By Erin Mershon and David McCabe
This article has been updated to reflect ongoing developments.
Kenyon alumnus Marco Saavedra ’11 was released on bond from the Charlotte Mecklenberg County jail Thursday. He will appear in court in October on misdemeanor charges of civil disobedience and impeding traffic.
Authorities in Charlotte, N.C. arrested Saavedra and 14 others Tuesday, Sept. 6 for blocking traffic as part of a protest in which Saavedra and six others “came out” as undocumented immigrants.
Because of Saavedra’s citizenship status and a federal law that allows local law enforcement in some U.S. counties to punish immigration violations, his actions put him at risk for deportation to Mexico. He was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and crossed the border through the Sonoran Desert when he was three years old.
The high-profile nature of his arrest likely played a role in Saavedra’s quick release. Charlotte-based immigration attorney Janeen Hicks-Pierre told Fox News Latino that “ICE wants no part in this PR nightmare.”
These proceedings offered one of the first chances to see how a new Obama administration policy on immigration law enforcement is implemented. On Aug. 18, the Obama administration announced that undocumented students and other low-priority immigration offenders would not be targeted for deportation under enforcement programs.
After his arrest, Saavedra was taken into custody by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. He was charged with blocking traffic and disorderly conduct; for each charge, bail was set at $500. Following his arrest, public records show that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Division of the Department of Homeland Security issued a detainer on Saavedra.
According to the American Immigration Council, a not- for-profit organization, an immigration detainer is an official request from ICE to a state or local jail that the jail notify ICE prior to releasing an individual from custody so that ICE can arrange to take over custody. Detainers do not begin deportation proceedings or signify whether a person will be de- ported.
Sarah Ebnick ’11 was with Marco last weekend as he trained for Tuesday’s rally.
“He seemed pretty brave and courageous [when he] decided to do this,” she said. “He graduated from Kenyon with a degree and he didn’t have a lot of options, so it seemed like the next thing for him to do.”
The N.C. Dream Team, a group of mostly undocumented youth based in Raleigh, organized Tuesday’s protest. The protest’s timing and location were not chosen at random; Charlotte will host the Democratic Nation- al Convention exactly a year from the date Saavedra was arrested. The Dream Team aimed to draw attention to what they call “the Obama administration’s failure to support undocumented youth.”
“I’m asking … fellow undocumented youth to also step out of the shadows and own our identities as undocumented youth as unafraid, unashamed and unapologetic,” Saavedra said in a video filmed before the arrest and posted to YouTube. “I willingly decided to take up this risk because we’ve been living in the United States for 18 years and have seen little action on our status and our living conditions.”
The group also protested the Secure Communities law in place in counties across the United States, including Mecklenberg, where Saavedra was arrested. Knox County, Ohio has also implemented the policy. The Secure Communities policy, enacted in 2008, allows law enforcement officers at the local level to punish federal immigration violations in cases in which an undocumented immigrant is convicted of a crime.
It’s unlikely, however, that these new policies affected Saavedra’s quick release, according to Domenic Powell, a spokesman for the North Carolina Dream Team. He believes the Obama administration isn’t protecting these undocumented immigrants, rather, public pressure is protecting them.
Marco applied early to Kenyon and matriculated in 2007. Though he could not board a plane for his flight to Columbus or drive his own car without a license, his college application process was not as difficult as many might assume.
It is not illegal for the school to enroll citizens of other countries, nor do applicants need to reveal their citizenship unless they are applying for federal financial aid. Anyone, regardless of citizenship status, can receive financial aid from the College, according to Jennifer Delahunty, dean of admissions and financial aid.123