September 30, 2015
Contacts: Olga Tomchin, firstname.lastname@example.org // Yadira Sanchez, email@example.com
#FreeAbuelito: Community Pressure Stops Deportation of Beloved Grandfather
On the early morning of September 23rd, ICE agents raided the home of 67-year-old grandfather Apolinar (“Abuelito Poly”) Sanchez Cornejo and his wife Vicky in Pico Rivera, CA. Abuelito Poly was in the car about to go to work at an auto-body in Montebello when ICE agents suddenly surrounded him. They tried to convince Abuelita Vicky to come out of the house but she refused. Abuelito was put in handcuffs and in a deportation van. Through immediate and massive community mobilization including using the #FreeAbuelito hashtag on Facebook, flooding the ICE Field Office phone lines and voicemail, and emails from about 1,000 people to local and national ICE officials, Abuelito was taken off the deportation van and returned home that same day.
Abuelito had been the victim of a fraudulent immigration lawyer in the 90s, resulting in him getting a deportation order without knowing it. Because of a citizen son, a lack of criminal record, and residence in the U.S. since 1992, he would qualify for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents (DAPA) program.
“Abuelito does not fall into ANY of ICE’s enforcement priorities, proving yet again that ICE is a rogue agency that does not even follow its own internal standards,” says Olga Tomchin, Deportation Defense Coordinator and Staff Attorney at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). “ICE cannot be trusted to be on our streets, in our jails, or in our communities.”
Abuelito Poly and his wife Vicky have been married for 44 years. They have three sons, seven grandchildren, and no immediate family in Mexico.
Every day, Abuelito still works at an autobody in Montebello, CA. His granddaughter Yadira Sanchez is an undocumented organizer for the Immigrant Youth Coalition, through which she fights deportations. His son Alvaro Sanchez is an advocate for environmental justice, affordable housing, and community development.
Alvaro explains, “When I heard ICE detained my dad, I feared nothing could be done. However, the incredible community response that demanded my dad be returned to his family shows that not only is this issue deeply felt, but people are willing to do something about it.”
The fight is not over. Abuelito still risks deportation and has a court hearing next month.
His petition has now been updated to demand that ICE dismiss the removal proceedings: http://action.ndlon.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=21380
Abuelito Poly says about the community response, “Gracias a la mobilizacion de la familia y toda la gente, ya estoy en casa y listo para luchar mi deportacion hasta el final!” (“Thanks to the mobilization by my family and all the people, I am back in my home and ready to fight my deportation until the end!”)
Yadira, his grandaughter, adds, “My Abuelito is one of millions of people who have suffered the traumatizing experience of being taken by ICE and away from their families. This mass deportation system hurts our communities every day. Fortunately through collective mobilization my grandpa is safe. This is a reminder that we, the people, have the power to fight back against this system that continues to deport, criminalize and oppress our loved ones. Let’s continue the work because no one’s abuelito should be deported!”