FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Amanda Lotspike
February 23, 2021
At Long Last, Prominent Immigrant Rights Activist Marco Saavedra Has Won Political Asylum
NEW YORK, NY — Prominent immigrant rights activist Marco Saavedra has won political asylum. The decision, which was issued on Thursday by Immigration Judge Sam Factor, marks a decisive win for Saavedra, his family and his community, and sets a legal precedent for undocumented activists seeking political asylum in the United States.
This decision comes after years of discriminatory and brutal attacks on the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers, escalated in the past four years by the Trump Administration, and at a time when activists are demanding sweeping changes of immigration policy and an overhaul of the immigration system. It also comes at a time of increasing uncertainty for immigrant communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and particularly for undocumented people who have been made ineligible for state and federal aid.
Saavedra has been on the frontlines of immigration justice for nearly a decade. In 2012, as part of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, he turned himself into immigration authorities in Florida in order to provide direct support to detained migrants at the Broward Transitional Center. The following year, he self-deported to Mexico with other Dreamers (“The Dream 9”), crossing the border in solidarity with those who would have benefited from DACA, but were either deported or self-deported before the executive action was announced. Saavedra becomes the first of the Dream 9 to be granted asylum in the U.S.
Saavedra has been fighting his asylum case while continuing his activism and working at his family’s restaurant, La Morada, in the South Bronx, which has operated a mutual aid kitchen providing free meals for hundreds of community members since the start of the pandemic. While they celebrate this welcome and long-awaited decision, the Saavedras remain vigilant of the Biden administration’s immigration agenda and will continue their ongoing fight for justice.
- “DREAM 9” Activist Who Once Infiltrated ICE Detention Center Faces Possible Deportation https://www.democracynow.org/2019/11/6/dream_9_activist_who_once_infiltrated
- “A Haven in Mott Haven As an immigration activist prepares for his asylum case, his family’s restaurant hangs in the balance.” New York Magazine, Oct 29, 2019, http://www.grubstreet.com/2019/10/la-morada-in-the-bronx-has-become-a-canteen-for-organizers.html
- Activista mexicano lucha por permanecer en el país https://www.telemundo47.com/noticias/local/Activista-mexicano-lucha-por-permanecer-en-el-pa_s_TLMD---Nueva-York-564629912.html
- El asilo de un activista inmigrante moviliza a una comunidad https://eldiariony.com/2019/11/07/el-asilo-de-un-activista-inmigrante-moviliza-a-una-comunidad/
MARCO AND HIS FAMILY’S CULTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS AND BUSINESS IN THE US
- Shadows then light by: steve pavey & marco saavedra
- La Morada Mutual-Aid Kitchen
STATEMENT OF MARCO SAAVEDRA IN SUPPORT OF ASYLUM
My name is Marco Saavedra. I am a citizen of Mexico and a human rights activist
I request political asylum because cartels and Mexican government actors routinely murder, or seriously harm, human rights activists, such as myself, in my native country.
Since 2010 I have outed myself as an undocumented immigrant to build solidarity within my marginalized community in the United States and to advocate for our rights. In that effort I turned myself in to Border Patrol in Florida in the summer of 2012 to look for other detainees that were not supposed to be a priority for deportation. Working with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (“NIYA”) we exposed cases of medical neglect; lack of due process and accountability at the Broward Transitional Center; and secured the release of dozens of detained immigrants.
My efforts, along with several others immigrant youth, escalated as we began communicating with immigrant youth in Mexico that would have benefited from the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) but were either deported or self-deported before the executive action was announced.(See June 15, 2012 memorandum by former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, https://www.dhs.gov/.../s1-exercising-prosecutorial....)
For this campaign, we volunteered to self-deport and attempt to return to the US. This was the logical end to our activism, we had to take our plight to an international level and fight for protection from our home country. Though it was extremely risky to return to Mexico I never hesitated with my decision. It was my responsibility to use my privilege as a well-known Dreamer (Dream Act Eligible youth) to extend my resources to others who could not remain in the US. As Dreamers we used our platform in the media; our ties to our communities; and our relationships with members of Congress to come to our aid and advocate with us. Four years into the Obama presidency we knew that Dreamers had achieved some political capital and if we did not capitalize on that momentum our movement would become stagnant and complacent so we decided to escalate our demands with the border crossing.
Today I work in family’s well-reviewed Mexican restaurant. My father is disabled and diabetic and both my parents need my help as they approach middle age. However, I remain active in my community by offering the restaurant as a welcoming place for immigrants. (See The New York Times, Opening Oaxaca to the World: La Morada in the South Bronx, February 26, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/.../hungry-city-la-morada-in-the...; Think Progress, This Restaurant Serves Up Oaxacan Food With a Side of Dignity for Undocumented Immigrants, April 28, 2016, https://thinkprogress.org/this-restaurant-serves-up....)
My biggest fear were I to be deported is that I would not hesitate to fight back against the many abuses against migrants and indigenous people throughout Mexico. Indeed, over the past few years matters have only gotten worse as drug violence and political corruption have become one and the same. The disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College in Iguala, Guerrero is known throughout the world. These were young adults who shared many of my own ideals; the conviction to help their own communities, to educate the disenfranchised against the corruption in government and for that they were ordered disappeared by local authorities who colluded with cartels.
Having a faith background committed to social justice and an established record of acting on these ideals I would not tolerate any abuse of power, intimidation, or corruption from the government or from the drug cartels exposing me to much danger. If deported to Mexico, I would immediately advocate for the human rights of Central American migrants by volunteering at shelters that aid them. In that role, I would publicly condemn anyone who violates the rights of central American migrants, even if the person(s)responsible are part of drug trafficking cartels or corrupt government officials. I would also try to teach in rural schools in my home state of Oaxaca building on the experiences I have gained through years of organizing in the US.
My job remains the same on either side of the border: to stand up for the human rights of others. My life for the past 24 years has been in the United States and I seek protection in the place I call home.