Did You Know The Border Extends to the Beach?

Reportedly, hundreds of families who were unjustly deported or were forced to leave the U.S. are coming back home from South America, Central America and Mexico on March 10, 2014 through the San Diego, Tijuana border. Some of these families include the Valencia family, who lived in Arizona for 16 years and built a life there until they were forced to return to Mexico after the father was deported from the United States in 2010.

The protest, organized by The National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), is the third “Bring Them Home” action, which serves to highlight the 2 million deportations under the Obama Administration, and reunite families.

Dulce Guerrero, an undocumented organizer from Georgia, is in-charge of this campaign. She can be reached at dulce@theniya.org

President Obama Tortures Dreamers – Six of the DREAM 9 Are Now In Solitary Confinement


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Six of the Dream 9 are in solitary confinement at Eloy Detention Center as of Friday afternoon. At first, they refused food because of their restricted phone access, and now they are refusing food until they are released. The six in solitary confinement are Lizbeth Mateo, Claudia Amaro, Ceferino Santiago, Lulu Martinez, Marco Saavedra, and Mario Felix.

This is utterly despicable, alas routine practice in detention nowadays.

Solitary confinement is considered by many to amount to torture. UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez has reported that “considering the severe mental pain or suffering solitary confinement may cause, it can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…” On many occasions, the solitary confinement of political activists in other countries has been considered grounds for asylum in the United States. Alas, this is how the U.S. treats our young civil rights leaders trying to seek refuge, humanitarian parole, and asylum in a country that is their home but considers them ‘illegal.’

Conditions at Eloy Detention Center are particularly horrific and ground zero for immigrant suicides. The Corrections Corporation-run detention center is under investigation already after Jorge Garcia-Mejia, 40, and Elsa Guadalupe-Gonzales, 24, were found hanging and lifeless in their cells earlier this year. John Ferron, a U.S. veteran and father of eight, who has suffered in prolonged mandatory detention at the Eloy Detention Center, went on a hunger-strike and was subject to force-feeding just this month. Our friends could suffer the same fate if they are not released soon.

ICE officials are probably taking these atrocious actions because they are petrified at the prospect of the undocumented youth leaders organizing inside the detention facility. Before they were placed in confinement, the DREAM 9 were able to interview and collect stories from at least 7 people who were also detained at Eloy, even though they had committed no crimes.

Thus far, we have heard nothing but silence from those who are part of the non-profit immigration reform complex. Even if you disagree with the tactics of our friends who risked their lives to effect change in a brutal immigration system, silence at this point is not just complacency. Silence is support for President Obama’s 1.7 million deportations and broken families. Silence is support for the detention of Dreamers trying to come home. Silence is support for torture.

It is perplexing why advocates are silent considering this is turning out to be a PR nightmare for the Obama Administration. You’d think they would use their all-access White House pass to tell the President to end this nightmare before every single immigration reform townhall for the month of August turns into a BRINGTHEMHOME event. Alas, they aren’t every bright — if they were smart, they wouldn’t be trying to pass the same bill for the past decade. There should be no doubt that we will take to the streets, storm offices, refuse to leave, get arrested, and detained ourselves, if our friends are tortured any longer.

And do not forget — this torture is your tax dollars at work, more than $11,000 to detain 9 peaceful activists for 5 days and counting.

Please keep calling your Representatives and ask them to sign on to the Rep. Honda letter requesting for parole for the #DREAM9. When you call, please let your Representative know that the Dreamers are being held in solitary confinement.

If you are part of an organization, consider signing on in support of bringing them home.

Here is a map of Solidarity actions for the DREAM 9.

Early next week, the officials will conduct “credible fear interviews” with the DREAM 9 to ascertain their fear of returning to Mexico. If officials turn them down, the DREAM 9 have the option to request review by an Immigration Judge (IJ). If they don’t seek review, ICE would remove them from the United States.

Time is of the essence.

“This is a movement about peoples’ lives. Now is not the time for silence.”

Media requests should be directed to media@theniya.org.


