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2013-10-04

"Undocumented and Unafraid": 30 Immigrants Detained Crossing Into U.S. at Border Protest

Guests

Javier Cortes, 16-year-old activist detained earlier this week at U.S. border crossing. He has lived in the United States since his family came here when he was three years old.

Javier Calderon, detained earlier this week at U.S. border crossing.

Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro, director of Immigration and National Campaigns at the National Council of La Raza.

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Earlier this week, more than 30 undocumented youth who lived in the United States as children, as well as three of their parents, were held by authorities after they attempted to re-enter the United States from Mexico at the crossing in Laredo, Texas. It is the second time in three months that undocumented immigrants have attempted to re-enter the United States through an official point of entry in an act of protest. On Monday, the activists marched across a bridge connecting Mexico to the United States wearing graduation caps and gowns, chanting "Undocumented and unafraid." We speak to two of the people released, Javier Cortés and his father, Javier Calderón, who are from Michoacán, Mexico. Cortés has lived in the United States since his family came here when he was three years old. They left the United States to visit an ailing family member in Mexico, knowing re-entering the country would be difficult.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring into this conversation two people who were part of a protest this week, when more than 30 undocumented youth who lived in the United States as children, as well as three of their parents, were held by authorities after they attempted to re-enter the United States from Mexico at the Laredo, Texas, crossing. It’s the second time in three months that undocumented immigrants have attempted to re-enter the U.S. through an official point of entry. A group called the DREAM 9 was held for three weeks after trying to enter the U.S. in July. All nine are now seeking asylum. On Monday, the activists marched across a bridge connecting Mexico to the United States, wearing graduation caps and gowns, chanting "Undocumented and unafraid!"

ACTIVISTS: Undocumented! Unafraid! Undocumented! Unafraid! Undocumented! Unafraid! Undocumented! Unafraid! Undocumented! Unafraid! Undocumented! Unafraid! Undocumented! Unafraid!

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Nine of the people who were detained after they crossed in Laredo have been released on humanitarian parole. They include four DREAMers and their parents. The others were transferred to a processing center in El Paso.

Well, two of the people released join us now from Laredo via Democracy Now! video stream. Javier Cortés, who is 16, and his father, Javier Calderón, are from Michoacán, Mexico. Javier Cortés has lived in the United States since his family came here when he was three years old.

Welcome, both of you, to Democracy Now! Javier Cortés, could you tell us what you were trying to do with the protest that was held yesterday?

JAVIER CORTÉS: Yeah, we were just trying to go back home, me and the other DREAMers, all together, and family. You know, we were all just trying to go back home, because we all fear going back to Mexico, for reasons like, you know, we feel unsafe, or we have like—we struggle, and stuff like that. So we were trying to go back home.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did your family return to Mexico, Javier?

JAVIER CORTÉS: Me and my dad returned to—and my mom and my little brother and my sister returned to Mexico because we had an urgent emergency call that my grandma—the doctor said she could have passed away at any moment. So, after years of not seeing family members, my family decided to go back to Mexico and see them. I had no other choice but to follow them.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what’s your reaction when you hear this continuing situation with the Obama administration, that while the president says he supports immigration reform, he is continuing to preside over record numbers of deportations of people, the majority to Mexico, really, but through—to other parts of the world, as well?

JAVIER CORTÉS: Well, it’s like confusing for me, because I think there should be like something that helps undocumented people in the U.S. and, you know, like, lower the deportations. It’s unfair.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the action you engaged in yesterday, as you tried to cross the border, Javier?

