It’s only Monday and it’s already been an amazing week. For days now, members of Democracia’s staff have been working with other members of the youth organizing community to aid and assist 23 year-old community organizer Andrea Huerfano. After a minor traffic violation, Andrea was detained at Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, Florida, and faced imminent deportation. Thanks to a coalition led by Students Working for Equal Rights, the Bus Project and PolitiCorps, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that she will be released this afternoon. We are proud and grateful to have been a part of this effort.
From the coalition’s press release:
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. 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 Columbia. 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.
After hearing word of her detention last Tuesday, an impromptu coalition of non-profits, advocates, students, lawyers and individuals from across the country came together in support of Andrea. Hundreds of people were recruited to petition for Andrea’s release, putting phone calls into ICE offices in DC and Florida.
Andrea will be released on a “stay of removal” this afternoon and 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,” says Caitlin Baggott, Director of PolitiCorps, “Andrea deserves a chance to achieve her American dream.”
Even as her status in the United States became increasingly uncertain Andrea continued to be an avid volunteer and community activist. She donated her time to numerous organizations, including Florida Immigrant Coalition and the DREAM Team coalition while a student at Florida State University. After graduating from Florida State University with a bachelors degree in international relations, she volunteered for five months with the International Labor Rights Forum and the International Rescue Committee, where she helped case workers work with 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.