HuffPost Live Video: Everyone Should Have the Basic Human Right to Go Home

I was on HuffPost live yesterday holding down the fort, along with Viri Hernandez, for our friends who broke down the arbitrary U.S.-Mexico wall to bring people back home. The #DREAM9 are now detained at Eloy Detention Center — the worst detention center in the country. Alas, HuffPost was more committed to trying to talk to me about bigoted Republicans.

That’s a no go. You want to talk to me about douchebag Steve King and how the Republicans are denying 11 million a rotten pathway citizenship while my friends are looked up in detention by a Democrat? No, I don’t want to talk about Steve King. Rep. King is not the President of the United States. He hasn’t been responsible for 1.7 million deportations, massive growth in the criminalizing of immigrant communities or the fact that our freedom-fighting friends are locked up in detention. That is squarely on President Barack Obama. No one else bears responsibility for 1.7 million deportations in the past 6 years.

Bring Them Home is about fighting for people who have been and will be left out of immigration reform efforts. Bring Them Home is about making sure everyone, not just the #DREAM9, can come home.

I don’t want to hear about “pathway to citizenship.” Those are empty and hollow words for people of color. What does pathway to citizenship mean if you are Trayvon Martin in America? What does it mean if you are a black man? The ones who are pushing for the pathway to citizenship constitute the gang of 8 in the Senate, and the so-called D.C.-based immigration advocates, who are mostly straight, white men. They’re the ones who benefit the most from their citizenship, which includes their white privilege, male privilege and straight privilege. But citizenship means different things for different people. Having spoken to hundreds of undocumented immigrants, including parents, I can basically state that most don’t necessarily want citizenship but the right to be able to live their lives without any sort of fear and the right to be able to come and go home.


Please send all media requests directly to media@theniya.org or call 704.286.6581.

Why I Support The Bring Them Home Campaign

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Several immigrant youth, who have been leaders in the undocumented youth movement in the United States, have crossed the border into Mexico, and plan to turn themselves in alongside other undocumented youth who left or were deported from the United States at a border crossing. With applications for legal admission in hand, they will demand to be allowed to return home to the United States.

Immigrant youth leaders currently in Mexico include Lizbeth Mateo, Lulu Martinez and Marco Saavedra. Lizbeth grew up in Los Angeles, and she had not seen her family living in Mexico for fifteen years. Lulu Martinez came to the U.S. at the age of three, and has spent years working for immigrant rights and LGBT rights. Marco Saavedra is a poet and a painter. He graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio, and now works at his family’s restaurant in New York City.  All of them have been living in the United States since before the age of 16, and would otherwise qualify for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). However, none of them have been granted DACA, and thus, are most likely inadmissible from the United States.

So why did these leaders take such a big risk in leaving their homes?

The NIYA website reads: “The Obama Administration has created a deportation machine resulting in the destruction of over 1.7 million lives, and the devastating separation of those families by the border. Those 1.7 million people are not lost and forgotten; rather, they are people who deserve to have the choice to return to their home in this country.”

Among these 1.7 million are AdrianaLuisMariaClaudia, and Ceferino, all of whom will accompany the trio. They are young people who grew up in the United States only to find themselves forcefully removed to Mexico, while leaving behind families and communities in the United States. All 5 of them will now seek to legally return home.

The Gang of 8 at the border wall in Arizona. Photo Courtesy: National Immigrant Youth Alliance

The Gang of 8 at the border wall in Arizona. Photo Courtesy: National Immigrant Youth Alliance

I’m not as courageous as Lizbeth, Lulu and Marco. I wouldn’t buy a plane ticket to my home country and then ask to be brought back in protest with other deported peoples. What our friends have done is taken an extremely risky course of action — by putting their lives on the line — in order to reunite families.

For years, we have received emails, phone calls, videos from many persons detained and deported by the U.S. government, often for no reason other than the fact that they grew up in this country, were racially profiled, pulled over for driving without a license, sent to jail, detention and then removed. In many instances, such persons had family, legally residing in the United States. In other cases, after waiting for years for relief, individuals left the U.S. in pursuit of a life elsewhere, only to find out that they could not come back legally into the country, even when they exercised proper legal channels.

