Immigration reform must keep families together, out of poverty

By Maria Rodriguez

Jose has been in foster care. He didn’t think he belonged there, with children who have been abandoned or abused. His mom, caring and competent, is devoted but deported.

A victim of horrific, high rates of deportation, she was sent back to Nicaragua. Jose was left alone and in poverty. Now 18, he organizes for immigration reform.

Daisy is a U.S. citizen. Her undocumented husband was caught driving without a license and was detained and deported. Heartbroken, Daisy didn’t know what to tell her children when they cried for their dad.

She made the hard choice to join him in Mexico, understanding that family matters most. But U.S. poverty was nothing compared with Mexican poverty. Survival was at stake. She returned to Florida without her primary breadwinner. Now she’s a single mom, barely eking out a living.

As America debates much-needed immigration reform, the issue of criminalizing and deporting immigrants while making poverty worse for their families looms large. Jose and Daisy, an orphan and a widow of deportation, could have had modest but meaningful lives, but instead a broken immigration system plummeted them into poverty and the pain of separation. Two families, not quite whole, had to reconstruct themselves.

One way to increase social mobility in the United States and reduce poverty and economic inequality is to fix the broken immigration system. Migration is a natural, historical phenomenon. People move — especially as a result of global economic changes.

In Florida, our primary industries would be crippled without immigrant workers. It’s not fair to want their labor, but not their humanity. Why is the free flow of capital and goods globalized, yet the movement of labor — workers, people, families — criminalized.

Jose and Daisy are victims of a virtual detention and deportation war on immigrants. Like any war, it has collateral damage — the war on drugs ravaged poor and African-American communities.

This one devastates Latino families. Putting people behind bars, excluding people from the workplace and from citizenship, makes them vulnerable to exploitation and creates a permanent underclass in chronic poverty and systemic racism.

But incarcerating immigrant families not only impoverishes them; it comes at a high cost to all of us. In fact, in fiscal year, 2012, $18 billion of our federal tax dollars went to immigration enforcement — to go after Jose’s mom and Daisy’s husband.

That staggering amount is about 20 percent more than all other federal law enforcement combined — more than the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies put together.

By denying 11 million immigrants a permanent residency card and a drivers license, and devoting our resources to overzealous and misguided enforcement, we keep them and us in the dark. These dollars could instead be invested in job creation, homeless veterans or the elderly.

But criminalization impoverishes some more than others. For-profit prisons wrote and promoted laws that increase their business of incarceration, like Arizona’s “show me your papers” law. Socialize the cost of enforcement, privatize the profit.

Just like any other market, we’re sold a service — imprisonment — we don’t want or need. A hefty prison lobby works the marbled halls of Congress to promote its market, protecting its profit margin.

True fiscal conservatives should take note: On any given day, we incarcerate thousands of immigrants who pose no public-safety threat, unnecessarily put behind bars for civil immigration violations.

It costs more to imprison them than to place them in alternatives to detention. Our punitive approach is wrong, costly and ultimately ineffective.

Punitive policies that demonize people, like the war on immigrants and the war on drugs, don’t make us safer. They separate families, worsen poverty, deplete budgets and promote racism.

We need reform that values families, ends mandatory detention, removes the profit motive behind incarceration and gives families a real opportunity to stay together and out of poverty.

Maria Rodriguez is president of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. She is participating in Oxfam America’s Voices on US Poverty project.

Last Day of Fast in Homestead to Stop Deportations

Fasters ask President Obama to Stop DeportationsTonight, the 7-day fast in Homestead to stop deportations comes to an end.  The fast is the second leg of a National Rolling Fast to Demand #Not1More Deportation taking place in different locations throughout the country.

Over the course of the next two months, fasters hope to bring a moral, prophetic voice to the immigration debate.

The first leg of the fast took place in Mountainview, California, from May 1st to 11th. Following Florida’s turn, the next leg will take place in Freehold, NJ, organized by Casa Freehold and Unión Latina en Acción.

