need the most help many months post disaster, like they need things that will stabilize their future. And most people don’t understand that FEMA won’t help you. It’s not that they don’t care, but they’re legally unable to help people who are undocumented. I was very, very pleased that your governor Kate Brown talk to the bind administration last week about how important it is to include undocumented people in our disaster relief efforts. Because undocumented people pay into the tax system constantly, but they have no ability to extract from that system. So it’s a myth that somehow they just come, people just come here and somehow don’t contribute, but then they’re taken out of the system. And it’s really the opposite. It’s true, they’re putting into a system that cannot be accessed when it really matters. So can you talk about that experience of witnessing that, and being an advocate, and being this really critical emergent leader. You were already a leader, but you were an emergent disaster leader for ensuring that. You could connect the resources where they were, but really, the long term struggles for people who pay into a system that they cannot access.

Jocksana Corona: Yeah. Well, with that guy, like I said, I can legally work in the United States. I’ve been paying taxes. All these deductions from my paycheck, yet, I can’t apply for unemployment, I can’t apply for emergency funds. I couldn’t even apply for financial aid when I was going to college, and I was working full time to go to college yet. I couldn’t apply for that. So any aid that comes from the federal aid we’re not eligible for. Because legally, we’re not documented. Even my deck of card, it says employee authorization. Right at the bottom it says, no legal status. I’m legally able to work, but I have no legal status. Therefore, I’m not eligible for any resources available by the federal government. It did take me five years to earn my bachelor’s. 

So along the way, I was able to get private scholarships. So private scholarships can set up their own requirements. I got a lot of private scholarships that helped me pay through my bachelor’s. My first two years at my community college, I paid completely out of my pocket. Working two jobs and going to school part time. And then my third year was pretty much fully paid by scholarships. My fourth and fifth year, I was able to transfer to Southern Oregon University where I got my bachelor’s in Social Psychology. And at RCC, I got my bachelor’s in Human Services, which I felt that that was my calling, like to serve people. That’s not Human Resources, but Human Services. People get those two confused. Human Services in social work, and that’s what I wanted to get my degree in. And then I saw you, I just became fascinated with psychology. I majored in psychology there. But yeah, a lot of this is a privilege that I’ve had because of my advocacy work. I was able to get private scholarships that didn’t require US citizenship. I know the struggle, what it is like to read between the lines. There’s a lot of forms out there that say, oh, legal status required. But the first question is, what’s your social security number? Or no legal status required? 

I mean, people don’t realize how many forms require a social security number. You go to the dentist, you go to the clinic, you go to even an eye doctor and they ask you for your Social Security, or they even ask, are you a US citizen? Most families, especially after the disaster, I know many families who went to different agencies and tried to fill out a form. And as soon as they saw the question, are you a US citizen? They dropped the pen and walked out. Or if it asks, what’s your social security number? They were done, they weren’t going to fill out that form anymore. Why? Because they are afraid that that information is going to be shared with the government, and they’re going to get deported. Families like myself, I’m going to be 37 years old this year, and I’ve been here since I was four. My entire life is in the United States. Home is here. I know that there’s that might sound like a cliche, because that’s what a lot of DAKA people say, home is here. But this is home, home is here. If I was to be deported to Mexico, I have nowhere to go to, nowhere. My mom still lives in LA, so does my sister, my dad has never been part of the picture. So I don’t have anything to go back to. And that’s all so many of us.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, and two things, I want to make sure that you talk about the difference between the reporting numbers of what’s needed in the way for housing and how mixed status families do not qualify. How those numbers are actually skewed in communities like yours, and communities like mine, to have a significant number of undocumented, maybe up to 27% of our population is undocumented, and very much pays into and contributes to everything that we do here. And in fact, we couldn’t function in wine country if it were not for undocumented people. And that’s something that may be an impolite thing to say, but it’s absolutely true. Sometimes, you’re drinking that bottle of wine, and then sitting there, and somebody in the audience is looking and saying, well, why don’t they just become documented? Let’s just answer that question. Now, before we go into the issue of FEMA and housing, why is it that more people just don’t simply become documented?

