Feelings of depression and worthlessness clouded up Joaquin Luna’s mind, an undocumented youth from Texas who committed suicide last year. In a country where undocumented youth are treated like less than equals but still strive to prove their self-worth everyday, many of them fall prey to depression and suicidal thoughts after feeling trapped and alone. One of these youth is Yanelli Hernandez Serrano.
Yanelli came to the United States at the age of 13. At the age of 13 I had to worry about finishing my homework and the cute boy in my class; however, these were not Yanelli’s worries. She made the journey to the U.S. alone and without family. She became independent at a young age and worked hard to provide a life for herself, doing whatever she had to do to survive. Imagine having to fend for yourself at the tneder age of 13 years old. Imagine working in a factory for over 7 years while your dreams of continuing your education continue to elude you. Imagine carrying such a heavy weight of responsibility on your shoulders. While most of us can only imagine, these are the facts of Yanelli’s life.
As time went by the same dark feelings of despair began to present themselves in Yanelli’s life and she started walking on the tightrope Joaquin was once on. Alone and searching for an escape from her undocumented reality, Yanelli found solace in alcohol and self-harm, leading to her first suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalization.
Facing a bogus forgery charge, sitting in detention has had an even bigger emotional toll on Yanelli. When she was pulled over by police last year, she was asked to present identification and gave the police officer her consular ID, the only one she had. Fueled by hate, racism, or just pure laziness, the police officer accused her of using false ID, though her consular ID was her only valid form of identification. Furthermore, she never tried to pass her consular ID as a driver’s license, as any casual observer can tell that the two are very different, yet Yanelli became the next victim of this administration’s quota-driven deportation system. Feeling helpless and alone, she attempted to take her life away a second and third time while in detention. She is now on anti-depressants, but her path to recovery cannot begin from inside of a jail cell. This is a cry for immediate help, the help we could not extend to Joaquin fast enough.
As if the injustice Yanelli has faced at the hands of those who claim to uphold the law, to protect and serve was not enough, she was also blatantly lied to and effectively trapped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Though the detention center Yanelli is being held in does not receive direct mail, ICE agreed to pass on a legal packet prepared for Yanelli that included letters of support, medical history and crucial evidence for her to use in court, as she would be defending herself. Though ICE explicitly told Yanell’s legal aid that they had passed on the information, they instead purposefully withheld it and Yanelli went to court with absolutely no preparation or guidance yesterday. Feeling alone, frustrated and depressed, with a very shaky mental health foundation, Yanelli was forced to give into pressure and received a final order of removal. All she wants is to be released from detention so that she can receive the medical help she so desperately needs.
In case that was not clear, ICE deliberately withheld Yanelli’s documents and evidence for her legal defense from her the day she was to appear in front of a judge. Yanelli is under attack; what will you choose to do about it?
Despite so many obstacles in her 22 years, Yanelli aspires to become a veterinarian and care for wounded pets or work with children in a social work setting. Her humanity and desire to obtain her dreams are limited as she still sits in detention and needs our immediate action.
“The worst thing you could probably do to someone who is suicidal is to leave them alone in their moment(s) of crisis. Deporting someone where they have no support system is doing just that, which will most likely increase their risk of suicide. If someone is deported to a country where they haven’t been to since birth, their community ties and support are non-existent. Regardless of whether they have family there, this person can not assume a trusting, nurturing, and loving environment. It takes time to build a support system, none the less one that can support you through suicide attempts. Someone who has attempted to harm themselves, in this way, need individual support, family, and friends near them supporting their healing process. There are find mental health and community-based organizations that provide counseling services for people and families who have experienced this, help that she is less likely to find should she be deported.” -Chicago-based social worker Jacqueline Luna, MSW.
Please sign the petition, make a call and share this with your friends. We need YOUR help to get Yanelli out of detention and back to her waiting and loving community so that she can receive the medical treatment she so urgently needs. Joaquin’s plea for help was not answered soon enough; please don’t let the same be true for Yanelli.
If you had the chance to save a life in 5 minutes, would you do it?