The 1.7 Million

The Obama administration in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have made it a priority to detain and deport 1.7 million members from our communities. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enacted a yearly quota of 400,000 deportations in 2010 in an attempt to surpass the 387,000 deportations from 2009. The profits made from these human transactions go into a cycle that pump nearly five billion dollars per year in profits to a private system, sanctioned by multiple levels of government. A cycle that pumps fear, destruction, and heartbreak into poor communities of color, sanctioned by multiple levels of government. A cycle that everyday sees 1,100 children, workers, friends, colleagues, family members, friends, and neighbors get yanked from their roots, sanctioned by multiple levels of government.

 Losing a loved one to deportation, and the constant danger of having that happen, is a reality our communities struggle and live with every second. While we fight as hard as we can against deportations–organizing rallies, making phone calls, trying to get legislators on our side–we have not been able to stop every deportation. For some of us this can feel like a personal failure, like we did not try hard enough, or if we should just have made one more phone call; however, we need to remember that deportations happen not because someone has no status in the country, or because they have a criminal record and are not citizens, but rather because there is a system in place that profits off of the criminalization, exploitation, detention, and deportation of people who are marginalized in this country.

On July 22, nine people at the Mexico-US border attempted to come back into the United States demanding the human right to travel and the choice to be with their families in their respective homes. Among the nine included are five undocumented youth that had been deported, one undocumented youth that had been forced to leave the US, and three undocumented organizers who went back to Mexico–out of dedication and love–to coordinate with them. One of these individuals is Lulu Martinez, a resident of Chicago, student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a community member that has organized alongside multiple communities  and IYJL. Currently President Obama, and the federal and private agencies under his directive, are holding six of the nine in dehumanizing solitary confinement at Eloy Detention Center. Initially they refused food because they were denied their right to phone access, and now they are refusing food until they are released. Such actions are truly horrendous, and any such actions being taken against undocumented immigrants are a threat to justice everywhere.

Border immigration activists

Although IYJL is not a member of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, we support the actions and tactics of our sister organizations and of our fellow immigrants thousands of miles away. Even when a person is removed from their home, held in detention, or deported, they are not forgotten. They, like everyone else, are integral keys of the magical piano that are our communities. The idea of home transcends borders, it transcends nationalism, singularities, it defies definition, redefines belonging, and breaks away from the imprisonment that holds many stationary. And yet an increasing militarization of our streets and borders, and economic and social policies that target marginalized communities, continue to shatter those ideas and keep loved ones apart. As fellow community members, we have the responsibility to support our neighbors and loved ones, although far away from us they still live and exist. Their ideas of home are as important here as they are there.

It is dumbfounded to think that a country believes it has the power to make you choose between the life you are building in it and the loved ones who are far away. Many of the families IYJL is currently working with, through the Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) initiative from the state-wide collective Undocumented Illinois, are being held without a right to a hearing and bond precisely because they opted to not let the US make this choice for them. People like Octavio and Celio, who are currently in detention, risked going back to countries where they fear for their lives and leaving their lives in the US to visit loved ones that were sick. When they tried to resume their lives in the US they were stopped at the border and deported. But it was that idea established through criminalization, exploitation, detention, and deportation that kept them away. We can not allow such injustices to continue and then wonder why they happened in the first place. We can not allow such injustices to continue and then wonder why the cycle continues.


The Immigrant Youth Justice League

Get Involved:

Please sign these six petitions to help us stop these deportations.

If you are from the state of Illinois and support the ‪#‎Dream9‬ calling the following legislators with the message below:

“Hi, I was calling to ask the member to sign onto Rep. Honda’s letter asking President Obama to free the Dream 9. The dreamers turned themselves into ICE at the Nogales border asking to be allowed to come home. I really think the member should sign onto this letter.”

Congressman Mike Quigley (202) 225-4061
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth 202-225-3711
Congressman Brad Schneider (202) 225-4835
Congressman Bill Enyart (202) 225-5661

Mail letters of support directly to the nine at Eloy Detention Center.

Have your organization Sign on to the organizational letter here. 

 Sign-on the petition directed towards President Obama and DHS.