“To be penalized for something that I have no say in is unrealistic.” -Jocksana Corona 

Jocksana Corona: I like to use this, like in movies. If you’ve ever seen a movie where a woman goes into labor, it gives birth within five minutes, because in movies, things happen like that. That’s kind of what immigration is like. If you’re someone who has given birth, that you don’t give birth in five minutes, I mean, there are some extreme cases, but that is not the comment. I’ve given birth twice, and not once did I give birth in five minutes. So now, that doesn’t happen. It’s the same thing in movies. When you see an American marrying someone from another country, and in a couple of weeks, they get their green card and they move to the United States. That’s not how it works. I came to this country illegally. My mom came when I was four years old, she brought me in my sister and because we crossed the border illegally. Legally, we cannot become legal residents until we leave the country for 10 years as a penalty for entering the country illegally. And I have no say in that, when I was four years old, I didn’t choose to come here. I’m grateful that my mom brought me here. Yes, I didn’t get to choose it, but I’m grateful because this is home. This is where my life is. But at the same time, to be penalized for something that I have no sane is unrealistic. It’s ridiculous. 

I met my husband when I was 17 years old. And he, again, he’s a US citizen. He’s an immigrant, but he’s a US citizen. And when we were about 18 or 19, we went to see an immigration lawyer because he’s a US citizen. So we thought it was going to be an easy process. And he told us, no, you have to leave the country for 10 years even if you’re married to a US citizen, because you entered the country illegally. My husband can apply for a hardship permit type of thing which he needs to prove that me leaving the country for 10 years would cause him extreme hardship. And they mean extreme hardship. He needs to prove that him not having me in the United States would be an extreme hardship. And at that time, without all this, this is doable. We should apply. 

So we were actually going to start the process of me becoming a resident, and he was going to apply for that extreme hardship where if approved, then I don’t have to leave the country for 10 years. But then we found out I was pregnant with my son. And then we were like, no, because if I’m not approved, I’m going to be deported and our son’s going to be born in Mexico. So at that time, we decided that it wasn’t worth it, we were not going to risk my son being born in Mexico. So that was the end of us, for me to become a legal resident. And that penalty still exists today. If I wanted to become a US resident tomorrow and we decided, okay, let’s go for it. It’s actually harder for him to prove extreme hardship when my kids are older. My son’s 16, my daughter’s 13. They’re both independent. They don’t need me to take care of them. I’m employed full time. So proving extreme hardship is harder as my kids get older. It would have been easier when my kids were younger. But it becomes a harder thing to prove. When the kids are older, especially my lawyer is like, oh, is your husband an alcoholic? Does he have any diseases? Does he have anything that he depends on you to take care of him? Like, nope. They’re like, what about your kids? Are they in juvenile detention? Do they have any problems? Like no, actually, they’re really good community leaders as well.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I mean, that’s insane. To your kids, can you go into the juvenile system with your husband? Do you mind becoming an alcoholic? I mean, that is insane, because you’re doing everything right.

Jocksana Corona: Yep. We have to prove extreme hardship. My kids, they’re not. My kids are community haters just like me. So for us, we know that permanent extreme hardship is going to be hard. So I can’t apply to become a legal resident.

“The only way we can get to a place that isn’t so dysfunctional is to have a lot of straight truth, honesty, advocacy, and leadership and that is a brave place to live.” -Jennifer Gray Thompson

Jennifer Gray Thompson: And to go where to a place that you haven’t seen since you were four, because the other side of our really dysfunctional immigration system is that the more people demand close tighten borders, the less connection people actually have with the countries that they came from, because they can’t go back often for decades, and often never. Because you can’t just easily move between countries. We could talk about that all day, and I just want to acknowledge that I admire the fact that you are so out in front about your status, and that you’re an advocate. Because the only way we can get to the place where this isn’t so dysfunctional is to have a lot of straight truth, and honesty, and advocacy, and leadership, and that is a brave place to live. And I just want to thank you for being in that brave place because it matters. But when it comes to underdog, if you have mixed status families, which is more common than not see, if some people who have legal status and some don’t, when they want to go into FEMA trailers, for example, if there’s a new beautiful FEMA trailer complex right next to Talent Mobile Estates. Yes, and we toured it. We were there last month with Fannie Mae. And one of the conversations though that has to be had is, who will be living here, and who is not allowed to live here.? You can contribute for 20, 30, 40 years to a community. And when it all comes apart due to a natural disaster, what happens to those families? What has happened right now to those families, eight months, nine months later.

