Category Archives: Detention & Deportation

Undocumented Activists Take a Giant Risk to Return Home

Submitted by Aura Bogado on Tuesday, July 23 2013, on ColorLines

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A historic border crossing took place Monday, not under the cover of darkness or through a desert wilderness but in broad daylight near the Nogales border patrol station with thousands of supporters on the United States and Mexico sides cheering.

Nine people, all transnational activists working with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), are now being held at the Florence Detention Center in Arizona after petitioning to enter the U.S. on humanitarian grounds. This is the first time a group of longtime U.S. residents who are technically Mexican nationals have attempted to return to the states by petitioning for humanitarian parole. Monday’s action attracted more than 10,000 viewers from around the world who tuned into a Ustream live feed to see what would become of the so-called Dream 9.

At around 1:30 p.m. EDT, the nine crossers gathered for a final press opportunity in Nogales, Mexico, before taking a short walk to dividing line between the United States and Mexico. Eight people had originally planned to participate but Rosie Rojas, who said she traveled for three days to meet them, joined the action at the last minute.

Among the nine activists was 22-year-old Adriana Diaz who was brought to Phoenix, Ariz., from Mexico when she was just four months old. Diaz graduated high school with honors in 2010 but decided to go to Mexico last year because of the fear she felt living under Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  She attempted to attend college there but the country doesn’t recognize her U.S. diploma. Had she waited just three months, she could have been eligible to stay in the U.S. under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Diaz was one of six members of the Dream 9 who were either deported or left the U.S. on their own accord. The other three seeking humanitarian parole landed in Mexico in the last two weeks. Humanitarian parole would mean that the nine would been released on grounds that they don’t pose a threat to society. But authorities have apparently denied their petitions so the activists are now seeking asylum.

While the Dream 9 crossers are now facing the perils of detention, the uncertainty was perhaps more elevated for the three activists who went to Mexico more recently to take part in the action. Although undocumented people in the U.S. live under the constant threat of detention and deportation, there is a relative safety in staying here. Those three who willingly crossed into Mexico are facing the new uncertainty of not being able to return to their respective homes, after having just left them.

Marco Saavedra, 23, who hails from Washington Heights in New York City and hasn’t been to Mexico since he was 3, is one such activist. He has already infiltrated a detention center and is currently in deportation proceedings. But last Thursday morning as he waited for his flight to Mexico Saavedra reluctantly admitted that this border action is riskier than others he’s worked on in the past. The risk of crossing into Mexico, of course, was that he could be denied humanitarian parole and be permanently barred from the U.S. “I’m trying not to focus on that too much,” Saavedra said. “If I did, I might shut down and not be able to go through with it.”

The Dream 9 are not alone in their action. The NIYA is now maintaining a waiting list of people who want to use the strategy; they’re drawn to the idea that there is a humanitarian option. Just hours after the Dream 9 crossed, a group of 30 people who had already been deported to Mexico attempted to cross as well. It’s unclear what became of their effort. Pima County public defender Margo Cowan, who is providing legal services for the Dream 9, said she will support the effort of the 30 additional crossers, should they need it.

As the Dream 9 approached the border, supporters on the U.S. side—including citizens, green card holders, and undocumented activists—could be heard screaming, “Bring them home!” The NIYA informed supporters that the border patrol had sent an email threatening immediate arrest and deportation as soon as the Dream 9 crossed into the U.S. Those moments of uncertainty are traces, in some ways, of the anxiety that some family members feel; the loved ones of those more than 1.5 million people who have been detained and deported by the Obama administration. Yet the nine were not deported immediately, and are now in detention hoping to attain some form of relief in order to return home.

That desire relies heavily on lawmakers whose influence on Capitol Hill could sway the outcome. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Il.) took to social media to say that he hopes “the Obama administration will do the right thing.” But for many, that’s not nearly enough.

“We don’t care if he comes out on Facebook because that accomplishes nothing for us,” said Mohammad Abdollahi, who works with the NIYA. “If the Congressional Hispanic Caucus says they fight for families, they shouldn’t be posting on social media,” he added. “It’s about taking proper action and using the proper channels to make sure the Dream 9 can come home.”

Immigration officials would not comment on the crossing or subsequent detention citing privacy concerns. In order to attain asylum, the Dream 9 will have to convince authorities that they will face certain persecution in Mexico. But Obama and other lawmakers can take swift action to otherwise secure their release. To that end, the NIYA is asking supporters to sign a petition and call lawmakers to keep the pressure on as the Dream 9 are kept at the Florence Detention Center—a facility that is privately owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America.

