Jordana and her mother came to the U.S. on a visa waiver, escaping Argentina’s economic crisis at the time. The visa waiver program allows people from certain countries to come to the U.S. for 90 days without requiring a visa. The catch? You are required to waive your right to review or contest any action for removal in the future.
Jordana struggled with language and cultural barriers initially, but quickly learned English and began to excel in school. Junior year in high school, she began working to help support her family. As she worked more hours, she began to miss days at school. Due to work, she was absent from school so much that she was forced to repeat her senior year. Once she learned the impact her lack of status would have on her dreams of going to college, she became discouraged that all she worked so hard for was for nothing. She left school, choosing to work and continue to support her family as a waitress.
As long shifts at the restaurant began to take a toll, and with no brighter prospects in her immediate future, she decided to go back and get her GED. She completed the GED program successfully, deciding to save up money to pursue her education at a local community college. Her plans for Fall 2011 enrollment were interrupted last July when ICE visited Jordana’s home while searching for another family member. They forcibly entered and Jordana, the only one home, was arrested and detained once they learned of her status. She was taken to a detention center, and on August 4, 2011, a few weeks later, was taken to the airport for deportation to Argentina. Jordana refused to board her flight and in retaliation, ICE sent her to Hudson County Jail, where conditions were much worse than the detention center she was previously in.
She spent her 24th birthday in jail and spent New Year’s without any family or friends. In January, she was sent to a different detention center and on March 1st, her appeal to stay in the U.S. based on her DREAM Act eligibility was denied and she was again ordered deported. Further legal attempts to utilize prosecutorial discretion for a stay of removal for her have been unresponsive as of the writing of this post. This means that Jordana could literally be deported ANY SECOND NOW.
24 year-old Jordana has spent over 9 months in detention centers and jails. She spends her days translating for and empowering other detained women who have not been made aware of the rights they have.
Her “crime?” Being undocumented. Her punishment? Deportation away from the country that she calls her home, that is home to her friends and family, and the place she envisions her future as a lawyer or psychologist. Her tools of defense? None, according to the immigration system, as she apparently consciously waived her rights to contest any form of removal as a 12 year-old coming from Argentina. Let’s break this down with some Q&A.
Do you think that, at 12 years old, Jordana was fully aware of the implications of permanently waiving her rights, or that she could have imagined the consequences 12 years later?
The Attorney General of the United States seems to think so, claiming that, “Although [Jordana] Vera was a minor when she entered the United States she was not such tender years that she could not possibly have executed the waiver.” Interestingly enough though, the government has failed to produce documentation that Jordana ever executed a waiver. So there is no proof of Jordana ever waiving her rights at the tender age of 12 years old.
Furthermore, the government argues that regardless of if Jordana executed a waiver or not, it doesn’t matter because she would have still been undocumented and thus subject to removal at the end of the day.
In other words, we [the mighty government] don’t need to prove ourselves within the context of the law because you [you lowly brown person] are still undocumented and therefore not entitled to any rights. Not only are they knowingly denying Jordana her agency, they are also denying her opportunities for legal recourse.
The system depends on undocumented people continuing to believe they are powerless, voiceless, and defenseless. This is one of the reasons why we must come out and self-identify, because the narrative that is being written of us is erasing our history and our humanity all at once. Can we afford to stand back while our existence is being denied?
What legal recourse could Jordana possibly have you ask?
Remember all the brou-ha-ha about prosecutorial discretion for qualified undocumented youth, how we were “low-priority” for deportation? Remember the magical Morton memo? Well Jordana fits the profile perfectly as a qualified undocumented youth, and yet, absolutely no prosecutorial discretion has been extended in her case. In the meantime, this administration would have you believe that not only are they are not deporting “qualified” undocumented youth, but they are not actively targeting undocumented youth.
Well put down your cup of Kool-Aid because both of these are blatant lies and political pontificating. Every day, there are more Jordanas and Gersons and Uriels that no one hears of because they are targeting when their backs are turned and no one is looking. They fuel for-profit detention centers while filling numbers quotas for this administration’s quest to literally, it seems, deport them all.
Is the punishment here fitting of the crime?