Last summer, when Lizbeth Mateo first told me about her plans for leaving the country to bring some deportees back through proper channels, I listened, numb at first at the prospect of losing one of my best friends to the other side of the border, a border that I could not cross.

When she finished explaining her course of action, I simply nodded, hoping she would not carry it out, but knowing that she would stop at nothing to do what she felt was just.

“You do what you need to do. We’ll figure out how we can bring you back,” I told her.

Two weeks ago, at my DREAM wedding, my fellow undocuqueer pride, Lulu Martinez, asked me what I thought about the action, because she was considering doing it too. After I told her my thoughts, I watched in awe as she tied up unresolved matters at home, told her parents she was leaving for Mexico, bought a plane ticket and went to Mexico, a country she has not seen in over 20 years.

And then Marco Saavedra, who is currently in removal proceedings, and perhaps one of the most beloved figures in the movement, decided to join them on the other side of the border.

Part of this courage and support for the campaign comes from knowing, as an undocumented person, that you cannot enjoy the freedom to live in the United States, if you don’t have the freedom to leave the United States. Persons who have accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence are subject to 3 and 10 years bars, and thus, rendered inadmissible. Due to these bars for unlawful presence — which won’t be changed by the current immigration reform legislation — many undocumented youth grow up feeling trapped by borders because we cannot leave our families and simply return to our countries of origin. This is especially hard on persons in mixed-status families. If your grandparents, parents, spouse, siblings and children reside in the United States, stepping out — even to pursue legal means of re-entry — often means never seeing them again, in all likelihood.

Another factor in my support for Bring Them Home is professional responsibility and ethics. I know as a future immigration attorney that if my client wants to fight their case in a certain way, my job is to figure out how to get it done, and not try to talk my client out of it beyond spelling out all the consequences of the action. Anything else is lazy lawyering. You want to self-deport? Alright, no worries, here is what will happen to you if you do. And after giving you a list of the most terrible consequences I can draw up, including death because you are either queer or a member of a persecuted indigenous group in Mexico, if you still want to leave the country, then it is my job to figure out how to bring you back home. Otherwise, I see little point in the expensive law degree on my wall.

Third, my support for the Bring Them Home campaign stems out of being a good ally to the immigrant rights movement. At this point, with my virtually undeportable status, I have to follow the lead of those who are most directly impacted by draconian U.S. immigration laws and policies, and specifically laws that divide families. Knowing that undocumented youth have already changed the course of history and the face of immigrant rights by taking bold risks from sit-ins to stand-ins to infiltrating detention centers, I trust that these “crazy petulant kids” as they are sometimes called pejoratively, know precisely what they are doing.

Additionally, Bring Them Home exposes how both Democrats and Republicans have long held immigration reform hostage to “border security.” As part of the immigration reform package, the U.S. Senate passed the infamous “border surge amendment,” which many immigration advocates have termed as “border overkill” as it mandates $47 billion dollars to go towards 700 miles of border fence construction, 40,000 additional border agents, drones, Blackhawk helicopters and VADER radar systems, before the 11 million can gain citizenship. These border security triggers will make the U.S.-Mexico border the most militarized zone in the world where 7 million U.S. residents will be subjected to living in a war zone. Bring Them Home is an opportunity to stand up and show Congress that our communities should not be subjected to war, that we must resist border militarization, and that we are actually not at war with Mexico.

It would be remiss not to mention that Bring Them Home presents us with another way to approach immigration reform. Perhaps, instead of thinking about giving people papers in order to give them some rights, we should be extending rights to everyone regardless of their immigration status. The brave and courageous actions of our undocumented friends is a crucial pivot from the dying breed and failure of comprehensive immigration reform discourse. It goes beyond the mere rhetoric of creating a “pathway to citizenship” by questioning what citizenship is about and by reuniting families and fueling dreams across borders.