Guadalupe De La Cruz fastsThe fasters are calling on the President to immediately suspend deportations and Congress to pass an immigration reform that’s inclusive of all 11 million undocumented people in the U.S.

One of the fasters, Guadalupe de la Cruz, is a 23-years old daughter of immigrants who was born and raised in South Florida.  She recently shared:

“This is not the end, but just another step in the fight we have to end all raids in Homestead and stop the deportations.  Hearing the stories of people coming out, losing their fear and saying what has happened with their families due to the raids, made me realize this is the place where I belong, supporting the families, fighting this fight”.

For more information about the fast in Homestead, visit WeCount‘s website.

More information on the National Fast available at the #Not1More website.

Marvin está libre y celebrará el día del padre con su familia!

Muchos padres indocumentados pasarán el Día del Padre detenidos, debido a las promesas incumplidas por la Administración de Obama

Hoy Marvin Corado, un inmigrante indocumentado proveniente de Guatemala, fue finalmente puesto en libertad tras ser detenido por más de seis meses en una prisión privada para inmigrantes sólo por conducir sin licencia. Marvin podrá celebrar el Día del Padre con su esposa y su hija de 5 años quien es ciudadano de EE.UU., mientras que centenares siguen innecesariamente separados de sus familias debido a la incapacidad de la Administración de Obama de parar la detención y deportación de los inmigrantes.

Un informe nacional “Restablecer la Promesa de la Discreción del Proceso” (archivo adjunto) publicado a principios de esta semana, muestra varias estadísticas alarmantes sobre el grado de incumplimiento por parte del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS) de implementar la Discreción del Proceso (PD-Prosecutorial Discretion, por su nombre en inglés) un año después de que se anunciara. En junio de 2011, el DHS anunció una nueva política que se suponía iba a centrar el control de inmigración en “lo peor de lo peor” y dejar libres a individuos que han estado en los EE.UU. desde hace años, criando a sus familias. Sin embargo, sólo el 1,5% de los 300.000 casos revisados fueron cerrados y el PD se ha utilizado muy escasamente para liberar a padres, madres y jóvenes estudiantes elegibles para el DREAM Act.

Según el informe, “el DHS está amenazando con socavar la credibilidad en las políticas del Presidente Obama y su imagen en las comunidades latinas e inmigrantes en todo el país“.

El caso de Marvin se presentó en el informe como un claro ejemplo de las promesas incumplidas. Marvin llegó a este país hace 12 años, es padre de una ciudadana de los EE.UU., no tiene antecedentes penales y fue detenido sólo por no tener una identificación. Todas estas características lo hacían elegible para el PD. Sin embargo, los oficiales de deportación intentaron varias veces expulsarlo del país, incluso el día antes de ser liberado.

Como un inmigrante de ‘baja prioridad’, Marvin no debería haber sido detenido en primer lugar. Este es un ejemplo claro de por qué los cambios cosméticos del ICE a la política de inmigración han fracasado y seguirán fracasando en nuestras comunidades “, dice Juan Escalante de Dream Activist Florida, quien apoyó a la familia de Marvin y creó una petición en línea para detener su deportación. “Casos como el de Marvin siguen sucediendo por culpa del programa Comunidades In-Seguras. Seguiremos luchando en nombre de personas como él, hasta que el presidente Obama y su gobierno hagan cambios considerables a las políticas actuales de inmigración“.

Leslie Corado, la esposa de Marvin quien también es indocumentada, hizo su miedo a un lado y trabajó sin descanso para tener a su esposo de vuelta en casa. Mientras espera a Marvin salir del centro de detención, dice: “Siento que una parte de mi corazón volvió a mi vida. Tengo 8 meses de no verlo, es lo mejor que me pudo pasar en este día. Mi hija no lo puede creer, está muy emocionada. Gracias a todos por su ayuda, luchen familias, ¡si se puede!”.