Deportation isn’t simply like going on vacation to where you were born. It means being forcibly ejected from your home, your safe space, often with no warning and with no time to gather any material belonging but the clothes on your back. It means being subjected to the weary process of incarceration to chip away at your sense of self-worth and your willingness to fight back. It means sitting on a plane or bus, whose ticket you were forced to pay for, with absolutely no idea what awaits you on the other side but the unfamiliar and uncertain. It means arriving in a place that is foreign to you, with no support system to lean on, and only sheer luck to depend on to find housing, food and some form of work to provide income. Yet it is the very lack of these things that forces people to make the difficult choice to leave in search of better opportunity to begin with.
Migration is hard. The choice to leave the land of your ancestors, the soil of your blood and take your chances in a completely unfamiliar land in a different culture is one of the hardest choices that many parents and grandparents are forced to make. They choose to migrate to ensure survival, not to seek riches.
So who deserves to be deported? It is very easy to judge, to make a distinction between “good dreamers” who are worth saving and “bad dreamers” who are not even worthy of your petition signature, to fail to contextualize our experiences as undocumented and the choices we are sometimes forced to make because there are no other options that will guarantee our survival. Who are we to draw imaginary lines in the sand that only serve to further our self-oppression, to push others back into the shadows as we bask in the light?
Is it a crime to be undocumented?
It’s a social crime these days, yes, because we immigrants are to blame for everything – global warming, overpopulating the planet, the economic crisis, wild fires across the United States (but where is Smokey the Bear I ask?); we’re a busy bunch. Is it a lawful crime though? No. Being in the U.S. without status is a civil offense. “Illegal is illegal” isn’t even a complete sentence. Hence it is not a crime to be undocumented and therefore Jordana is NOT a criminal. So then, according to this administration, she should not be targeted for deportation. Which means this administration is openly lying to you, to me, to our communities. Are you still sipping on that Kool-Aid? I know it’s tasty, but is your freedom worth those extra sugar calories? I think not.
Was there any way Jordana, through her own consciousness and actions, could have avoided being undocumented?
Remember how our immigration system is all broken into a million little ineffective, backlogged, unjust pieces? Meaning that there is no current pathway to legalization for someone like Jordana. She, like the majority of us, is not choosing to remain undocumented because she watched it on Jersey Shore or saw it was a trending topic on Twitter. She is undocumented because systems at work – migration, capitalism, globalization, class inequality, colonialism (the zoo of elephants in the room that we all need to stop being so afraid to acknowledge) – force her to. Because it is more convenient for this country to retain a population of second-class, low-skilled labor force to use and abuse than to even consider the possibility that she is a human being with a voice, a story, and worth.
So in conclusion, yes undocumented youth (along with the entire undocumented community) are being openly targeted for deportation, regardless of what any Morton memo, prosecutorial discretion announcement, or ambiguous levels of deportation priority might have you believe. We are being targeted behind closed doors as ICE, through Secure Communities, 287 (g) and a plethora of state-level anti-immigrant bills, slowly closes in on immigrant communities across the nation. We are being blinded by Democratic inaction, and the blindfold will only be tied tighter as the elections near until we wake up one day and we find ourselves surrounded.
We cannot afford to let that happen. We cannot afford to leave our destiny in the hands of those who are not affected and do not share our experiences. We cannot afford to silence our voices for those who would rather play superhero and “speak on the behalf of those poor, oppressed undocumented youth.” We cannot afford to turn our backs on undocumented youth who do not meet artificial standards dictated to us by those who will never feel an ounce of our struggle. We cannot afford to stop trusting in ourselves and the various ways in which we choose to identify, to escalate and to take action. We cannot afford to let Jordana slip through the cracks that widen every single day.
So toss out that Kool-Aid and have a glass of empowerment over ICE – you choose the flavor. And while you enjoy that, do us a favor and help stop Jordana’s deportation – here’s how:
Sign her petition, then pass it on to 5 other people to sign it too: CLICK HERE
Share on Twitter: “Undocumented Youth Targeted by ICE – Save Jordana from Imminent Deportation! http://bit.ly/GDLByZ”
Facebook Status: “We can’t afford to sit back and let ICE continue to attack our communities. Jordana has been targeted, is under attack, and facing deportation to Argentina any second now! Where’s her prosecutorial discretion? Will you help us stop her deportation? http://bit.ly/GDLByZ”
Are you SURE you signed the petition? DO IT