On Jan. 26, members of the Kenyon community nearly filled Higley Auditorium for an evening with renowned immigrant rights activist Marco Saavedra ’11. The event included a screening of the documentary The Infiltrators, which tells the story of Saavedra and other undocumented “Dreamers” who chose to become detained or risked detainment in order to help release people from the inside. After the film, there was a Q&A session with Saavedra himself.
Following his activism at the detention center, Saavedra self-deported to connect with other “Dreamers” in Mexico and march to the border to request political asylum on the basis of his work in activism. He is currently awaiting a court decision over whether he will be granted asylum to stay in the United States or be deported to Mexico. The final hearing on his case took place on Nov. 7, 2019, but both lawyers in the case asked for more time. Saavedra’s lawyer submitted the rest of his asylum case evidence on Jan. 21 for the immigration judge to make a decision. If he is not granted asylum, Saavedra intends to appeal the case. He expects to receive a decision during this week, and wants to keep the Kenyon community informed.
Saavedra began his activism as a student at Kenyon. At Sunday’s event, he discussed the importance of cooperation and finding common ground within the student body. He made the comparison between the present day and his time at Kenyon. “We were intersecting and talking with one other. It was just so beautiful and I think that this cross-pollination has just continued, and that’s beautiful to see,” he said.
When asked about what Kenyon could do as an institution, Saavedra talked about being cognizant of privilege. “Relative to the history of the world, I’m over-privileged,” he said. He focused on the importance of working against a passive acceptance of levels of privilege as they are. “To subvert that dynamic, how do we flip it?” he asked.
He noted how the College itself could be a way to access not just education, but the funds and opportunities for advocacy. The four Kenyon students who planned Sunday’s event—and the previous trip to New York City for Saavedra’s asylum hearing—recognized the opportunity and brought him to campus. “We got word that Marco, a Kenyon student, was going through this asylum proceeding, and we, as students, knew that we could use the funds and the equipment available to us from [Kenyon] to support him,” Camila Wise ’20, one of the organizers, said.
Another organizer, Jodi-Ann Wang ’20, reflected on how to stay connected to a cause, especially in the face of apathy. “I think we tend to lose sight of what we are really striving towards achieving, and Marco said something about finding what is beautiful and working towards finding that beauty,” she said.
Saavedra ended the Q&A by answering a question about where he finds joy in his work. He talked of the importance and ability to find joy in the self and the cause, despite the difficulties of activism. “So joy is a radical act,” he said. “Joy which love imparts.”