JAVIER CORTÉS: Well, yeah. We were all marching. You know, it was a strong energy, all of us, good vibes, you know, just trying to go back home, all of us together. And I think it’s unfair that the other DREAMers are still detained. I think they should get out, because those rooms are cold, and I’m pretty sure they don’t eat well in the detention center. So I think they should get out and go back with their families and be released, just like me and the other families. I think they should go home.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to ask your father, as well, Javier Calderón, why you decided to participate in the protest yesterday? [speaking Spanish]

JAVIER CALDERÓN: [translated] Yeah, he said that to, like, have a better future and so that I can finish my studies. And more than anything, he said that it’s so I can have a better future.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you tell us, Señor Calderón, the situation right now in Mexico that made you decide to come—to try to come again to the United States? [speaking Spanish]

JAVIER CALDERÓN: [translated] He says it’s a complicated and struggling life in Mexico. And he also mentioned, before that, because of the violence and stuff like that.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you nervous about the border crossing, Javier? You could respond to that, Javier Cortés.

JAVIER CORTÉS: Nervous? No. I was actually very—I was feeling good vibes. I was feeling energy. It was something powerful between everybody.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you want to see happening now? What is your plan? You—why did you drop out of school in Mexico?

JAVIER CORTÉS: Well, the reason I dropped out in Mexico was because I was struggling to understand what they were saying. And the teachers, you know, sometimes they didn’t even go to school. And not only that, but the kids were brutal. They were like always, you know, teasing me, name calling. I’ve been jumped, robbed. It was difficult, so I had to drop out. And, you know, my future plans right now are to go back to school, finish school and, you know, be a doctor. I’m really interested in that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you’re saying the difficulties in school, it’s because you—having been raised in the United States, you’re largely English-dominant, even though you might understand some Spanish, and now you were being taught in Spanish?

JAVIER CORTÉS: Yes, exactly. Yeah, that was a problem, too. Coming from the U.S., all of a sudden go back—go to Mexico, and everything was so different.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Clarissa, the protests that are taking place tomorrow and on Tuesday, can you talk about the significance of outside pressure? We talk about congressional debate and legislation, but what difference that means, and people, like our guests, on the border right now, what it means for them to be doing what they’re doing, Javier Cortés and his father, Javier Calderón?

CLARISSA MARTÍNEZ-DE-CASTRO: As I had mentioned earlier, I don’t think that this is about leaving up to the devices of politicians themselves to decide. And that’s why I think the forces for immigration reform have been organizing in a vast variety of ways to make sure that every lever available to exert pressure and to create space for a solution to happen is created. We’re not going to leave any stone unturned.

So, this is a continuation, not a new thing. It’s a continuation and escalation of work that has been happening. And we’re going to see events in more than 160 cities, that are culminating in D.C. next week but are a sign of things that are going to continue and grow until this gets done, because, as we are seeing, we should not have a situation where young people, where their parents are putting themselves at risk, because they are willing to contribute and are contributing to our country. We need a solution. And the most ironic part is that we have it within our hands to do. We have the elements to get it right, and we’re going to continue to exert pressure until there’s nowhere to hide.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Clarissa, you mentioned the march that will follow on Tuesday in Washington. My understanding is that, given the government shutdown, there has been new difficulties. The Park Service doesn’t want to give a permit for the National Mall, because they don’t have enough people working to be able to accommodate that, even though singers, entertainers, like Olga Tañón and Los Tigres del Norte, were—plan to be at an event in D.C. Could you—how are you going to deal with that, the government shutdown, having a major protest in Washington?

CLARISSA MARTÍNEZ-DE-CASTRO: Believe me, organizers are nothing if not resourceful, and they are figuring a way to move the location to make it work. And as you mentioned, the event on Tuesday is—in particular, has more of the feel of a community concert, because that’s what it is. We know that we’ve been in this fight for so long. People in the community have been putting blood, sweat and tears into this effort. And this is a celebration for the community to come together, recharge batteries, but at the same time call the question on all members of the House about which side they’re on.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you all for being with us, Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro, director of Immigration and National Campaigns at the National Council of La Raza, and also thank you to Javier Cortés and Javier Calderón from Michoacán, Mexico. Javier Jr. has lived in the United States since his family came here when he was three years old.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’ll link to Juan González’s column in the New York Daily News, headlined "President Obama Heads Towards Deportation Milestone as Immigration Reform Flounders," at democracynow.org. When we come back, we’ll be joined by Max Blumenthal. He has written a new book; it’s called Goliath. Stay with us.

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