Entendiendo los cambios en las deportaciones

Departamento de Seguridad Nacional

Departamento de Seguridad Nacional

El pasado 18 de agosto, el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS) anunció cambios significativos en las prioridades de deportación de nuestro país. Janet Napolitano, Secretaria de Seguridad Nacional, envió una carta al senador demócrata Dick Durbin, indicando que DHS y ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) concentrarán sus recursos en los casos de “alta prioridad” y que “no tiene sentido gastar nuestros recursos en los casos de baja prioridad”.

¿Qué significa esto? Según Napolitano, los esfuerzos de deportación debe centrarse sólo en “los que representan una amenaza para la seguridad pública y la seguridad nacional, han violado reiteradamente la ley de inmigración y otras personas que tienen prioridad de ser removidas”.

Hasta aquí este anuncio no sonaba a nada nuevo. Hasta que Napolitano explicó cómo se implementaría este cambio:

  • Revisión caso por caso de todas las personas que actualmente enfrentan procesos de deportación, aproximadamente 300.000
  • Los funcionarios de inmigración deben ejercer “discreción en el proceso” para identificar los casos de baja y alta prioridad, de acuerdo con un memorando emitido por John Morton, Director de ICE (más información al final)
  • Los casos considerados como “baja prioridad” recibirán una carta de DHS anunciando que su caso ha sido administrativamente “cerrado”
  • Aquellos cuyos casos están cerrados, probablemente puede solicitar un permiso de trabajo
¡Esto sí parece una gran noticia para miles de familias!Sin embargo, todavía hay mucha confusión y desinformación sobre cómo y cuándo se van a poder beneficiar de estos cambios las personas que se encuentran actualmente en proceso de deportación. Debemos entender por completo lo que realmente significa este anuncio, con el fin de informar correctamente a nuestras comunidades y de exigir que las autoridades los apliquen adecuadamente.

Para entender lo que este anuncio ES y lo que NO ES, lea este Aviso al Consumidor de la Asociación Americana de Abogados de Inmigración.

Para entender las diferencias entre los casos de “baja prioridad” y los de “alta prioridad”, es necesario consultar el Memorando Morton.

Debido a que este memorando sólo se encuentra en inglés, a continuación presentamos una pequeña descripción:

Los casos de “baja prioridad” pueden ser aquellos que cuentan con los siguientes factores a su favor:

  • veteranos y miembros de las fuerzas armadas de los EE.UU.
  • residentes permanentes legales por varios años
  • menores y personas de edad avanzada
  • vive en EE.UU. desde la infancia
  • mujeres embarazadas o en período de lactancia
  • víctimas de violencia doméstica, tráfico humano u otros delitos graves
  • personas que sufren de discapacidad mental o física
  • personas con problemas graves de salud

Los casos de “alta prioridad” pueden ser aquellos que cuentan con los siguientes factores en su contra:

  • personas que representen un riesgo evidente para la seguridad nacional
  • criminales graves, infractores reincidentes o individuos con un extenso historial delictivo de cualquier clase
  • conocen a miembros de pandillas u otros individuos que representan un claro peligro para la seguridad pública
  • individuos con un largo historial de violaciones de inmigración, incluyendo aquellos que han reingresado al país de forma ilegal o que han cometido fraude de inmigración

Changes in Deportations? Understanding the DHS Announcement

Janet Napolitano, DHS

Janet Napolitano, DHS

On August 18th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced significant changes on our country’s deportation priorities. Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, sent a letter to Sen. Dick Durbin, stating that DHS and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) would concentrate their resources towards “high priority” deportation cases and that “it makes no sense to expend our enforcement resources on low-priority cases.”

What does this mean? According to Napolitano, deportation efforts should focus only on “those who pose a threat to public safety and national security, repeat immigration law violators and other individuals prioritized for removal.”

So far, this announcement didn’t sound like anything new. Until Napolitano further explained how this change was going to be achieved:

  • Review case-by-case all individuals currently facing deportation proceedings, approximately 300,000
  • Immigration officers should exercise “prosecutorial discretion” to identify low-priority and high-priority cases, according to a memorandum from ICE Director John Morton (read below)
  • Those cases deemed “Low Priority” will get a letter form DHS stating their case has been administratively “closed”
  • Those whose cases are closed, can probably apply for a work permit

This does sound like great news for thousands of families! 

