Three undocumented immigrant activists purposefully left the United States recently and traveled to Mexico. On Monday, the activists, dressed in graduation caps and gowns, walked up to the Nogales Port of Entry and asked U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials for permission to be let back in based on humanitarian grounds. They presented their cases and submitted applications for humanitarian parole. They were interviewed by immigration authorities and by Tuesday, the activists remain in border patrol custody. It is still unclear whether the activists will be allowed to remain in the country or will be deported.
Lizbeth Mateo, Lulú Martínez and Marcos Saavedra, the three undocumented activists brought to the United States as youths, helped to organize the border crossing. They are part of a broader coalition of so-called DREAMers, who are trying to bring attention to the effects that deportations have on families. Five other DREAMers, Claudia Amaro, Adriana Gil Diaz, Luis Leon, Maria Peniche, and Ceferino Santiago joined them in Mexico. These five activists are in Mexico because they were either deported or moved back to Mexico for economic reasons. A sixth undocumented immigrant also joined the group on-route through the Sonora Desert.
Over sixty protestors on the U.S. side watched and chanted, “No papers, no fear, undocumented, unafraid” as the eight activists were processed at the border station. The event even drew the attention of Rep. Luis Guittierez (D-IL), who praised the activists on his Facebook page. He said, “I believe that people deported without a criminal record should be able to apply to return in the US.”
The activists argue that deportations stop only when there is media attention or immigration officials are pressured to act. From Mexico, Lizbeth Mateo wrote in a Huffington Post post, “undocumented immigrants run the risk of being taken from their home, no matter where we are…It’s time to take away the power deportation has over us.”
Currently, House members are like Rep. Bob Goodlatte(R-VA) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) are mulling over the Kids Act, a bill that would provide legalization for undocumented youths like the eight activists. Yet, such a bill does not go far enough for these eight activists, who want to see a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. The Kids Act would only help some, but not all of the eleven million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. It is seen as a viable, piecemeal alternative for some House Republicans, but an ill-conceived resolution for the “kids” whose relatives remain undocumented.
Meanwhile, media attention and the intense scrutiny of immigration-reform advocates are likely to pressure border patrol officials to act quickly on the eight activists. Yet there was no momentum nor fanfare for the 400,000 immigrants that have been deported under the Obama administration. Instead, those immigrants remain barred from the United States for at least ten years.