Bus Project activist detained; facing deportation

Karol Collymore

On December 8th, while paying a traffic ticket, 24 year old community organizer Andrea Huerfano was detained at Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, Florida, and is facing imminent deportation.

Andrea's family fled from political threats in Colombia in 2001 with a valid visa, bringing her and her younger brother to the United States before her first year of high school. She excelled as a student at Coral Springs High School, earning a 3.7 GPA while volunteering hundreds of hours at the local library and a nursing home. She earned a AA at Broward Community College, and was granted a scholarship by bank Atlantic, and transferred to Florida State University to earn a bachelors degree in international relations.

During her second year at Florida State University, while the family's political asylum was still being adjudicated, Andrea's father died of liver cancer. After his death, Andrea and her mother and brother pursued political asylum status based on his experiences in Colombia. They submitted their plea to immigration Judge Teofilo Chapa. Although the national average denial rate for applications for asylum is 58%, Judge Chapa denies 88% of the asylum claims before him. Their claim was denied.

Andrea continued to be an avid volunteer and community activist, even as her status in the United States became increasingly uncertain. She donated her time to numerous organizations, including Florida Immigrant Coalition and the DREAM Team coalition while a student at Florida State University. After graduation, she volunteered for five months with the International Labor Rights Forum and the International Rescue Committee, where she helped case workers work with individuals who had been granted asylum. In the summer of 2008 she earned a competitive a Fellowship to participate in PolitiCorps, a prestigious political training program in Portland, Oregon.

“Andrea’s passionate commitment to American democratic values and her reliance and optimism in the face of adversity make her one of the most exceptional young leaders I have ever had the privilege of knowing,” says Alex Tischenko, a former supervisor of Andrea's, regarding her deep involvement in civic engagement. During her fellowship with PolitiCorps in 2008, she spearheaded efforts to educate low-income communities about criminal justice legislation in Oregon. She was considered one of the hardest-working and most promising Fellows in the program. Andrea continued on to support "get out the vote" efforts in Ohio during the 2008 general election.

Andrea now faces a standing for order for her deportation, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may force her to leave the country within days. If she is removed, Andrea will have a bar on re-entering the United States for 10 years. Having attended high school and college in the United States, Andrea has no close family in Colombia.

"The painful reality here is that the very immigrant youth we are ejecting from this country are the young members of our society most dedicated to preserving American values of civic participation and community engagement," says Caitlin Baggott, Director of PolitiCorps, "Andrea deserves a chance to achieve her American dream."

Andrea is one of a number of young people who have been detained recently facing similar circumstances. “I can’t understand why we continue to detain young vibrant students when we know that we only live once and the future depends on the youth,” says student organizer Gaby Pacheco, who through the Florida-based Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER) has been organizing for Andrea’s release, in addition to other similar cases.

An impromptu coalition of non-profits, advocates, students, lawyers and individuals from across the country has come together in support of Andrea. Among those involved include the Bus Project and SWER. For more information about the actions they are pursuing and details of Andrea’s case, please contact Mollie Ruskin at 503.928.2988/[email protected] or Caitlin Baggott 503.804.7644/ [email protected].

UPDATE from The Bus:
"After several days of intense networking, letter writing, hundreds of phone calls to ICE and our representatives, Andrea Huerfano will be released from detention this afternoon. She will have six months to assemble her case. We'll continue to work closely with her during this next phase, but for now -- we just want to express how grateful we are for the incredible outpouring of support, advice, resources, time, and love."

  • Charlie Burr (unverified)

    Karol, thanks for posting this.

  • (Show?)

    Karol, thank you for posting this. Hopefully, we can bring some attention to the case.

    Could you tell us a bit about the political asylum claim? What was the claim - what sort of political threats? And what did Judge Chapa argue in his denial?

  • Caitlin Baggott (unverified)

    We don't have all of the details of Fabio Huerfano's asylum plea. He was involved in politics in Colombia in the late '90s, received threats that were sufficient to warrant uprooting his family and moving to another country. At the time, Andrea had just turned 14 years old.

    In the end, regardless of the details of her father's case of political asylum, Andrea was moved to the United States when she was fourteen. She had no say in the matter. Nine years later, this is where she has built a life -- and a pretty remarkable life at that. She has no close family ties in Colombia. Deporting her now would be a tragic mistake.

  • hepizle film izle (unverified)

    hmm nice post

  • Caitlin Baggott (unverified)

    UPDATE: At 11:00 am, I got a call from Andrea's attorney in Florida. She is being release on a "stay of removal" which will allow her 6 months to develop her case. This is great news. Immigration experts and advocates considered it highly likely that she would be deported as soon as today.

  • Logan Gilles (unverified)

    Very glad to hear that there is some positive movement on this!

  • Scott (unverified)

    Thanks for posting this and glad to hear about the 6 month stay. Hopefully Andrea, her lawyers and others will be able to develop a case that will get her legal status. Thanks to all at the Bus Project for sticking up for one of our own.

    It is past time for comprehensive immigration reform. It is time to pass the Dream Act and it is time to give people who are here a path to legal status. Cases like Andrea's just shouldn't be an issue, she should be on a path to citizenship.

  • Ricky (unverified)

    I support Andrea being allowed to stay and not be deported. As a 14 year old girl at the time her parents entered the US on a temporary visa and decided to ignore the terms of the visa, and stay illegally, it is not her fault.

    It brings up a number of issues and questions.

    Current law states that you must apply for asylum within one year of date of entry into the US. Only after her father passed away did Andrea's mother decide to turn in the paperwork. Andrea is already over the age of 18 at this time the asylum claim is denied. What did Andrea to do obtain citizenship or her own asylum case being she was now an adult?