However, there is still confusion and misinformation on how and when those currently in deportation proceedings can benefit from this.We need to understand fully what this announcement really means, in order to inform correctly our communities and to demand that it is implemented appropriately.

To understand what this announcement IS and what it ISN’T, read this Consumer Advisory by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

To understand the differences between “Low-priority” and “High-priority” cases, refer to the Morton Memorandum

IMMIGRANT RESISTANCE MOVES GOVERNMENT TO REVIEW DEPORTATION PRIORITIES, IMPACT STILL UNCLEAR

Move by Obama Administration positive sign, but impact still unclear

Miami, FL – Florida’s immigrants and advocates see yesterday’s announcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), that it would review the cases of 300,000 persons currently in removal proceedings, as a step in the right direction. However, they assert that much is still unknown about the criteria DHS will use in this process and caution the immigrant community that many deserving persons will still face deportation.

“We are cautiously optimistic about the relief this may bring to thousands of families facing separation,” says Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “This is a testament to the power of community organizing and the remarkable resilience of those most affected by this criminalizing system.”

Julio Calderon, an undocumented student leader of Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER), who is currently facing deportation, said, “I feel we may be given a second chance and all I hope for is that this promise is fulfilled. We simply don’t understand why Obama had to wait until there were 1 million deported to take this step, and we will continue fighting until all immigrants are not seen as criminals and are valued and respected.”

Immigrant rights advocates note that the administration in essence announced a process to implement ICE director John Morton’s June 2011 statement that ICE would begin exercising “prosecutorial discretion.”

“The devil is in the details and there is still much ambiguity as to how the process will be carried out,” says Jonathan Fried from WeCount! For example, the administration has not said that it will dismiss removal proceedings for all persons without criminal records. So far it seems it will only apply to those who meet other criteria such ashaving come here as a child, being a victim or witness of a crime, or having a serious health problem or disability.

“Moreover,” Fried added, “what will happen with those that were detained only for driving without a license in a state like Florida where it is considered a crime? Will they still be deported for having a criminal background?”

“We believe that the Obama administration can do even more,” says Rodriguez. “If the intention is to focus enforcement efforts on those who are adanger to our communities or who have committed violent crimes, the administration should broadly apply prosecutorial discretion. It also must end dragnet programs such as ‘Secure Communities’ that are creating this crisis in deportations.”

RESISTENCIA DE INMIGRANTES EMPUJA AL GOBIERNO A REVISAR PRIORIDADES EN DEPORTACIONES, IMPACTO INCIERTO

El cambio sugerido por la administración de Obama es una señal positiva, pero su impacto es aún incierto


Miami, FL – Los inmigrantes y defensores de sus derechos en la Florida ven el anuncio realizado ayer por el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS, por sus siglas en inglés), según el cual revisará los casos de 300.000 personas que actualmente están en proceso de deportación, como una señal positiva. Sin embargo, afirman que queda mucho por descubrir acerca de los criterios que DHS usará en este proceso y advierten a la comunidad inmigrante que todavía muchas personas seguirán enfrentándose a la deportación.

“Estamos cautelosamente optimistas sobre el alivio que esto puede traer a miles de familias que enfrentan la separación causada por las deportaciones”, dice María Rodríguez, Directora Ejecutiva de la Coalición de Inmigrantes de la Florida. “Este cambio es testimonio del poder de la comunidad y de la notable resistencia de los más afectados por este sistema que insiste en criminalizarlos”.

Julio Calderón, un líder estudiantil indocumentado de Estudiantes Trabajando por la Igualdad de Derechos (SWER), quien enfrenta actualmente un proceso de deportación, dijo, “siento que esto nos puede dar una segunda oportunidad y lo único que espero es que esta promesa se cumpla. Simplemente no entiendo por qué Obama tuvo que esperar hasta que hubiera 1.000.000 de deportados para dar este paso, y vamos a seguir luchando hasta que todos los inmigrantes no sean vistos como criminales, y sean valorados y respetados”.

