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Immigration Activists Apply for Deferred Action

Earlier today, 11 undocumented immigrant activists applied for Deferred Action and pleaded President Obama to halt deportations for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and founder of the organization Define American, was among those applying for Deferred Action. Last month Vargas was detained by US Border Patrol in McAllen, Texas. He was released and given a notice to appear before an immigration judge.

The 10 other activists applying for Deferred Action vary in age from 22 to 55. Some were just a few months too old to apply for DACA in 2012, while others hadn’t been living in the United States long enough. Many are from Mexico, but the activists also hail from Germany, Honduras, Philippines, Senegal, and South Korea. They all consider themselves American.

Below please find the press release from Define American. You can also find it on their website, here.




In an unprecedented move, 11 undocumented Americans from across the country have applied for deferred action to spark a conversation around the complexities of the immigration system in America.

(Washington, DC) - Eleven individuals representative of the 11.5 million undocumented Americans who reside in the United States submitted their applications to Secretary Jeh Johnson's Office of Homeland Security this morning. One of the individuals is Define American Founder, Jose Antonio Vargas.

Define American, the media and culture campaign that focuses on the power of story to transcend politics and talk about immigration, identity and citizenship in the United States has partnered with the National Immigration Law Center and legal counsel, Mony Ruiz-Velasco to bring together a diverse set of complex immigration cases from across the country. Each case has the potential to be looked over by any executive action taken by President Barack Obama.

In the cover letter the eleven individuals address Secretary Johnson:

"Like pilgrims who arrived centuries before, some of us came here by choice, others by necessity, be it social, economic, or personal. Out of desperation and borne out of sacrifice, many of us were sent here by our families. Then and now, we came across oceans, valleys, deserts, and rivers. Then and now, those of us who did not die on that journey want a better life. Over the past decades, we have been working, worshipping in churches, going to school, and contributing to the communities we call home. We love, fight for, and pledge allegiance to an America whose flag does not recognize us."

The full letter can be read here.

Crucial advisors for this effort are NILC Executive Director, Marielena Hincapie, Bill Ong Hing, and Mony Ruiz-Velasco, who represents three of the cases.

In a press conference at the National Press Club this morning, each participant outlined their case and made a personal plea to President Barack Obama to stop deportations of millions of undocumented individuals who have strong ties to the United States. They also asked the President and Secretary Johnson to approve their requests for deferred action and consider administrative relief to all individuals who are integral members of our evolving American community.

Others are encouraged to tell their stories of #1of11Million on Define American.


Erika Aldape, Age 24 (Attorney: Rocio Alcantar, National Immigrant Justice Center) 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 (Attorney: Jose Peñalosa, Arizona Bar) 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 (Attorney: Mony Ruiz Velasco, Law Offices of Mony Ruiz-Velasco) 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 (Attorney: Jonathan Eoloff, Latin American Association) 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 (Attorney: Brigit Alvarez, Law Office of Brigit Alvarez) 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 (Attorney: Shiu-Ming Cheer, National Immigration Law Center) 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 (Attorney: Charles Kuck, Kuck Immigration Partners) 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 (Attorney: Mony Ruiz Velasco, Law Offices of Mony Ruiz-Velasco) 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, and 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 (Attorney: Jennifer Rosenbaum, Julie Mao, Daniela Conde, New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice) 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 (Attorney: Mony Ruiz Velasco, Law Offices of Mony Ruiz-Velasco) 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 (Attorneys: Michael Ross, Jared Manes and Andrew Banks, Jenner & Block) 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.

Define American, founded by Jose Antonio Vargas in 2011, is a media and culture campaign using the power of story to transcend politics and shift conversation around immigration, identity, and citizenship in America. Learn more at

National Immigration Law Center defends and advances the rights and opportunities of low income immigrants and their family members. Learn more at

#1of11Million Campaign Coverage August 19, 2014 | New York Times "Advocates Seek to Delay Deportations for Millions" by Julia Preston