By David McCabe
In an interview with the Collegian tonight, Marco Saavedra ’11 talked about his experience being arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina after revealing he was an undocumented immigrant during a protest there last week.
The protestors never attempted to hide the fact that many of them were undocumented, Saavedra told the Collegian. “When we went in to be processed by immigration, we made a decision as a group that we would be as blunt and straightforward about our citizenship status, when we came into the country, and where we were from, so that they would search that; but we didn’t give them any information about our families,” he said.
He also explained why public records show that an I.C.E. detainer was placed on him while local authorities told the Charlotte Observer that no detainers were issued. On the morning of Wednesday, September 6, Saavedra said, officials were told not to procede with immigration charges against the seven being held.
“They came by and they took the paper away that said there was an ice hold on me and that I was a Mexican national. For the women, they actually tore the paper up,” he said.
Saavedra and the six others who “came out” as undocumented did so to protest what they say is a tide of anti-immigrant legislation that has come down from Congress in the last few years, including the Secure Communities Act, which allows local law enforcement officials to investigate a personimmigration status if they are arrested for something as small as a traffic violation, and the 287(g) program (the numeric nomenclature comes the section of the federal immigration code on which the program is based), which trained local law enforcement officers in immigration enforcement.
The latter program, Saavedra says, has blurred the lines for immigrants dealing with the criminal justice system. “”You don’t know where immigration enforcement ends and where the criminal justice system begins, or vice versa, because these are just police officers who have been trained in immigration enforcement,” he said.
Saavedra also said that the Obama administration has placed undocumented students in limbo, because they have directed, through administrative memos that do not carry the full force of the law, federal officials to deprioritize the deportation of undocumented youth who would be eligible for the DREAM Act, but they have not made it easier for undocumented students to have access to higher education or citizenship.
“I guess the purpose was to get immigration enforcement to come after us and to highlight, as one of the protesters said, “We are not a priority for immigration or education.” You’re kind of in eternal purgatory, you’re not going to get citizenship but you’re also not going to get deported.
In North Carolina, undocumented students who attended high school in-state must pay out-of-state tuition for community colleges like the one where the protest was held. Given that undocumented students are more likely to live below the poverty line, Saavedra said that making them pay out-of-state tuition, which is four times the in-state price, amounts to making undocumented “second-class citizens.” Additionally, they have to wait to register for classes until all other students have done so, making it difficult for them to fulfill graduation requirements and to get into certain science classes, which are in high demand.
While Saavedra will return to North Carolina for a hearing on his criminal charges in October, he is no longer at risk of being deported as a result of those charges. But he is still at risk of being deported because Secure Communities is active in Hamilton County, OH, where he lives.
“As an undocumented immigrant I’m still at risk. If I got into a car and drove without a license and got pulled over a minor traffic violation, I would go through the whole process again,” he said.
But, true to his reputation as someone who cares more about the cause then his own personal situation, Saavedra made sure to note that the situation is much worse in Butler County, which neighbors Hamilton County, because 287(g) is active there and it contains a much greater population of immigrants.
[starbox id=”david mccabe”]
Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at email@example.com.