Before the initial eight crossers took their action at the border, they spent several days mapping out how to organize other detainees once they were taken into custody. Their goal now is to not only demonstrate that a humanitarian return home is possible, but to also halt deportations from detention.


MAG-Net May 2013 Digital Dialogue: “The Immigrant Rights Movement: Advancing Media and Cultural Strategies”

Submitted by bettyyu on Tue, 2013-06-11 15:09 on

May 1st marks May Day, also known as International Workers Day. On May 1st, 1886, nearly a half a million immigrants went on a general strike to fight for a 8-hour workday. Over a hundred years later, starting in 2006, again millions of immigrant workers and supporters participated in May Day protests against H.R. 4437, a draconian anti-immigrant bill. Even today, the majority of May Day protests are led by immigrants.

Currently, the immigrant rights movement is continuing its fight for comprehensive immigration reform–working to create a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented individuals in this country. At the same time, the corporate media depicts undocumented immigrants as job stealers, lazy welfare cheats, and possible “terrorist” all at the same time. This false narrative not only hurts immigrant communities, it also impacts our ability to move any transformative policy. How can the media justice and immigrant rights movements work together more effectively to uplift the stories of those families most directly impacted by bad legislation, border security and deportations? How are the online and office privacy and rights of immigrants being violated by the U.S. Government?

This Digital Dialogue will bring together organizers, media justice activists, journalists, cultural workers and policy experts who are working to advance a immigrant rights agenda that upholds the dignity, labor and human rights of immigrant communities. On the call we will hear about the various storytelling, media making and cultural strategies to advance this fight.

Featured Speakers:
Laura Muraida, Southwest Workers Union
Aura Bogado, The Nation & Colorlines
Chris Calabrese, American Civil Liberties Union
B. Loewe, National Day Laborers Organizing Network
Celso Mireles, United We Dream

Moderated by: Pedro Joel Espinosa, IDEPSCA & Betty Yu, Center for Media Justice

Uprooting Racism, Sowing Seeds of Solidarity

Uprooted is an opportunity to create a media project that highlights the breadth and scope of migrant communities and migrant justice issues. By collecting and curating media made by and for social movements, Uprooted aims to clearly articulate how migrant justice issues operate in and through different systems of oppression.

This compelling video produced by Rights Working Group and the Restore Fairness Campaign at Breakthrough* foregrounds the prevalence of racial profiling and how it affects different communities of color in the US. It allows us to see how a pregnant Latina woman jailed for not having a driver’s license is part of the same system of oppression that enables the TSA to humiliate and force Muslim women to remove their hijabs. This video draws the connection between a Kurdish American male who is pulled over and strip searched for driving in the ‘wrong neighborhood’ to the scores of black Americans who continue to be victims of racial profiling and police brutality.

This video fits well with Uprooted’s goal of creating an alternative to the mainstream media’s narrative of migration issues. By bringing together these diverse personal experiences of racial profiling, this video better enables us to envision interracial and interethnic alliances in the struggle for social justice. Racist, unconstitutional provisions, like Alabama’s HB 56 are spreading like wildfire throughout the US (see embedded map). It is crucial that we continue to form and fortify broader, more inclusive coalitions to combat the onslaught of anti-immigrant legislation that encourages racial profiling.

*The video was shot, directed and edited by Breakthrough.

Uprooted: Turning the Tide from Hate to Human Rights

In our effort to support migrant justice organizers, last weekend, the Uprooted team attended the second annual Turning the Tide Summit in Arlington, VA where hundreds converged and forged new alliances to turn the tide against criminalization. Attending trainings and workshops with some of the country’s most influential and dedicated organizers has reinvigorated our project and has demonstrated the need for media made by and for social movements!

This video by the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), skillfully captures the inspiring organizers fighting against the Right Wing’s strategy of Attrition through Enforcement.

In his letter to attendees, Pablo Alvarado, Director of NDLON explains the importance of grassroots organizing for migrant justice as follows, “By organizing block by block, the affected people become subjects of change…Building to the Turn the Tide means organizing barrio defense committees wherever conditions exist, challenging all forms of police and ICE collaboration and asserting our right to remain in a country that enjoys the fruits of our labor and the wealth of our culture, but does not accept our humanity….It means creating spaces for us to tell our own stories and tirelessly working for legalization from the bottom up.”

Uprooted turns the tide by creating a space for migrants and their allies to document and distribute their narratives. We want to support and amplify your work– connect with us, together, we can build a more just and humane immigration system!

What does building to Turning the Tide mean to you and your community?