    How did Andrea obtain a birth certificate, social security number and all other items needed to prove citizenship, attend school, obtain a drivers license, and so forth. I had no idea it was so easy for children to slip undocumented into the system and obtain all of the privileges a US citizen would obtain. Grants, financial aid, ability to vote, all while undocumented or using phony citizenship status.

    It must have been a terrible burden on her living with the guilt and shame over it. Did she attempt herself a a young adult to deal with her immigration status?

    Did she not know she was listed in a national database of illegals when she went to pay her parking ticket or do only some courts check immigration status?

    Did the family ever have a green card or did they simply fly under the radar after their temporary visa to visit the US expired?

    For every major event in my son's life into adulthood, I was required to provide documentation from entry into public school and onwards. How do illegals do it?

    I feel sorry for Andrea and believe she should be granted a stay. Although I am a little miffed that it creates unfair competition in the marketplace for my son, who is her exact age and obeyed the law at all times.

  • (Show?)

    Thanks so much for posting this Karol. I had the thought to post something as well but it would have been nowhere near as articulate. I didn't sign the petition either. I pondered for two days what, if anything I should do to help and just didn't get around to it. As I sat by many others, spearheaded by Caitlin Baggot, made the difference in a young woman's life.

    A while ago, I saw the move "The Visitor," and unfortunately from the first moment I heard about Andrea's case, I feared the worst. Without this effort Andrea would still be behind bars and on her way to a place she no longer knows.

    Karol, when you had the courage to stand up to the establishment and seek the State Senate appointment, you were "My Heroine Today." I have no doubts that you won't be offended when I say that without a doubt, Caitlin is my Heroine of the Year. Thank you Caitlin!

  • RyanLeo (unverified)

    What crime did Andrea commit to receive a deportation order?

    This post was very good at describing her life, her work and then BAM! "Andrea is now..." With no description on what led the Federal Government to desiring to deport her.

    Again, what crime did Andrea commit to receive a deportation order?

    You are either willingly leaving it out to frame the discussion so that we all feel sorry for Andrea or you are just posting in the heat of the moment.

  • mlw (unverified)

    While I'm sure she's a wonderful person, she should be required to obey the law. We should not be in the position of encouraging people to overstay visas just because we like them. We all owe our country the duty of law abiding behavior. That is a test that she has failed. Fortunately, we appear to have a more forgiving legal system than most of you would seem to believe, since she's getting YET ANOTHER chance to prove a case that her parents already failed to prove once.

    There is a larger issue here, however. I think it's wonderful that people come here and get an education. We have processes in place to give some of them citizenship. We should not be the world-wide "brain drain". How do we expect to have our values spread and for other countries to benefit from sending their people here for an education when they never go back? We go from being a beneficent provider of education to a country that simply takes the best and brightest from other countries and gives back...what?

  • Ricky (unverified)

    I just discovered there is a federal law that requires public schools to allow children staying in the country illegally to obtain a tax-free education. So I answered some of my own questions. It makes me wonder what the state of Oregon spends on educating illegal aliens.

  • Jobs (unverified)

    This is really impressing and an inspiration for those fighting for their privileges. In the past, recessions have resulted primarily in blue-collar and low-level retail job losses, with white-collar layoffs accounting for only about 30 percent of total losses. By way of contrast, in the current downturn, nearly 50% of the vanished jobs have been managerial, professional, and skilled white-collar positions. Barring something truly unforeseeable, such as the creation of a whole new economy, we are likely to see an unprecedented recessionary shift toward permanent job losses.

  • mlw (unverified)

    Ask yourself this - would we feel the same way about her if she were volunteering for the Sizemore campaign and not working for the Bus? The legal issue is the same. Do we want an immigration system that discriminates on the basis of political ideology?

  • (Show?)

    I just discovered there is a federal law that requires public schools to allow children staying in the country illegally to obtain a tax-free education.

    That doesn't even make sense. Who's taxing educations?

  • (Show?)

    Ask yourself this - would we feel the same way about her if she were volunteering for the Sizemore campaign and not working for the Bus? The legal issue is the same. Do we want an immigration system that discriminates on the basis of political ideology?

    As a policy matter, of course the rules should be the same for everybody. As a personal matter, of course we have varying opinions.

    There are thousands of people all the time facing deportation - some legitimately, some not. The reason this one appeared on BlueOregon is because many Oregon progressives know her.

  • Ricky (unverified)

    @ Kari

    Correction: I just discovered there is a federal law that requires public schools to allow children staying in the country illegally to obtain a free education. So I answered some of my own questions (above).

  • lupita (unverified)

    Andrea's story is the repeated every day in our State. I know of a case of a mother of 5 (one of them an infant)who drove to get milk for their children, got stopped for a traffic infraction, and is now in a detention center. Her children left alone without knowing where their mother was. Andrea is lucky to have prominent politicians standing up for her, I would like to know who will stand up for the others?

    Lupita Maurer

  • Pope Pieass LXIX (unverified)

    I know of a case of a mother of 5 (one of them an infant)who drove to get milk for their children, got stopped for a traffic infraction, and is now in a detention center.

    Too bad it's not for her crimes against the environment.

    Next time you work a a climate projection model, try it with five kids/family. The Catholic Church is just as bad and a bigger threat than Al-Quaeda and their fecund stooges should be treated no different than suicide bombers.

    Turn NORAD against the storks!

    If she wants to be treated like a human being she can start thinking for herself and be something else than the piece of meat her husband/BF ruts whenever he gets an urge. If she wishes that life, then expect to be shipped around like a side of beef!

    I say give her a choice. Stay, full citizenship, if she agrees to sterilization, otherwise ship the whole bean fartin' bunch back to our satellite state.

  • Zuky (unverified)

    Sorry, she needs to be deported immediately.

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