Alex Zhang

The campaign to free Melecio Andazola Morales from detention in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility has gained national momentum since Yale students began advocating for Andazola Morales a week and a half ago.

Students from San Diego University, Harvard, Brown, Barnard College and nine other college campuses across the country have sent photos of themselves — in groups ranging from two to roughly 60 — making gestures of solidarity for Andazola Morales to be disseminated on social media by the student leaders at Yale. In addition to local news sources in Connecticut and Colorado, national media outlets such as Think Progress, Mitú and Teen Vogue have also published articles on Andazola Morales’ detainment, and last Wednesday MSNBC interviewed Viviana Andazola Marquez ’18 about her family’s situation.

For the Yale students advocating on behalf of Andazola Morales and his family, the increase in national visibility represents a welcome fulfillment of their efforts to raise awareness.

“We’ve seen what the Yale community is capable of doing to support its own, and we have been heartened to see people come out again for Viviana and Melecio,” said Fernando Rojas ’19.

As of Sunday evening, a GoFundMe page for Andazola Morales and his family had raised more than $70,000, and over 22,000 people had signed an online petition calling for his release from detention. Last Sunday, before the movement began receiving national media coverage, there were 7,380 signatures on the petition and roughly $63,000 pledged in the GoFundMe.

Rojas and Samuel Bennett ’19, both of whom have helped lead the student campaign at Yale to aid Andazola Morales, said their team has been in touch with students at other universities since the beginning of their work.

Last weekend, Rojas, Bennett and other friends of Andazola Marquez coordinated to post the photos of students from other colleges on the Free Melecio Facebook page in anticipation of a rally in support of Andazola Morales on Tuesday night. For many of those non-Yale students, pledging support for Andazola Morales’ cause represents an opportunity to call attention to the broader problems that plague America’s immigration system.

“It is important, now more than ever, for us to use our privilege and voices as university students to join the momentum being harnessed through the labor of grassroots movements and community organizations committed to the struggle for immigrant rights,” said Maria Arbelaez, speaking on behalf of the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition. “Using our collective voices and influences we must demand our university, community and government institutions to commit to the protection of all immigrants.”

Arbelaez added that the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition officially stands in solidarity with Andazola Morales, his family and all families and individuals victimized and threatened by “this administration … [and] the oppressive practices that have led to today’s immigration bans, mass deportations, mass raids and immigration detention centers.”

The leaders of the movement at Yale to free Andazola Morales have been in contact with immigrants rights organizations since last Friday, according to Bennett and Rojas. The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, one of the groups that has been working closely with Yale students, has rallied support for Andazola Morales both throughout Colorado and on a national scale.

“The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition is working with a network of national partners that are helping bring attention to Melecio’s case. Melecio belongs with his family and with his community,” Cristian Solano-Córdova, communications manager of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, told the News. “His right and his family’s right to pursue happiness is inalienable … this administration is adamant on cruelly and unfairly tearing families apart, even those that are attempting to pursue the legal avenues available to adjust their status.”

Solano-Córdova added that one of the national groups they work with is the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a coalition of grassroots organizations fighting for immigrant rights. Reform Immigration for America, an online division of the Alliance for Citizenship coalition, has also begun making social media posts in support of Andazola Morales.

Andazola Morales is a father of four children.

Britton O’Daly |