Last Thursday, Melecio Andazola Morales, the father of Viviana Andazola Marquez ’18, was arrested and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Denver, Colorado.
Within 24 hours, the Yale community was ignited with an extraordinary fervor, flooding social media outlets and politicians’ phone lines in a relentless effort to support Andazola Morales and his family. A petition to the acting field director of Colorado ICE calling for Andazola Morales’ release from detention garnered roughly 9,700 signatures in three days. An online fundraiser to support the family’s legal fees raised over $64,000 in that same period. La Casa Cultural transformed, in a matter of hours, from a cultural center to a veritable call center. Students from across the University dialed their phones, opened their laptops and spoke up, hounding the politicians and institutions handling Andazola Morales’ case.
In short, the Yale community seemingly dropped everything it was doing to show up for one of its own and her family.
The minutiae of Yale can hide the threads that run through all of us; we get caught up easily in our own classes, extracurriculars, suites and colleges. But the activism we’ve seen over the weekend — the care and concern with which members of the Yale community banded together to support the Andazola family — is a source of light in this time of darkness.
The truth is, however, that we don’t yet know whether these efforts will prove fruitful — Andazola Morales is still in detainment. What we do know is that his situation is not unique.
The past few days have been a jarring experience for many and the most tangible connection to a larger conversation about immigration for most. In an age in which discussions about borders, the Deferred Arrivals for Childhood Arrivals program and refugee resettlement abound, perhaps Andazola Morales’ story is the one that hits closest to home. But New Haven is no stranger to deportation conversations, even if students have not always been a part of them.
The story of Andazola Morales follows those of Marco Antonio Reyes and Nury Chavarria, two longtime Connecticut residents who, in recent months, have dealt with the threat of deportation by seeking sanctuary in New Haven churches. And his story mirrors that of hundreds of thousands of other undocumented immigrants across this country.
In this moment of newly impassioned activism we should ask ourselves, Why now?
A personal connection to the issue at stake makes it all the more real — the Facebook posts more urgent, the phone calls more dire, the emails more pressing — but no less important than the similar experiences of our neighbors across the city, the state and the country.
Activists ought to turn this moment into a movement, one that harnesses the fire pulsing through the souls of Yalies in support of Andazola Morales and those like him and that recognizes the urgency and inhumanity of the predicament affecting hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Immigration and deportation aren’t just legal issues. Powerful activism should be proactive and not just reactive: It’s about more than bombarding bureaucrats and signing petitions in a time of painful crisis. It revolves around a question foundational to Yale and, indeed, our country: Where is the line between humanity and the law?
Yale’s activism over the past couple days wasn’t the result of some calculated legal analysis. It was more instinctive, more impulsive than that. It was rooted in a sense of what is right.
We know, not as legal scholars but as friends, that the legal framework of our immigration system is deeply flawed when a father of four who has spent the past two decades of his life contributing meaningfully to a country he loves, has a target on his back.
At its best, the fabric of America is not vindictive and insular but instead fair-minded and compassionate. To realize this vision is to weave the activism and humanity Yale demonstrated this past weekend into a more sustained effort. And from this moment, we can build a movement.