Jocksana Corona: Many families are living with their cousins, living with their in-laws, living with families. In two bedroom apartments who are now living rooms are turned into extra bedrooms, or garages are transformed into an extra family space.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: So there are doubled and tripled up in homes. But what’s their long term prognosis with the loss of so much workforce housing in your area? Are people leaving? Are they staying? What do you see?

“Conversation about leaving and staying is not even there. It’s more about hopelessness.” -Jocksana Corona

Jocksana Corona: Honestly, I think a lot of people are losing hope.Conversation about leaving and staying is not even there. It’s more like this hopelessness. The one thing about mobile home parks is they’ll meet a fire, taken down at mobile home parks. And these were our affordable housing. We’re looking at mobile home parks where rent was anywhere depending on which mobile home park. You’re looking at between 380 and $600 a month. Talent mobile estates, we paid $495 a month for rent. I had lived there for 17 years. When I first moved there, rent was $250. Today, in today’s economy or today’s world, you’re not gonna find anywhere to rent for $495 a month. We’re looking at apartments that are two bedroom apartments for like $1500. You’re asking the families who were paying $495 a month to come up with 12 to $1500 a month for rent. It’s unrealistic, especially when these are families who are mixed that are undocumented, who do not make minimum wage. They’re getting paid maybe under the table less than minimum wage. They’re getting paid $5 an hour. They’re getting paid by the day instead of by the hour.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Here we are, we’re about 9/10 months post disaster, still in that first year, just sort of like fire war. Like the fog of war is really in that first year post disaster. And then you start to really feel how long and difficult, but possible, that’s why we show up, and it is to recover. We’re also really interested, though, how we can influence and effect policies? And how we can do better at the local, state and national level. We go talk to FEMA, or any of the major agencies. And so I’d really like to hear from you, what’s your message for the decision makers who are looking for better answers on how to deliver for all families post disaster into every community?

“The requirement of legal citizenship or legal status shouldn’t even be a factor when it’s a big community disaster.”  -Jocksana Corona

Jocksana Corona: I think the requirement of legal citizenship or legal status shouldn’t even be a factor when it’s a big community disaster like we experienced. Again, I think it’s about 2600 homes that were lost, 18 mobile home parks lost, and 70% of those 2400, 2600 homes ever lost for mobile homes. These are families who were paying anywhere from 380 to about $600 of rent. These are families who were mixed status or fully undocumented who cannot compete with the current market of housing, the current market of space of rent. One thing that made it so difficult for us to find a home was the fact that the price of homes went ridiculously high. If we would have looked into purchasing a house in August, just two weeks before the fire, we could have bought a house for anywhere from 250 to, actually 220 to $250,000. But pretty much, the week after the fire, you can find anything in that price range. Our home was $305,000. And we have to pay for all our closing costs, which was an additional $8,000. But it became a bidding war, we pretty much were looking at houses. And if it was on sale for 280, by the time we went to look at it, it already had four or five offers that were above the asking price. Now, every house that we looked are sold for anywhere from 40 to 60,000 above the asking price. And how is that legal? Pretty much, the housing market took advantage of, I mean, I understand supply and demand. But how is that legal?

Jennifer Gray Thompson: It’s actually not legal for the record. If your governor declares a state of emergency and Institute’s price gouging, and it’s likely that she did, it’s just that people who are likely to turn in other people for price gouging are likely to be people who are undocumented and not desperate for a home and a place to land. And that unfortunately,. The other dysfunctions in the system regarding immigration status, in particular, feed into illegal activities such as price gouging.