Los defensores de los derechos de los inmigrantes notan que, en esencia, la administración anunció un proceso de implementación de la declaración que hiciera en junio el Director de ICE(Oficina de Inmigración y Aduanas), John Morton, acerca de que los agentes de inmigración podrían comenzar aplicar la “discreción de juicio” sobre cada caso.

“El diablo está en los detalles y todavía hay mucha ambigüedad en cuanto a cómo el proceso se llevará a cabo”, dice Jonathan Fried de WeCount! Por ejemplo, la administración no ha dicho que va a derogar el proceso de deportación para todas las personas sin antecedentes penales. Hasta el momento parece que sólo se aplicará a aquellos que cumplen con otros criterios tales como haber llegado a temprana edad, ser una víctima o testigo de un crimen, o tener un grave problema de salud o discapacidad.

“Además”, añadió Fried, “¿qué pasará con aquellos que fueron detenidos sólo por conducir sin una licencia en un estado como Florida, donde es considerado un delito? ¿Seguirán siendo deportados por tener antecedentes penales?”

“Creemos que el gobierno de Obama puede hacer aún más”, dice Rodríguez. “Si la intención es concentrar los esfuerzos de inmigración en aquellos que son un peligro paranuestras comunidades o que han cometido delitos violentos, la administración en general debe aplicar una ‘discreción de juicio’ . También se debe poner fin a programas como el de Comunidades Seguras (S-Comm) que están creando esta crisis en las deportaciones”.

Obama: End S-Comm now!

Latinos in Miami protest Obama’s massive deportation program. Thousands rally nationwide. 

Today, we held a rally at the Miami-Dade county Democratic Party headquarters as part of a National Day of Action against ICE’s so-called “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) deportation program. Thousands also rallied in 9 other cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville, Charlotte and Boston.

Immigrants in the US, especially Latinos, find outraging that over 1 million immigrants have been deported under President Obama’s watch, the largest amount of deportations in American history.

We delivered a copy of a national authoritative report, made public today, condemning S-Comm and recommending its termination.

The report – Restoring Community: A National Community Advisory Report on ICE’s Failed “Secure Communities” Program – shows the reality of what S-Comm is causing in our communities: encourages racial profiling, criminalizes immigrants, affect police-community relations and separates families.

Victims of Secure Communities are featured in this report, and three of them are from South Florida. Like Reina, whose husband was deported just two months ago from Miami-Dade County after being stopped for a minor traffic violation, leaving her and her US-citizen children behind. She was present today at the rally and shared her story with us and the media. After loosing her husband, Reina has to work harder to sustain her family, but she is afraid of driving or asking for job because she might end up arrested and deported. “What would happen to my children? Who will take care of them then”, said Reina.

Together with SWER, We Count, NDLON and Presente.org, we delivered over 35,000 petitions (including 1,500 Floridians) asking President Obama to STOP S-Comm now!

Take a look at more pictures from our action today here

Obama Resumes Deportation of Hatian Nationals



the U.S. government resumed its deportation of Haitian nationals convicted of criminal offenses. Despite petitions and objections filed by civil and human rights groups to halt detentions, 27 Haitian nationals have been deported thus far.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, has justified these deportations as removal of criminal elements from the United States. While the Department of Homeland Security has stated that only Haitians with criminal records will be removed, detentions have occurred for “offenses” that run the gamut, including traffic violations.

“It is hypocritical that the same day that the Department of Homeland Security announced it would resume deportations to Haiti, a travel warning was issued by the State Department,” said Francesca Menes, Community Organizer with the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), “The message the U.S. is sending is that it is acceptable to turn our backs on those who are living in inhumane conditions, but it’s not acceptable for U.S. Citizens to be present in similar conditions.”

In what could be all but called a criminal act, Haitian nationals are returned to a country that continues to languish after the hurricanes and floods of 2008 and the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010 which killed 230,000 people.  Deportees are returning to political instability, crumbling infrastructure and inhumane living conditions.

