Jose is suffering from depression and high blood pressure, both of which his parents fear are not being properly monitored. He lives in constant fear of being killed by gangs in El Salvador, which is exactly what has happened to several people in his neighborhood.
1. Sign the petition and get the word out: ”Why are young people being deported to face gang violence?” —————————–>
2. Make Calls!
Call Atlanta ICE @ 404-893-1210
Call ICE – John Morton @ 202-732-3000 or 202-732-3100
Sample Script: “Hi, I am calling to urge ICE to release Jose Rene Ayala (A#200-237-983) from Stewart Detention Center and stop his deportation. Jose suffers from depression and needs to be with his parents, not in El Salvador, where gangs have already murdered several people in his neighborhood. Please release Jose immediately!”
The Undocuhealth Project, which began as a by-product of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), is commemorating its first anniversary by celebrating Undocumented Mental Health Day and honoring Yanelli Hernandez & Joaquin Luna.
The group emphasizes the importance of mental and physical health access for all undocumented people. As such the group believes that any Comprehensive Immigration Reform must include a path for undocumented immigrants to receive medical care under the Affordable Care Act.
The Undocuhealth Project stemmed from the NIYA’s organizing to stop Yanelli’s deportation in January 2012. Yanelli, an Ohio native, was put in deportation proceedings for showing her Consulate ID card to a police officer. Once in jail, she attempted to take her life various times due to her constant battle with depression. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denied these claims to only proceed with her removal on January 31st.
Similarly in November of 2011, Joaquin Luna, a promising student, took his own life due to the psychological toll of being undocumented. Activists nationwide stood up and demanded that the mental health needs of undocumented people in this country are recognized as a real issue and declared January 31st as National Undocumented Mental Health Day.
Currently, NIYA alongside Undocuhealth, ask President Obama for a more humane treatment of all immigrants regardless of documentation. This includes adding provisions to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform proposal that provide access to health care services under the Affordable Care Act.
Most immigrants contribute to the United States economy regardless of their legal status by paying both sales and income taxes. There is also an urgent need to stop the implementation of 287g and Secure Communities programs that are tearing families apart and maintaining the cycle of unjust deportations. As members of the Undocuhealth team like to call it: “Treatment Not Deportation.”
Angelica Velazquillo, a graduate student at the University of Chicago and an undocumented youth activist, says that even accessing health services at local clinics can be cumbersome, as many have waiting lists for mental services.
Fellow activist Marco Saavedra adds that the health service centers at universities and high schools might not have counselors who have a lot of experience with undocumented immigrants.
“From my experience, the counselors in my boarding school didn’t know how to help me because they haven’t come across undocumented students before,” says Saavedra, an Ohio resident who immigrated from Mexico in 1993. “In order to fully understand their patients, they have to be well-versed enough in the immigration system of this country and know what these people have been through.”
In a case earlier this year, 22-year-old Yanelli Hernandez attempted suicide twice while being detained at Butler County Jail in Ohio. Hernandez had been arrested on a DUI charge and was awaiting deportation. Her case became the cause célèbre for many immigration groups, including National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) and the Chicago-based Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL). Activists demanded that Hernandez be released from detention so she could receive treatment for depression, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced in late January that she was deported to Mexico.
Saavedra, who is a friend of Hernandez’s and organizes with NIYA, experienced the conditions inside a detention facility firsthand when he infiltrated the Broward Transition Center in Florida in July. Saavedra and another NIYA activist, Viridiana Martinez, intentionally turned themselves in at Port Everglades in order to raise awareness about the detention and deportation proceedings are like.
“The wait while you’re inside [the detention center] is huge mentally,” Saavedra says. “It was taxing. The center is nowhere near their families and these people don’t know their legal rights. They’re about to be deported to countries where they have no resources.”
Saavedra says that though the detention center was very similar to a motel, the psychological effects of being imprisoned take a toll on the undocumented immigrants, especially the minors.
Furthermore, detention and deportation often causes family separation, something that Velazquillo personally experienced. In 2010, her brother Erick was driving home from the gym in North Carolina when a cop pulled him over for driving with his high beams on. He was arrested and charged for driving without a license and spent three days in jail. He posted a bond and was released, but for almost a year, his future remained uncertain as he faced the prospect of deportation back to Mexico. Velazquillo and her family worked with NC DREAM Team to publicize her brother’s case. After a judge granted her brother a reprieve, ICE officials decided in August 2011 to let him stay in the country.