Jocksana Corona: But my husband is a US citizen, and our home loan is under his name, not mine. Everything in our house is always his name. And that made things difficult as well, because our mobile home in Talent was under his name only. Our cars are under his name. Everything is under his name only. So even purchasing this house, we have to figure out how it’s going to work. If something happens to my husband, what’s going to happen to this house because I’m not even on the title. I’m not on the loan, because I’m not a US citizen. I have DACA, but I couldn’t be part of the loan. It’s really hard when people think that us, undocumented people are just taking advantage of everything. We can’t take advantage of anything, the system ensures, they’re making sure we contribute to everything, but they’re making sure we cannot get any resources from them.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I often use your hope and your dreams against you. Your desire to ensure that your children have a particular access to education and to live, you’re an American. You’ve been here since you’re four. And documented or not documented in my eyes, you were an American, period. And I think that your love of this country, and your hope, and your dreams are leveraged against you. And that’s my personal soapbox. I would like to see that change very much. As we’re closing out though today, I have a couple of follow up questions. I’d like to hear about how your kids are doing and about the cats.

Jocksana Corona: Well, my cats, believe it or not, the four that we left behind which were Bonita, [inaudible], Panchito and Sleepers, all four of them survived the fire. They weren’t even injured. Not a burn whisk or paw, but it did take a while to get them. We were able to get Sleepers four days after the fire. My kids wanted to go see the house, I didn’t. When I knew my house was gone, I had no reason to go back. I had again followed a lot of people on Facebook, and I was very much involved in social media so I knew that everything was gone. Seeing images of Talent, I knew there was nothing to go back to. But my daughter and my son said they wanted to go see, my daughter was very adamant. She said that for her, she needed to see it, she needed to see her house gone for her to be able to move on. My son was like, I don’t care, I just want to go see if I can find anything. He’s like, I want to see if I can find any of my items. So we did, we went to the place where our house was in, and it really started to see it because I knew that, for me, I emotionally did not want to see it. 17 years of me and my husband making sure my kids never had to move. That’s what those actions represent. Our desire for our kids to never have to move and travel, and relocate us. Many times of what me and him had to do, that stability that we fought for was gone. So I did not want to go back, but my daughter did. It was important for her to see it. 

So I put all my feelings aside and we went back. The day we went back, we found our cats. It took a while to catch her. She was so scared, but we caught her. And it took 54 days to trap all our other missing cats, or three cats. We went back two or three times a week to feed them, give water for them because we knew they were alive. We had seen them, but they were so scared, they did not want to be held. We can barely get about an arm’s reach distance to them, and they would just take off. We had a lot of people try to catch them. And eventually, they were caught, and they were brought home to us. But it took 54 days to finally be reunited with the last cat. And now, we’re at such a point that we have our household, cats and two dogs. 

One of our cats did pass away while we were living in the shelter. She was 17 years old and had some health issues. And I think the stress of a fire and relocating, and I think she sent the two, she felt our fears, and I think that the fire pretty much made her health deteriorate faster, and we had to put her down. And that was hard because that cat was our first, I call her our firstborn. We brought her when we bought our house in April of 2003, and we adopted her from the shelter in May of 2003. So she was our first baby before our kids were born. She was home with us. And when she passed away, we had no work to take her home. There was no grieving. I mean, the grieving process was there, but it wasn’t the same because we couldn’t take her home. There was no home to take her to, we were still living at a shelter.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Because you were there for months, right?

Jocksana Corona: Yeah, we were there for 101 days, or two weeks turned into an extra two weeks, and then another two weeks. And then they said, okay, you can stay here another month. And then 101 days later is how long it took us to find the house.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: From the moment that I met you, and maybe it was three moments, and I thought that you were something special. I really love this job, because I feel like it puts me in contact with really extraordinary people. And I believe that you are extraordinary. I know that you’re also entirely ordinary in this other way that your mom, and you are a girl scout leader, and your wife, and you’re a citizen of the world, and you are doing your best every single day giving back to your community. But I felt really privileged to meet you. I’m really grateful that you would come on this podcast and share, you’re really moving on is an important point of view. And I think it’s really going to help and make a difference for the people who hear it who aren’t aware of you and all the other challenges, and the challenges of being a dreamer, and an American who is undocumented. I really want to thank you.

Jocksana Corona: Thank you.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, this has been the podcast, How To Disaster, and this episode has featured Jocksana Corona, now of Central Point Oregon, formerly of Talent Mobile Estates. Thank you.

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