Hundreds gathered Tuesday evening on Cross Campus to demand the release of Melecio Andazola Morales, a Colorado resident detained for deportation and the father of Viviana Andazola Marquez ’18.
With #FreeMelecio projected onto the facade of Sterling Memorial Library, New Haven activists and friends of Andazola Marquez advocated for comprehensive immigration reform in the wake of her father’s detention, which spurred the Yale community into action over the weekend. Friends of Andazola Marquez started a GoFundMe campaign that raised over $60,000 in just three days to support Andazola Morales’ family, and La Casa Cultural hosted a phone-banking event to persuade politicians and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, officials to intervene.
Marching from La Casa to Cross Campus during Tuesday’s demonstration, Yale community members and New Haven residents chanted, “When migrant rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back.”
“It was not good enough that he followed the single and very narrow path to obtain lawful status,” a speaker at the rally read on behalf of Andazola Marquez. “This is not rule of law — this is cruelty.”
Earlier this year, Andazola Marquez filed a petition for her father, who crossed the border almost two decades ago, to obtain permanent stay in the United States. But Andazola Morales was detained last Thursday, just minutes after an ICE official told Andazola Marquez that her father had been recommended for approval.
On Wednesday, Andazola Marquez, who has been with her family in Colorado for the past week, will file a stay of removal, or a temporary postponement of Andazola Morales’ deportation, according to Nicole Chavez ’19, one of the demonstration’s organizers.
Fernando Rojas ’19, a friend of Andazola Marquez, said that legal developments will take time, adding that he and other students are treating the movement as a “long-term campaign” and will continue to broadcast the petition calling for Andazola Morales’ release from detention.
At the same time that hundreds gathered in New Haven, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and other activist groups organized a vigil near the detention center where Andazola Morales is being held. Students at 14 other colleges and universities shared messages of solidarity.
Among the rally speakers were Jason and Eric Ramos, Central Connecticut State University students whose parents received a temporary stay of deportation last month, allowing a judge to reconsider their case. After a moment of silence for immigrants at risk of deportation or danger, Jason Ramos said that this silence is an ongoing reality for many immigrants forced into hiding.
“It’s not a Hispanic problem; it’s not an immigrant problem; it’s a community issue; it’s a nation-wide issue,” he said. “We need to rise against this injustice.”
In a letter to Andazola Marquez that a speaker at the demonstration read aloud, Gary Okihiro, an Ethnicity, Race and Migration professor who taught Viviana’s “Introduction to Third World Studies” class, wrote that the United States had no national restrictions against European immigrants when they arrived centuries ago.
“All entered the United States without documents as free white persons,” Okihiro wrote. “Only when people of color were recruited to provide useful and necessary labor were laws passed to distinguish citizens from alien, legal from illegal.”
He also stressed that resistance emerges from oppression.
“Our resistance means showing compassion for those that are right now defying the system, to people that are living across the street in sanctuary,” said Jesus Morales Sanchez of Unidad Latina en Accion, a local immigrant rights advocacy group.
Sanchez reminded the crowd that Andazola Morales’ experience is not unique and called on attendees to advocate that their schools become sanctuary campuses and their hometowns sanctuary cities.
Kica Matos, director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Community Change, urged the audience to put pressure on Yale to use its resources and influence to advocate for immigration reform.
Several attendees interviewed by the News underscored Yale’s capacity to influence policy. Ryan Liu ’18, an attendee and a son of refugees, said that University President Peter Salovey should meet with members of Congress to advocate for immigrant rights.
In an interview with the News earlier this week, Salovey said that the experience of students like Andazola Marquez can become part of his conversations with elected officials as he discusses issues like immigration reform.
Felipe Baeza ART ’18 said that many are unaware that undocumented immigrants are members of the Yale community. The University should support these students, he added, but it should also offer legal support to those outside Yale.
A press release provided to the News by the students involved in advocacy efforts over the weekend emphasized Andazola Morales’ good character, stating that he has no criminal record, is a father of four U.S. citizens and has worked in construction in the U.S. for almost 20 years.