“For those who find themselves or their loved ones in detention, it causes a lot of distress,” Velazquillo says. “You’re separated from your family, and it’s hard to get in touch with them to try to get information about what’s going on. The financial aspect is also a huge burden, having to post a bond for them to be released. And the effect it has on children in the family, it’s hard to explain to them what’s going on.”
Velazquillo and other organizers from NIYA decided to use the healing power of a support system to help other undocumented youth across the country. They started Undocuhealth, a blog that deals specifically with the mental health needs of undocumented immigrants.
“We wanted a place where we could talk about these issues because they are not being addressed,” Velazquillo says. “We want to be able to provide resources for those who need it.”
Saavedra says that he is hopeful he and other activists can increase understanding and awareness among Americans about undocumented youth.
“I hope our work humanizes DREAMers instead of having people think of us as ‘illegal’ or ‘border crossers,’” Saavedra says. “People need to recognize that we can suffer from depression just like they can.”
My name is Irvin Xochitla, I am a 20-year-old suffering from kidney failure. I was diagnosed with the illness at the age of 13 and on June 2 ,2006, I got put on a treatment called peritoneal dialysis.
On this treatment, I have to be hooked up to a machine every night for nine hours. This treatment does the work my kidneys are supposed to do and is the reason I’m still alive. The day that I turned 18, things got rough for me in Atlanta, where I was raised since I was an 8-month-old baby.
Months later after my 18th birthday, I wasrefused further treatment at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta since I didn’t have health insurance, was unable to pay for further treatment, and am unable to apply for any type of Medicare in the state of Georgia because of my undocumented status.
Throughout the time that I was without a doctor to provide me with care and medicine, I managed to survive on my own with the treatment I had at home that lasted me a good while. However, I was also in and out the hospital and constantly getting sick.
I am now living by myself in Los Angeles after being forced to leave my home and family back in Georgia. I can get the treatment I need here in spite of my immigration status until age 21. At that point, the state can no longer provide me insurance. Please help me raise money so that I can apply for my deferred action and have a better chance of continuing to receive treatment and return to my family when I turn 21.
Maria was recently discharged from a medical facility where she was held for having suicidal thoughts. Reason: She is terrorized by the thought of being deported back to El Salvador where she experienced and witnessed sexual and physical abuse. Her doctor recommended 2 years of treatment. Maria must be released to the care of her family immediately!
Please sign her petition and make a call:
Call ICE – John Morton @ 202-732-3000 or 202-732-3100
Sample Script: “Hi, I’m calling to ask that ICE release Maria Caballero (A# 077.406.334) from Broward Transitional Center. Maria experienced and witnessed sexual and physical abuse in El Salvador. She has been in the U.S. for 15 years. She has 2 U.S. citizen children and a husband who is a permanent resident. She suffers from PTSD and needs treatment not detention. Maria is a low-priority case and should be released immediately. Keep this family together and let Maria go.”
As the holiday season begins, there is a promising outlook both for Deferred Action applicants and recipients. There is even the hope of possibly obtaining driver’s licenses. In the midst of this progress, the unjust deportation of low-priority cases continue. Families continue to be separated by policies such as 287g and Secure Communities. Is there anything we can do to make a difference within our own communities, our families and friends?
Yes, there is.
We can start today by taking a moment to remember Joaquin Luna, honoring his memory by recognizing our common struggle: when we question, when we wonder and doubt if we are going to be able to continue our education, or work, or eventually to be able to live without fear of detention and deportation. Addressing these doubts, Joaquin’s mother gives us this advice: “Yo pienso que hay que seguir adelante… para todo hay solucion menos la muerte. Luchen.” In other words, “I think we have to continue forward… there is a solution for everything except death. [You must] fight.”
While we might not all qualify or benefit from Deferred Action or driver’s licenses in our states, we will continue working until there is justice for all immigrants, regardless of our legal status. If you have questions or doubts please speak to someone you trust, seek help, and always remember that you are not alone.
Sometimes by Angy Rivera
Sometimes, I just don’t know what to say.
New Emails, texts, calls each day
looking for the happy me
Or A reason to keep going
Feelings I may not have
Each day’s a battle
Sometimes, I want to sit here in my bed and cry my heart out
because the words won’t come out.
Let my frustration flow away
Not knowing what to do, where to go
My soul is heavy like the burden of being undocumented
with this inner ocean circulating
Like a tornado all consuming
Not my spirit. Please Don’t stop fighting
Sometimes, I want to yell and scream at people who say we’re free.
My mom still believes in the American dream
Tired of things not being how they seem
Looking happy now, but visit me behind the scenes
Sometimes, I don’t want to chant at rallies or attend meetings
Feeling Insignificant and useless
Mighty giants that cannot vote
Can they even hear my voice?
