Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
Full text: “That awkward moment when you run away from your home country due to discrimination for being queer…Only to be locked up in the land of the free with a lot of machista, and sexist, homophobic, transphobic ICE officers.” – Alejandro Aldana
Yesterday, I received this bittersweet postcard from my dear friend, Alex Aldana, who is currently detained at the Otay Detention Facility in San Diego.
Alex lived with his family in California for ten years, where he graduated from high school and worked hard to make his community a better place. He left the U.S. to go back to Mexico five months ago to care for his sick grandmother.
Over these past few months, Alex discovered how crime and corruption made life particularly difficult for the LGBTQ community in Mexico. In Guadalajara alone, 128 gay and lesbian people have been killed, and none were reported as hate crimes. Now, Alex wants to return to California, where his mother and sibling reside so that he can continue to take care of them, and lead a life that does not entail the amount of violence he would face if he remained in Mexico.
Even with the heightened standard for credible fear instituted by the new Lafferty memo in light of the numerous claims for asylum from Mexico and Central America, Alex has already passed his credible fear interview. This means that according to Immigration and Customs officials, Alex has established a clear and convincing chance of winning asylum before an Immigration Judge based on his fear of persecution in Mexico. According to ICE guidelines, Alex should be released from detention to pursue his asylum case as he is neither a threat nor a flight risk. However, he has been detained at Otay for more than a month for no real reason, and subjected to abuse inside the facility.
In California, a bill to revive affirmative action is dead. Mainstream media reports convey that opposition from insurgent Asian Americans groups killed the measure at the last minute. If this is true, then there is much work to be done in Asian American communities about the benefits of affirmative action.
However, it is more likely that the measure was primarily opposed by white voters, and an over-hyped loud minority of Asian American opposition became a convenient scapegoat for lawmakers. After all, more than 75 percent of Asian American support affirmative action programs. Even when Prop 209 was passed by overwhelmingly white voters, Asian Americans were scapegoated for supporting the repeal effort even though 61 percent of Asian Americans voted against the ban. The backlash against Asian-Americans for the latest affirmative action debacle is the same old “divide and conquer” strategy, and we must stop falling for it.
I support affirmative action. I have written at length about the need for affirmative action, as well as why it is constitutional. Contrary to myths, Asian Americans have been hurt by Prop. 209, and projected Asian-American enrollment rates have fallen as a result of Prop 209. Moreover, Asian-Americans do not lead single issue lives. Many Asian-American women and LGBT Asian-Americans directly benefit from affirmative action.
We need to restore affirmative action in California, and we need to stop allowing the white majority to use the increased Asian American enrollment numbers as a way to defend a ban that only they support overwhelmingly.
You’ll hear from major immigration reform groups, mainstream media outlets and from Governor Jerry Brown that he signed the “California DREAM Act” into law yesterday.
Brown signed into law AB-130 yesterday, which gives undocumented students in California access to private funding for college. Here’s a newsflash: undocumented students in California have had access to private funding for a long time. Thousands of students at major universities across the state have gone through the system with private funds from private donors. The students at community colleges and state universities have had little to no access to private funding and are most unlikely to receive any help from AB-130. In other words, the bill does not do anything new and does not compel any institution to do anything different.
It’s disingenuous to call this grandstanding “progress” let alone a victory of any kind. The REAL California DREAM Act — AB-131 — is sitting in committee. AB-131 would provide undocumented AB-540 students in California access to state financial aid. Brown does not want to sign it. The Democrats have weakened it over the years. And California immigration advocacy groups are too meek to take on the structures that are failing us. Instead, they are telling us to be quiet and working actively to silence our voices.
Any Dreamers in California who have taken a stand against such grandstanding are castigated and demarcated as trouble-makers. Some of us have left the state to pursue higher education elsewhere. The lies continue to pile up as the state, which is at the top in prison spending, struggles to provide basic education to everyone while hiking tuition each year. And California Dreamers keep dreaming for a day when they have real leadership and real change.
My name is Prerna Lal. You may know me as one of the founders of DreamActivist or from the Immigrant Rights blog at Change.org where I have worked for the past two years to stop the deportations of several members of our community. I serve as a board member for Immigration Equality and I was the recipient of a Changemaker Award at the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) summit this year.
I am writing this because I am currently sitting for my first-year law school exams at The George Washington University, and already, I’m facing the trial of my life. The United States government has decided to prosecute and deport me away from my family, friends and community. They sent me a notice to appear for removal proceedings last week. And now I am being separated from my American family.
My only grandparent alive is a U.S. citizen. She voted for President Obama in the last elections, who promised immigration reform in the first year of his office, and she is now wondering why he is deporting her grand-daughter. My tax-paying legal resident parents brought me here when I was a minor. Even my older sibling is a U.S. citizen. I grew up in this country. This is my home.
So why am I in removal proceedings? The simple answer is that I aged-out. Due to the number of visas allocated to each category and the slow movement (and retrogression) of family visa categories, I turned 21 before my family could petition for a green card for me. As a result, I am being removed from the country that I call home and I cannot re-enter for any reason for the next 10 years. I cannot see the rest of my family for the next 10 years.
However, I would qualify for a green-card immediately if USCIS did not have a questionable (and much litigated) interpretation of the Child Status Protection Act, a legislation that was passed by Congress to prevent children of U.S. citizens and legal residents from aging-out of family, employer and diversity visa petitions. A nation-wide class action lawsuit is pending on this matter in the Ninth Circuit, but instead of holding petitions in abeyance till the lawsuit is resolved, USCIS cannot wait to deport qualifying, young people away from their homes.
I would have also benefited from the passage of the federal DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would put certain immigrant youth on a pathway to citizenship. Just this week, 22 Senators called on President Obama to use his authority to stop deporting DREAM Act-eligible youth like myself. The letter read, “We would support a grant of deferred action to all young people who meet the rigorous requirements necessary to be eligible for cancellation of removal or a stay of removal under the DREAM Act, as requested on a bipartisan basis by Senators Durbin and Lugar last April.”
Even if one is in favor of the most stringent immigration policies, it makes no sense for the government to spend thousands of dollars and several years in litigation to remove productive and non-criminal immigrant youth like me from our homes. In response to this atrocity, my friends have created a petition to top immigration officials to stop this ridiculous prosecution. You can read more and sign the petition here.
My queer and law school friends are also outraged and are throwing together a fundraiser in support of me (and the DREAM Act) on May 6 in Washington D.C. Check here for more details.
This is the first time I am fundraising for myself. I have fundraised for countless organizations as a teenager, we fundraise for DreamACTivist.org and other undocumented youth whenever we can, but this is the FIRST TIME I have put up a widget for myself.
This past year I got into all law schools of my choice. But I couldn’t afford to go.
I couldn’t take out student loans since my house is going through foreclosure and our credit is bad.
I couldn’t get any federal or state financial aid since I am undocumented.
I decided to delay law school for another year, to delay our dreams. This dream has been delayed since I was 16 and decided to be a public interest attorney.
Now, as I find myself suddenly fatherless, this dream seems more elusive than ever.
It’s not empty fundraising. I will be doing a 9-day, 511 mile bike ride in the summer heat from UCLA to UC Berkeley. It’s a distance that I have never covered and given that my body has adverse reaction to prolonged exposure to sunlight, it is certainly going to be a challenge.
Hosted by RISE-UCB, Tam and I will try and cover this event daily on DreamActivist.org, including daily video uploads and write-ups. I will twitter! We will do a kickass job of bringing the event to you, I promise.
I will survive and hopefully we raise something so I can afford to go back to college next August.