Hard-Won Victories! Refugee Caravan & Adelanto Hunger Strike

Yesterday, our Immigration Issues Team delivered newly released Adelanto hunger-striker Luis to the airport in Los Angeles, a free man.  But first, Yolanda drove him for an interview with Undocumedia, than to the Santa Monica Pier and a long walk on the beach.  So much to celebrate!  Here’s the inspiring updates from coalition member Alex Mensing (en Español):

Good Evening! Buenas Noches!

 

Thank you, to each and every one of you. Here’s the news:

  • Mateo’s bond reduced!
  • Luis is free!
  • Aaron is free!
  • Jonathan won!
We have several victories to celebrate, but I’ll start with Mateo, since I just got off the phone with him. Keep reading, though, and you’ll see there’s lots to celebrate today.

 

Mateo, one of the #Adelanto9 hunger strikers, just called me from Adelanto Detention Center. Today his immigration bond was lowered from $30,000 to $5,000, and he was literally on the brink of tears, bursting with joy and gratitude for everything that has been achieved in this struggle.

 

“I have no words to thank you all,” he said. “I never imagined we would get this far.”

 

Mateo joined the Refugee Caravan in Chiapas, Mexico in April. He joined 250 other Central Americans on an organized, self-defended journey north to the US border, where he crossed, was detained by US immigration officials, and sent to Adelanto in Southern California’s high desert. Despite repeatedly stating that he feared for his life in El Salvador – both verbally and in writing – on May 30th, ICE attempted to deport him, denying him the right to seek asylum. After a flurry of early morning phone calls & emails, Mateo was literally pulled out of line for a deportation plane and returned to Adelanto. A volunteer prepared him for his credible fear interview, which he passed, but ICE told him only $30,000 would get him out of jail.

 

On June 12th, Mateo and 8 other Central Americans launched a nonviolent hunger strike to protest abysmal conditions and impossibly high bonds. They immediately suffered brutal repression by GEO’s private prison guards, who beat and pepper sprayed them before sending them to solitary confinement. Mateo was drenched with pepper spray, especially in his crotch area, leaving him with skin problems that he still suffers from. Never to be deterred, in the following weeks they joined forces with Haitian detainees to launch even larger hunger strikes.

 

Despite all the hardship Mateo has faced, he and his companions have supported each other, encouraged each other, helped each other call their families when they don’t have any phone credit, and stayed focused on their goal. Today, with the help of a great many of you, Mateo took a huge step towards that goal. Bond reduced from $30k to $5k. With a few more bond fund donations (wink wink) he’ll be free in no time!

 

Today, we won a victory. That’s real teamwork. Special thanks to Al Otro Lado, Innovation Law Lab and UC Irvine law students.

 

And what else?

 

Last night, Luis, another of the Adelanto hunger strikers, walked free!!! Here he is:

 

 

Thanks to generous donations, Luis’ entire $10,000 bond was paid. That means he did not have to resort to evil bond companies like Libre By Nexus who put a GPS ankle monitor on you and charge you 20% + $880 fee + $420/month – an amount that doesn’t even go towards paying your bond. Luis is free, and he’s really free. No ankle monitor. No monthly payments. Just court. In other words, just due process for an asylum seeker, as it should be. Well done, everyone! Luis’ first meal as a free man was two carne asada tacos and a coke! Special thanks to Mark Kleiman, Undocumedia, Human Rights Alliance and Indivisible Morongo Basin.

 

Also last night, Aaron, a well-loved member of the Refugee Caravan, also walked free!! Here he is with Maria Elena. Hi!

 

 

And the good news for Aaron doesn’t stop there. He walked free because HE WON HIS ASYLUM CASE!!! With pro-bono legal representation while detained in Theo Lacy (a notoriously horrendous detention center in Los Angeles) and then James Musick detention facility, Aaron fought his asylum case and won. He will have permission to live and work in peace, he will not be deported, and in a year he can apply for legal permanent residency. Special thanks to Friends of Orange County Detainees, LA Public Counsel, Mayer Brown LLP,

 

And last but not least, Jonathan, another Refugee Caravan member, won protection under the Convention Against Torture! That means that while Jonathan doesn’t have a path to citizenship (at least not yet! we’ll keep fighting…), he will not be deported to Honduras, where he faces grave danger, and he will be able to get out of immigration detention and hopefully be reunited with his beautiful little boy, “el colocho,” who was everyone’s favorite trouble-maker on the Caravan. Here are his little boy and him on the Caravan:

 

In conclusion…

 

You are part of something extraordinary and unusual that is growing, a hopeful effort to develop new ways to stand in solidarity with migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, brothers & sisters from all over the world for justice & freedom and against border imperialism. Black & Brown solidarity has flourished in this movement, grassroots support has been key, and migrant leadership has been constant. I really hope that you share this good news with your friends, family and colleagues, because we’re not hearing enough of it these days! I wish I could individually thank everyone who was involved in this effort, but there are too many – truly an army.

 

And if you’d like to get more involved or donate, please take that step! To find out how you can help, shoot me an email at mensing.alex@gmail.com. To donate to pay for Adelanto hunger strikers’ bonds, go to this website. Also, there’s another caravan taking place right now! The Viacrucis Guadalupano. Check it out here.
 
CONGRATULATIONS AND THANK YOU!!!