What about all the stories that go untold
Sometimes, I don’t want to pick up the phone
I want to be left alone
To drown in my own misery
pissed off at everything
till I fall asleep curled up like a ball
Holding on to happy memory-shaped pillows
And sweet love- colored blankets
Sometimes I want to write
But the pen doesn’t seem to move
Feeling like there’s no words left in me
No one’s hearing my silent pleas
Sometimes, I feel homesick
to a home I do not know
Place I cannot go
Located in a Distant dream
One I’m unable to reach
Tired and sick of it all
I sometimes want to let go
But that’s only today
tomorrow’s a new day
I believe that one of the most horrific unexpected moments of life is falling into incredible moments of what seems to be a mental disasters, especially ones you do not want to revisit. I have been here before and I know this road all too well. I mean that is the risk we take as Undocumented Youth right? It is like walking on a thin rope, blindfolded, while extremely high winds are pushing against us. I especially felt this during my teens when I was not doing any form of organizing and did not have a sense of community. I was just left with a bag of shit to show for all my efforts. However, this second moment of what I like to call “Mental Disasters” did not leave me with that, it seems like every new moment leaves me with several bags of something to carry, in this case it has left me with an empty one, not even air, because where there is air there is room for hope and there is none.
Last time I wrote about mental health, I said that there was a glimpse of hope, but where do you go when that wears down? Hope can only last so long before something gives in, right? Well, let me tell you that these last several months have been fun, but at the end of the night I end up empty and numb. You see I worked for a company for three years and got laid off due to low sales. At first I panicked and felt very desperate, the thought of not being able to collect unemployment, and knowing I have very little chances of finding a new job totally made me lose it. After several weeks of feeling trapped in a dark but revealing moment I came to terms with everything: Moving out, couch surfing, floor sleeping, and all that good stuff we get to do when we lose a job.
As you know some have a house to go back to when shit hits the fan. I call it “having the privilege of family” and the only times I felt such privilege was back in high school, or when I was with my ex- and we all got together for Christmas before my parents got divorced, or at her place before she and I broke up. Now you can guess that shit has gone out the window. I later learned to look at the good side of losing my job and started to reason. I was miserable and hated it there, but it paid the bills and kept food in my stomach so it kept me down like an anchor. Secondly I fucking hated the city I lived in, it was bringing me down, I was depressed, unhappy, I could not walk down the street without having her ghost follow me around. This led me to actually see this job loss as a push to snap out of it.
After weeks for preparing for the move, I gathered my shit up, threw it on a storage near downtown, and made my way out of the San Fernando Valley. I hated the valley, and the city surrounding areas always brought joy to me since I was a kid, and I saw that as a perfect way to move on. You see around there I did not see her ghost. I saw the ghost of me as a high school kid ditching school just to go skateboarding and hit up the beach. Such joy, I thought, plus I was linked up to some of the best Undocumented Youth Organizers I have come across, not just here locally but nationally. This eventually took my couch surfing journey out of Central L.A. and into Berkeley and the surrounding Bay Area.
I ended up in Berkeley with a long time friend of mine that eventually got into organizing through me. I was asked to to do the sit in at the Obama For America office in Oakland and was there for that purpose in the first place, later that expanded. Being up there felt like I did not exist, like the Luis from L.A. was in a coma for two months. I was so happy up there and yet so numb, but it was that combination of mental chemical imbalances that made me alright. I felt like the sunshine was brighter which made a lot of sense. I was surrounded by bamazing wombyn/friends and a one-eyed dog that lent me their couch. Everyday was something new, I met tons of new amazing people that I fell in love with. We hit up Lake Merritt, The Mission, Dolores Park, and all the beautiful places the Bay has to offer, all while the thought that in a few this moment would have to be over. When I was up there I left that empty bag back here in Los Angeles, and I knew as soon as I got back I would come back to that, so that fucking shitty thought always lingered. What was supposed to be a few weeks in the Bay turned into months, and let me tell you they happened to be two very eventful ones.
A good friend of mine that used to live back here in L.A. had some problems and had to move down. I was happy and sad for him. Mainly happy because I was making that journey back into reality with him, and he is one of my best friends so what else could I ask for. However, that sad part, well that is his personal life and not up to me to write on here, so I will continue rolling with the punches.