Lulu, Lizbeth and Marco are placing incredibly faith in our laws, in our sense of justice, and in our ability to do the right thing for them and the 1.7 million deported by Obama’s deportation regime. If they fail to make it to the United States, it is not their failure. It is our failure to respect, honor and uphold human life, human rights and dignity, and the joke is on every American who thinks they live in a free country while voicing their support for the empty promise of “immigration reform.” Besides, if we cannot bring 8 people home, through proper legal channels, I am not sure how we can validate or pass immigration reform to legalize 8 million.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I support bringing them home because I believe that another world is possible — a world where rights do not stop at borders, and where people are given equal rights under the law even if they find themselves in a place that is not their home.

Here is how you can help:

  1. Show your support for the action through the Thunderclap before Monday morning.
  2. Sign petitions to bring home the other dreamers accompanying the trio:  AdrianaLuisMariaClaudiaCeferino.
  3. Reblog and share the videos by Lizbeth MateoMarco Saavedra, Lulu Martinez.
  4. Donate to help Lizbeth, Lulu and Marco as they come out of the shadows at the border with the other dreamers.
  5. Organize local actions in your communities. More information on this will be forthcoming from The NIYA.

Bringing them home is just a start.

Please note: Nothing in this post denotes legal advice or is offered in substitution of advice from a lawyer. Success is not guaranteed and different people have different results. 



Undocumented, Unafraid and Now Undercover

Immigration [ICE] thinks it can go after us, well we have news for them, we can go after them too. We can enter their detention centers on our own terms and, with your support, we can come out.

– Mohammad Abdollahi

Alabama’s new immigration law requires that all schools verify the immigration status of children enrolling for the first time and renders contracts entered into with undocumented persons unenforceable, making it next to impossible for undocumented families to obtain utilities such as gas and water in their homes. It marks a new era of hateful segregation in a state that has still not come to terms with the fact that it was on the losing side of the Civil War.

Last Tuesday, 13 undocumented individuals, including four parents, led a civil disobedience action at the Alabama state capitol in protest of HB56. They were arrested by the police for “disturbing the peace” and released within 48 hours. A spokesperson from ICE said no detainer was placed on the individuals and in fact, that all persons were legal residents, which is in fact, untrue. (Ironically, under HB-56, anyone can now sue the police and ICE for not enforcing state immigration law by letting the 13 undocumented protesters go scot-free, but I digress).

The action shows the hypocrisy of the Obama Administration in enforcing immigration laws. Undocumented youth get labeled as legal residents and left alone to fend for themselves when they organize civil disobedience actions. But if an undocumented immigrant is without a large network of supporters and just trying to make an honest living, s/he is more at risk of being detained and deported for something as small as a traffic infraction.

Such is the case with Jonathan Perez and Isaac Barrera — two DREAM-Act eligible youth — who walked into an Alabama Border Patrol office protesting against HB56. Both were detained and, within hours, transferred to the Basile Immigration Detention Center in Southern Louisiana. As they await deportation inside the detention center, Isaac and Jonathan are organizing and collecting stories of those who have been silenced, those who don’t have access to networks in order to tell their stories.

From initial reports, it looks like the Basile Immigration Detention Center is home to many individuals that ICE has detained for more than 6 months without the right to see a lawyer or immigration judge. Additionally, one particular case concerns an allegedly undocumented couple, arrested by ICE after they dropped their child to school. No one knows where the child is now, probably in foster care, like thousands of other U.S. citizen kids, who have been rendered homeless by stringent and senseless immigration enforcement policies.

Imagine doing this across the country: Getting detained and entering immigrant detention facilities across the country in order to gain access to the immigrants that ICE has deemed as criminals, processed like animals and locked away to be deported away from their homes and families.

This year, I’m getting the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family even as I face an order of deportation as early as next month. I’d like Jonathan and Isaac and so many others who have been deprived basic due process rights to have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. Take action and support the work of Isaac and Jonathan from within the detention center. Lets get them home by Thanksgiving.