In an unprecedented move today, eleven undocumented immigrants — including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas — will submit applications for deferred action while putting a spotlight on the complexities of immigration in America. These eleven individuals represent the stories of the 11.5 million undocumented Americans that reside in the United States.
President Obama is expected to soon announce an executive action that could protect broad classes of immigrants from deportation. Because none of the immigrants featured today are eligible for Obama’s earlier executive order — the deferred action/DACA program for DREAMers — their proactive application today will highlight how broad a future announcement must be to cover deserving classes.
As Jose Antonio Vargas, the founder of Define American, said in a statement:
For us, it’s really important to ask the question of how inclusive is the Obama administration’s relief going to be? Who is going to get left out, and why? This is our effort to get in front of that and make sure that people understand that we’re talking about human beings here with families.
Read more about today’s press conference at the Huffington Post and New York Times. Also read the stories of the immigrants submitting applications today, below:
Erika Aldape, Age 24
- Arrived in 1997 from Guadalajara, Mexico (17 yrs. in US, arrived at the age of 7)
- Currently lives in Griffith, Indiana
- Erika came to the United States at age 7 with a visitor’s visa. She does not qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals due to attending college in Mexico for three years from 2008 to 2011. She is not in any deportation proceedings and is affirmatively filing for deferred action as part of this campaign.
Maria Guadalupe Arreola, Age 55
- Arrived in 1998 from Durango Mexico (16 yrs. in US)
- Currently lives in Mesa, Arizona
- Guadalupe is the mother of prominent DREAMer activist, Erika Andiola. She fled to the United States after being physically abused by her husband. She came in search of of a better life for herself and her children. Earlier this year, Guadalupe was stopped and arrested by ICE agents. They put her on a bus to be deported to Mexico. Erika organized a national outcry which stopped Guadalupe’s deportation. She was given one year of deferred action but faces deportation orders this year.
Felipe Jesus Diosdado, Age 35
- Arrived in 1997 from Morelia, Mexico (17 yrs. in US)
- Currently lives in Chicago, Illinois
- Felipe is a hard working family man and father to two United States citizens. He presented himself to the Illinois Secretary of State to apply for a Temporary Visitors Driver’s License (TVDL, which is legal in that state) and was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement due to an error by the Secretary of State Office. He has been in removal proceedings since May 2014. His union, SEIU Local 1 as well as Secretary of State Jesse White have written to ICE to advocate for a stay of deportation and deferred action for Felipe.
Maria del Rosario Duarte Villanueva, 54
- Arrived in 2000 from Durango, Mexico (14 yrs. in US)
- Currently lives in Albertville, Alabama
- Maria del Rosario supports her three grandchildren, one of which needs constant medical support. Their parents were deported five years ago and she has been trying to legally adopt them. Maria originally fled to the United States to escape her abusive husband who followed her around the country and continued to assault her. She is affirmatively filing for deferred action as part of this campaign.
Michaela Graham, 52
- Arrived in 1986 from Hamburg, Germany (28 yrs. in US)
- Currently lives in San Pedro, California
- Michaela is the founder of Atlanta Underground Market and prides herself on supporting budding entrepreneurs. She first came on a work visa in January 1982. After going through a divorce, she returned to Germany in 1985, but then returned to the US when her company sent her to live in Houston in 1986. She is affirmatively filing for deferred action as part of this campaign.
Noemi Romero, 23
- Arrived in 1995 from Villahermosa, Mexico (19 yrs. in US, arrived at the age of 4)
- Currently lives in Glendale, Arizona
- Noemi was arrested during a raid by Sheriff Joe Arpaio at her workplace and was charged with identity theft (under Arizona’s new laws those falsifying their own documentation for any purpose are charged with identity theft). This prevents her from qualifying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Since Noemi is undocumented, she used her mother’s work permit to get a job to help support their family. She was also working to save money for a lawyer to review her DACA application.
Eduardo Samaniego, 22
- Arrived in 2009 from Zacatecas, Mexico (5 years. in U.S., arrived at the age of 16)
- Currently lives in Kennesaw, Georgia
- Eduardo Samaniego is the Executive Director of Freedom House Georgia, an organization focused on advocacy for education and youth civic engagement (not affiliated with Freedom House International). He has been awarded a scholarship for this fall to attend Hampshire College and is currently being filmed as part of a documentary project. Eduardo is affirmatively filing for Deferred Action because he doesn’t qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Jose Antonio Vargas, Age 33
- Arrived in 1993 from Antipolo, Philippines (21 yrs. in the US, arrived at the age of 12)
- Currently lives in San Francisco
- Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, filmmaker, founder of the nonprofit media and culture campaign Define American and a member of the LGBT community. Jose discovered he was undocumented at the age of 16 and is the only undocumented member of his family. He was apprehended at the airport in McAllen, Texas and issued a “Notice to Appear” in immigration court and is filing for deferred action. He has been in the United States since he was twelve and missed the age cut-off for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by just months.
Yestel Velasquez, 38
- Arrived in 2005 from Honduras (9 yrs. in US)
- Currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana
- Yestel Velasquez is a reconstruction worker from New Orleans, Louisiana who helped rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina and a member of the Congress of Day Laborers and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice. Yestel was arrested in May 2014 at an auto-body shop while getting his car repaired as part of a pattern of racial profiling based community raids coordinated with local law enforcement and relying on mobile biometrics devices. From detention, Yestel filed a civil rights complaint urging an investigation of the unconstitutional raid. In response, ICE granted him a 3 month stay of removal in detention. When Yestel spoke from detention at a civil rights briefing urging an end to these raids, ICE retaliated by revoking his stay and expediting his deportation. After public outcry, Yestel was finally released from ICE detention and granted a new one year stay of removal. He is affirmatively filing for deferred action as part of this campaign.
Aly Wane, Age 37
- Arrived in 1985 from Dakar, Senegal (25 yrs. in the US, arrived at the age of 8)
- Currently lives in Syracuse, New York
- Aly Wane is an established community organizer in Syracuse, New York. He originally came to the US as the son of a diplomat that worked at the United Nations. He eventually traded his diplomat visa for a student visa and completed his studies with a BA in Political Science from Le Monye College in Syracuse. He missed the age cut-off for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and is filing affirmatively for Deferred Action consideration as part of this campaign.
Jong-Min You, 34
- Arrived in 1981 from Seoul, South Korea (approximately 33 yrs. in the US, arrived at the age of 1)
- Currently lives in Bensonhurst (Brooklyn), New York
- Jong-Min You came to the United States as a child, under his parents’ student visas in 1981. Though he has a university degree, with honors, in sociology, with a concentration in criminal justice, and a minor in psychology, his undocumented status has prevented him from working in his desired fields. He currently manages the family grocery store, as well as, the two apartments that his parents rent out above his family’s property. Jong-Min has actively worked to raise awareness on immigration issues and appeared on the cover of Time Magazine as part of a group of undocumented immigrants featured in the cover article. Jong-Min narrowly missed the age cut-off for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and is filing affirmatively for Deferred Action.