The drive back to L.A. made me feel like Frodo right after he dropped that ring in the fire just to head back to Shire, all that cool shit, just to head back to his regular old Hobbit ways. Well that was me! Another great friend of mine called me several weeks back and said I could crash in his couch while I find a job. I have been here since I got back and I am looking for job, pretty fucking hard not to feel hopeless or worthless, by the way remember that empty bag? Well I stopped trying to fill it up with something and decided to burn it into ashes, because I am not gonna let HOPE define me as a human being, because hope is for those that see a light at the end. That is the one thing I learned these last four months as I ventured around. Live and let live, take everyday for what it is, a new day. Planning is useless when you are Undocumented. Call me jaded, but no I am just frustrated and lost.
Civic power is embracing who we are: Undocumented, Unafraid, and Unashamed with the objective to organize and improve the quality of life for our community. It is taking center stage to share our stories, advocate for our rights, and to challenge the status quo through different means and actions. Recently, this has meant infiltrating detention centers to help detainees who have been unjustly incarcerated.
Individually and collectively, we see how living in fear is affecting us physically, emotionally, and mentally. People are depressed, anxious, or even suicidal. The challenge is there are many who need help and resources are limited for those without “papers.” Affording the out-of-pocket costs of these services is another problem. People without health insurance and limited work opportunities cannot afford to pay for services or medication they may need.
This is the reason we created Undocuhealth: we want to address the issues that are affecting us. It is vital to recognize the problems/challenges we face in order to find solutions and resources that people can access regardless of their legal status.
We are building a support network that is sustainable, representative of our community, and can refer people to services and health care providers in their area.
In the Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice, the members of the Undocuhealth team stand in solidarity and support for equal access to affordable health care services regardless of socio-economic status, sexual orientation, and/or legal status. We are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and should have access to those services we need to preserve our health and well-being.
Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice August 6th -10th 2012
How do we deal with the pain, the challenges, the fear and frustration of being undocumented, of living with restrictions and the constant threat of deportation?
For me there is a place, a space, where I drop my worries, my fears, and face the despair threatening to consume me. It is my sanctuary where I celebrate the hope that bubbles, that rises, that invigorates me.
It captures. It alleviates. It saves me.
Shook and tumbled
Made us fall
Then everything took a turn
An unforeseen course
Instead of taking flight
We decided to fight
Not a ticket but a petition
Not acceptance but resistance
Not submission but dissent
Not reluctance but decision
Amongst the darkness
Given and Ignored
By our side
They were present
Not a deportation
Not a resolution
Limbo once more…
Alicia Torres Don knows how to fight. In the ring she is known as La Aguila Dorada, or the Golden Eagle, a luchadora character she developed around her fight for justice. However, outside the ring, she is best known for another fight: for the rights of undocumented youth living in fear and uncertainty inside the U.S.
The story of Alicia Torres Don is one of struggle. It is about her fight to be equal in a society that treats her as something less. She came to the United States at the age of six, clutched in the arms of her parents who left Mexico for a better life. Despite not knowing English, Alicia quickly acclimated to a new culture in Austin, Texas, earned high marks throughout school, and went to college to study nursing. “I was privileged,” she says, pointing out that most states do not offer in-state tuition to undocumented students. She had yet to experience such limitations.
Her final semester in college, however, Alicia was forced to confront her status when a Social Security number requirement prevented her from completing required clinical exams. “It was one of the worst days of my life, she said. “I felt like I had failed.”
Refusing to accept this reality, Alicia searched and found a community college where she could complete her degree. But despite having earned her high school diploma and college degree in the United States, she could not work as a nurse. She did not have a Social Security number.
Alicia remained in Austin with her family, earning money translating and babysitting. But everything changed when her mother was diagnosed with kidney failure. Alicia panicked. Doctors in Austin were unable to treat her mother because of her status, forcing Alicia to confront her undocumented identity again.
Alicia searched across the country for a hospital or clinic that would treat her mother. A U.S. citizen with health insurance in this situation would receive treatment in an outpatient dialysis clinic, paying a standard deductible and co-pay. But for undocumented immigrants, who typically work in low-wage jobs with no benefits, there is not system for treatment. Alicia and her family report their earnings and pay taxes, though they are ineligible for most benefits, including Social Security. Emergency Medicare funds helps pay for a significant portion of the dialysis treatment, however these funds are generally not accepted in outpatient clinics, resulting in thousands of dollars in additional costs every week.
When Alicia found a hospital in North Carolina with funding available to cover the ER costs, she dropped everything. She and her brother immediately moved their mother to North Carolina, leaving behind the family and the home they had known since they were children.
Alicia’s mother continues to receive treatment in North Carolina, though her health slowly deteriorates. Being apart from her family, Alicia says, is the most difficult part of her life right now. “My mom shouldn’t have to live through this situation,” she said.