1.2 million people continue living in tent camps. The lack of proper sanitation and medical care at these camps led to a cholera outbreak that bared itself in December of 2010 and has since claimed 3,889 lives and affected 194,000 nationwide.   As homelessness and joblessness persist throughout the island, violence against women, rapes and child prostitution and human trafficking have increased.

Moreover, hundreds of Haitians have been relocated to prisons across Louisiana as part of the deportation process to await removal. Despite the upheavals occurring in Haiti, boats are also being driven back by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The deportations of Haitian nationals further delay Haiti’s recovery as potential workers that could send millions into Haiti through remittances are returned to their country of origin. Florida will languish without their contributions. Additionally, 55,000 Haitians with approved family petitions remain separated from their U.S. based relatives due to U.S. visa backlogs and bureaucracy that shows no signs of speeding up.

“These illogical attitudes underscore the racism perpetuated upon Haitians, at home and abroad, said Isabel Vinent, Deputy Director of FLIC, “The administration has to stop the deportations. Not even 12 months have gone by after the earthquake and conditions in Haiti have only deteriorated. If special provisions and considerations have been provided to others fleeing from oppression, persecution and disaster, the people of Haiti should also receive the same treatment.”
————————————————————————————————

Administracion de Obama reanuda deportaciones de ciudadanos haitianos

el gobierno de EE.UU. reanudó la deportación de ciudadanos haitianos identificados como criminales. A pesar de las peticiones y objeciones presentadas por los grupos de derechos civiles y ONGs para poner fin a las detenciones, 27 personas han sido deportados hasta la fecha.

ICE  ha justificado estas deportaciones como la eliminación de los elementos criminales de los Estados Unidos. El Departamento de Seguridad Nacional ha afirmado que sólo los haitianos con antecedentes penales serán deportados. Sin embargo, se han llevado acabo multiples detenciones por infracciones menores, incluyendo violaciónes de tráfico.

“Es increible que el mismo día que el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional anunció que reanudaría las deportaciones a Haití, una advertencia de viaje fue emitida por el Departamento de Estado,” dijo Francesca Menes, organizadora de la comunidad con la Coalición de Inmigrantes de Florida (FLIC), “El mensaje que EE.UU. está enviando es que es aceptable darle la espalda a aquellos que viven en condiciones inhumanas, pero no es aceptable que los ciudadanos de EE.UU. esten presentes en condiciones similares. ”

En lo que podría ser interpretado como un acto criminal, las personas de origen haitianos son devueltas a un país que sigue languideciendo después de los huracanes y las inundaciones del 2008 ; un devastador terremoto del 12 de enero de 2010 que mató a 230.000 personas y a la inestabilidad política.

1,2 millones de personas aun siguen viviendo en tiendas de campaña. Las condiciones insalubres y la falta de atención médica en estos campos condujo a un brote de cólera que se desató en diciembre del 2010 y desde entonces ha reclamado 3.889 vidas y afectó a 194.000. Y a lo largo de la isla aun persiste la falta de vivienda y el desempleo, la violencia contra las mujeres, las violaciones y la prostitución infantil y el trafico humano ha aumentado.

Por otra parte, cientos de haitianos han sido trasladados a prisiones en Louisiana a la espera de expulsion del país, como parte del proceso de deportación. A pesar de los trastornos que ocurren en Haití, las balsas encaminadas a los EE.UU. también están siendo rechazados por la Guardia Costera norteamericana.
Las deportaciones de nacionales haitianos demora aun más la recuperación de Haití, ya que potenciales trabajadores que pudieran enviar millones en remesas a Haití son devueltos a su país de origen. Mientras tanto, Florida languidecen sin sus contribuciones. Además, 55.000 haitianos con peticiones de asilo aprobadas permanecen separadas de sus familiares que viven en los EE.UU., debido a los retrasos visa de EE.UU. y la burocracia que no muestra signos de aceleración.

