“Free Yordy!” young activists shouted in front of the INS federal building in Downtown Los Angeles on April 24. “Not one more!”
Yordy Cancino, a former Gay-Straight Alliance club president at Animo Jackie Robinson High School, is being held at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in San Diego and faces imminent deportation without federal intervention granting prosecutorial discretion. Cancino had been in limbo until he finally faced the judge on April 23. The judge denied his plea for asylum. Cancino has lived in the U.S. since he was a child.
At the federal building the next day, LGBT and immigrant youth gathered as part of a GSA Network demonstration to call attention to Cancino’s plight and urge the Obama administration to release all undocumented youth being held in similar circumstances. The activists’ “Not one more” chant referred to the almost 2 million deportations that have happened under President Obama despite his calls for immigration reform and passage of the DREAM Act.
Cancino’s support team is currently helping him with his request for “reconsideration” on his “credible fear claim” for asylum.
Timed to coincide with the L.A. protest, GSA Network board member Mario Vasquez delivered a petition with over 2,000 signatures to the White House and ICE demanding that Cancino and all youth in detention be allowed to return home. Vasquez met with several staff members of Rep. Janice Hahn, in whose district Cancino lives, as well as staff from Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office and from Rep. Mark Takano’s office. “Hahn has been very supportive,” a GSA Network spokesperson says, but there have been no concrete actions taken as of yet.
Participants at the L.A. rally at the INS building included Cancino’s mom, speakers from the Immigrant Youth Coalition and National Queer and Trans [email protected] Alliance and Ruhi Bhalla, another GSA Network youth board member. Many youth activists are also part of the Bring Them Home campaign.
“Community and friends: thank you for supporting me,” Cancino said in a statement. “If it wasn’t for you, I would’ve already been processed for deportation. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!”
Vasquez also issued a statement in Washington, D.C. “I am an immigrant youth who migrated to the United States at the age of 3, where my single mother worked tirelessly to provide for me and my two sisters while living in constant fear of deportation,” he said.
Though Vasquez was “lucky” enough to go to college despite his undocumented status, others—like Cancino—have been denied that opportunity.
“Many instead face the harsh realities of our broken immigration system,” Vasquez said. “Those who have been involved with the GSA movement have worked hard to foster a community of acceptance and respect, where everyone, undocumented or not, LGBTQ or not, can feel safe. That is what I did as a GSA leader in Lancaster, Calif., and that is what GSA Network alum Yordy Cancino did as the GSA president of his high school in Los Angeles.”
Though he served as GSA president and graduated as a salutatorian, school officials failed to tell Cancino that the DREAM Act grants students in California the right to higher education. He was unable to go to college or get a job, so he went back to Mexico where he faced violence for being gay.
“Hoping to return home [to Los Angeles] and escape homophobic violence, Cancino took the courageous step of placing himself into immigration custody and asking for humanitarian parole and asylum,” says the GSA Network.
“We at Gay-Straight Alliance Network are heartbroken and angry that the government has continued its efforts to deport one of our alumni, Yordy Cancino, from the country he worked so hard to make safer for LGBTQ youth,” Vasquez said. “I, like many of my peers, am far too familiar with the injustice and the struggles of queer and trans undocumented youth and their families.”
Vasquez said that “no matter what happens” in Yordy’s case, the GSA Network “will continue to work to end these deportations. ... Our country needs leaders like Yordy.”
In the petition, GSA Network calls on Obama “to be a champion for all LGBTQ youth and exercise discretion in granting the asylum requests for Yordy Cancino and the other LGBTQ immigrants seeking asylum ... and all those who seek protection within our borders to come home.”
The petition is still active on GSANetwork.org.