After almost eight hours of deliberation, the hearing in the immigration case of Marco Saavedra ’11, a prominent immigration rights activist and Kenyon alumnus, ended without conclusion. Rather than deciding if Saavedra — an undocumented immigrant who has lived in the United States since the age of 3 — would be deported to Mexico or be granted political asylum in the U.S., the judge postponed the final decision to Jan. 17, 2020.
Seventeen Kenyon students drove almost 20 hours total to attend Saavedra’s hearing last Thursday, missing two days of classes. While they were unable to be in the hearing room because of limited space, they stood directly outside the building with dozens of Saavedra’s friends, supporters and family members.
“From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. we were outside protesting, supporting, singing, doing whatever Marco and his sister [were] asking,” Scout Crowell ’20, one of the organizers, said.
The group of Kenyon students, the largest group among the protestors, received an enthusiastic welcome from Saavedra’s family and other supporters there. Several Kenyon alumni, a number of whom had been organizing for months, were also present.
“I don’t think I was expecting us to be as influential as I think we were,” Crowell said.
“His family really wanted the Kenyon representation,” Isak Davis ’20, an attendee, said. “There was a Kenyon flag some alumni brought, and [the family] wanted it front and center.”
Camila Wise ’20, another organizer, emphasized how the trip was only possible because of the work of Saavedra and others organizing for his cause. “We supported people who have been organizing for literally years,” Wise said. “If you look at the activism that Marco’s done, everything that he does for communities, it’s hard to think of a reason why you wouldn’t show up.”
While the hearing was originally scheduled for 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., it lasted more than four times as long. “[Asylum hearings] do not go this long … it is so rare, and the fact that they were giving as much consideration to his actual case as they were is almost sadly shocking, but amazing in the sense of: ‘that’s progress.’” Crowell said. She credits the amount of public attention and support Saavedra’s case received as important factors in the judge’s ultimate delay of the decision, as well as the over 600 pages of evidence presented at the hearing.
Ultimately, weather and time forced the Kenyon students in attendance to leave an hour and a half before the hearing ended, missing the chance to greet Saavedra as he emerged. The students returned to campus at 3 a.m. last Friday, but are already making plans for their next steps.
“We haven’t gotten any direct support from Decatur, or from the administration,” Wise said. “If we can find a way to have it very vocally [from] Kenyon as an institution [saying] we support this alum, and we also support undocumented students … that would be amazing.”
Though President Decatur has not released a public statement, he expressed support for the students in an email to The Collegian. “I’m proud of the members of the Kenyon community who traveled to New York last week to support Marco.” he wrote. “I am certain that Kenyon community members will continue to support and advocate for him.”
Crowell expressed similar sentiments. “There’s such a lack of knowledge of how being undocumented is not a situation that’s removed from Kenyon at all; in fact, it’s more prevalent on Kenyon’s campus than it is on most other college institutions,” Crowell said. “That’s a conversation that needs to be had. This is not something that doesn’t happen in Ohio. This is very much real and … these are people that are part of our community just as much as anybody else. So institutional support is key.”
In accordance with the trip, Adelante’s meeting this Friday will focus on Saavedra’s case, and organizers hope to screen the documentary The Infiltrators, which follows Saavedra and fellow activist Viridiana Martinez’s purposeful arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in order to infiltrate an immigrant detention facility.
The organizers also encouraged students to continue activist work by attending the Active Students Helping the Earth Survive (ASHES) protest against ICE at Morrow County Jail on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 11 a.m.