“Estas actitudes ilógicas subrayado el racismo perpetúa a los haitianos, en su casa y en el extranjero, dijo Isabel Vinent, Director Adjunto de la oficina de FLIC,” La administración tiene que parar las deportaciones. Ni siquiera 12 meses han transcurrido después del terremoto y las condiciones en Haití sólo han empeorado. Si las disposiciones especiales y consideraciones han sido prestados a otros que huyen de la opresión, la persecución y el desastre, el pueblo de Haití también deben recibir el mismo trato. ”

 

Model student Vanessa Nunez Faces Danger of Deportation

In the United States, turning 21 means partying, typically of a debauched sort. The last thing anyone expects is celebrating such a momentous occasion at an emergency press conference, where their fears of impending deportation are laid bare in front of the media. Yet for Vanessa Nunez, who is turning 21 on October 20th, it seems that this will very likely be the case.

Vanessa Nunez at a DREAM Act Rally

Vanessa is an undocumented student attending Miami Dade Community College and she and her sister are in danger of receiving an order of deportation within the next few weeks.

The two girls arrived in Miami at the age of 13 from Caracas, Venezuela with their mother to visit their brother, a permanent resident. Once in Miami, the family’s arduous and expensive efforts to stay in the country began. In 2006, they filed for political asylum. In 2007, the court denied them their papers. Undaunted, they filed an appeal in August 2009. When they were denied again, they re-applied for a motion to reconsider and re-open the case. In March 2010, they were denied once more.

Throughout the labyrinthine course of immigration proceedings her mother, a permanent resident managed to apply for citizenship, but because of procedural delays, she hasn’t received her citizenship yet, nor has Vanessa received any form of relief to be allowed to stay in the country.

“I was told that I had one month to apply to a federal court to review my case,” said Vanessa, “but the cost is absurd, up to $10,000.00 for a federal review. I can’t come up with $10,000.00 in the one month I have left before I could potentially be forced to leave.”

Based on previous rulings, her lawyers said that, unfortunately, the case was terminal.

As of the end of this month, Vanessa Nunez’ may be at risk of removal by immigration authorities. However, if she is sent back to Venezuela, Vanessa fears that her position as a political asylum seeker will make her future in her own country extremely tenuous and even dangerous.

“I’ve heard that people who return [after seeking political asylum] are exiled in their own land. Chavez has said that these people are targeted as state enemies and traitors. They can’t apply for jobs or public services,” said Vanessa.

Vanessa Nunez (center) graduated Summa Cum Laude from Doral Academy

A dedicated mechanical engineer student at Miami Dade Community College with a passion for designing environmentally friendly roller coasters, Vice President of the Youth for Environmental Sustainability Club, member of Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers(SHEP), and math and science tutor, she somehow still manages to score a 3.8 GPA.

Vanessa prays that she will not be forced to leave the United States, yet she also acknowledges that in order for her to advance as an engineer she needs legislative reform, like the DREAM Act, that will allow her to build the mechanical juggernauts she’s always wanted to create.

“I can’t get internships because I have no social security number,” said Vanessa, “They’re very competitive. I’m very passionate, but I need that magic number. I’ve been recommended to go to Ohio State University, but because of my status, I can’t.”

She is one of more than 2 million undocumented students in the United States whose futures are uncertain at best, non-existent at worst. The DREAM Act would allow these countless undocumented youth the opportunity to pursue higher education. Yet, in a time when there is a serious dearth of engineers, scientists and innovators to be found within the United States, good sense takes a back seat to partisan politics. How much longer can we continue twiddling our thumbs among a morass of broken promises?

Vanessa’s academic dedication and civic engagement is a further testament of the quality individual that we would lose if we were to allow her deportation. This quality is a fact that has been quickly assessed by her friends and SWER members who, like her are also undocumented. These youth are rallying around her case, passing out petitions and clamoring for the support of key community and college leaders, and is how we should aspire to act: inclusionary, incisive, immediate.

The more anti-immigrant legislation is passed, and the more the DREAM Act languishes in the dusty drawers of congressional credenzas, the US will continue to recklessly bleed talent and stagnate in its overall progress as a society; a society that was once, many moons ago, considered a beacon of hope and freedom for thousands.