Young immigrants to risk detention at border to protest deportations

Three young immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children are in Mexico and will try to cross the border back into the U.S. as part of a campaign to reduce deportations.
At the border, the three will ask to be admitted legally, but they risk being detained and barred from rejoining their families in the U.S. The campaign is being organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance.

“I know you’re going to think that I’m crazy for doing this, for leaving the U.S., for coming to Mexico,” Lizbeth Mateo said in a YouTube video from Oaxaca, Mexico. “But to be honest, I think it’s even crazier that I had to wait for 15 years to see my family. I did it not just for my own family, but I did it for the families that have been deported.”

During the years she didn’t visit Mexico for fear of being unable to reenter the U.S., her grandmother died in Oaxaca, Mateo said on Twitter.

Mateo came to Los Angeles from Mexico at age 14 and graduated from Cal State Northridge. She plans to attend Santa Clara Law School in the fall.


Marco Saavedra, who came to the U.S. when he was 3, said he went to Mexico to support those who have been deported. He graduated from Kenyon College and works at his family’s restaurant in New York City, according to the Dream Activist website.

“I made the sacrifice knowingly because it’s a right that everyone deserves,” Saavedra said in a YouTube video.

The third activist, Lulu Martinez, has been living in the U.S. since she was 3 and grew up in Chicago.

Mateo, Saavedra and Martinez could be eligible for a federal program that grants a two-year reprieve from deportation to immigrants who came to the country as children. But their travel to Mexico could damage their eligibility because of a requirement that applicants remain in the U.S.


The group plans to arrive at the Nogales border crossing on Monday morning, said Domenic Powell, media coordinator for NIYA. They will be joined by five young immigrants who left the U.S. voluntarily because living without papers was too difficult.

Deportations have increased from just under 300,000 in 2007 to nearly 400,000 in 2011, according to federal statistics. Activists have called for a moratorium on deportations while Congress considers a major overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.

A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agency does not comment on specific cases.

“The United States has been and continues to be a welcoming nation. ... In order to demonstrate that they are admissible, the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility,” Bill Brooks, head of the Southwest Border’s media division, said in a written statement.


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Twitter: @cindychangLA

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