On Thursday night, January 10, 2013, prominent AZ-based DREAMer activist Erika Andiola sent out Facebook pleas to stop the detainment of her undocumented mother and brother. Working together, prominent DREAMers fired up an aggressive social media campaign to bring publicity to her situation. Her massive network of allies seeded a phone tree to find legal and political assistance. Online petitions ensued through prominent pro-immigrant organizations.
On the morning of January 11, 2013, Erika sent out a tearful Youtube video for her mother whose deportation was underway. A few hours later, we learned that her mother was granted a stay of removal. Hours later, Erika updated her Facebook to describe how her mother was literally on the bus to the border when the bus driver was called to drive back. Every news outlet from Latino Rebels (our most viral 24-hour story ever) to The New York Times covered the organic online organizing that exerted the pressure to keep Erika’s family together. It became the Near-Deportation that was heard across the world!!!!!
As we cheer and tear over Erika’s reunification with her mother and brother, I am left wondering: who else could have been on that bus to the Mexican border with Erika’s mother that morning? Erika’s hourly updates gave us an on-the-ground glimpse into the clandestine world of deportations. But most deportations are not loud and media-watched like this one was. Because she is such a respected activist, Erika has a wide network, both on social media and in traditional media. There are thousands of families who stay off the radar and are deported in secret every hour of every day. I would guess that not everyone on that bus that day was that fortunate.
Who else could have been on that bus? What were their stories? Why they were targeted for deportation? How many of them had daughters, sons, grandchildren, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and communities whose sudden absence would throw their workplaces, communities, and home lives into tumult? Where are they now? Who were these voiceless, nameless, and faceless individuals on that bus?
Erika and the pro-immigrant activist community did an incredible job to save Erika’s mother from deportation. And everyone one of them was quick to point out that these types of incidents happen all the time, away from the media spotlight.
Like Erika said yesterday at a press conference: “It makes me extremely happy to know that my mother is here, but it makes me extremely sad that it took all day and thousands of calls to stop the deportation of one person. We shouldn’t have to do that. We shouldn’t have to work so hard for just one person. I am asking president Obama and his Administration to stop separating families. Having been separated from my mother and brother is something I will never get over and forget.”
At the same press conference, Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center said:
Not all immigrant families have the benefit of Erika to mobilize the whole country over night. The Andiola family is just another example of the cost of the broken system that continues to hurt millions of immigrants across the country. We cannot keep fixing this one worker, one family member at a time. While we wait for immigration reform, the President can act now so that millions of immigrants do not have to live in constant fear of deportation.
This is why we need to sustain a movement to get systematic administrative and legislative changes in the lives of undocumented families and individuals.
Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat at the front of the bus and helped sparked the Civil Rights Movement, once said, “Whatever my individual desires were to be free, I was not alone. There were many others who felt the same way.”
There are many others who felt what Erika did that night yet were unable to secure the freedom for their families to stay in the US. El tiempo es ahora. The time is now.
Editor’s Note: Eva Luna is the pen name of one of our Latina Rebels.