RAIZ, a migrant-led Immigration Youth Coalition (IYC) originally from Santa Ana, led a discussion Thursday night at the Cross Cultural Center about the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) role of deporting youth and families from the largest Latino community in Santa Ana.
RAIZ, which stands for Resistance, Autonomy, Inequality, Leadership is co-sponsored with DREAMS at UC Irvine. RAIZ’s current mission is to prevent probation departments from disclosing private information of youth to ICE. If ICE gets ahold of them, the youth will be at risk of incarceration.
Alexis Nava Teodoro, coordinator of Free the People, explained the project’s purpose is to stop deportations. Since the establishment of RAIZ, nearly eight deportations have been prevented. Abraham Medina, UCI alumnus and RAIZ organizer, explained that one of the biggest issues facing the Latino community is the high number of youth that are sent to juvenile hall for violating probation; the cases are most often school-related.
“If you’re a U.S. citizen, you might be able to come back to your community. If you’re undocumented, the probation department will send the information to ICE, and get ahold of them so ICE can come get them. These are minors and most of them are in violation of probation that is school related,” Medina said.
In 2013, most of the youth in juvenile hall came from communities in Santa Ana and Anaheim, where Latino groups are three times more likely to be sent to juvenile hall. Orange County currently accounts for 43 percent of youth on ICE holds across the state.
“Now, we see here that Latinos make up 46 percent of the population. In juvenile hall, we make 74 percent and this year, it’s 75 percent. This is the disproportionality.
After Latinos, the other group overrepresented is black youth who are likely to go to juvenile hall for a single defense than white youth,” Medina stated.
Yet, the reality is that most of the youth who end up in juvenile hall are there as a result of violating probation. The number one factor is school-related, second is drug-related and third is gang-related. RAIZ, which collaborates with UCI Law School, recently published a report called, “Second Chances for All.” The report stated the probation department violates state law by providing information from minors to ICE, information that is protected under state law.
“Our communities are very segregated. The laws apply differently. They are currently trying to reform the juvenile justice system, but there are officers that tell us directly, there is a different approach when it comes to white men and youth of color,” Medina said.
Yet on the other end, documented citizens also face the risk of deportation and are held for crimes that continue to be monitored by ICE. Guadalupe Aceves, a U.S. citizen, recalled the incident when Placentia police department and ICE arrived three weeks ago and arrested her husband for a nonviolent offense he committed 13 years ago. Aceve’s husband, a permanent resident since 1996, is ill and disabled. Yet, he was not allowed to walk with his cane at the time of his arrest.
“This whole situation is a nightmare. You see it happening all the time on the news. We pay close attention because we always want to be on top of the laws changing, but we never think it is going to hit home until it does. I just want him home,” Aceves commented.
What started off as a support group nearly three years ago, RAIZ has evolved into a migrant-led grassroots organization where they have actively participated at sit-ins at the offices of elected officials. They currently aim to shut down ICE offices. Medina stated, “For us that are undocumented, there was a lot of fear. Maybe you might go to the grocery store, or you go to work, and you won’t see your family again. Growing up in that entity that there may always be someone looking for us, we had to work within our community to break the silence and the fear. This is the risk we have to take.”
The community can provide support by signing petitions online that are circulated through various sites and also by visiting their Facebook page, but one of the most effective methods is to call ICE and leave a voicemail.