Undocumented UC Berkeley student detained by Border Patrol, ICE in San Diego

Jaleen Udarbe/Courtesy

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Campus junior Luis Mora was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, on Wednesday after being held in California Border Patrol detainment for four days.

Mora was detained at a border checkpoint Dec. 30 while visiting family and friends in San Diego with his girlfriend, Jaleen Udarbe. After being held at a Border Patrol detainment center in San Diego for about 90 hours, he was transferred into ICE custody at Otay Mesa Detention Center, according to a tweet from his lawyer, Prerna Lal.

Mora is from Colombia, and his U.S. visa expired two to three years ago, according to Udarbe. Mora currently has an AB 540 plan, which qualifies him for in-state tuition. Udarbe said Mora attempted to become a DACA student but was denied.

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email that the campus has processes in place for students with legal needs, such as attorney services for students managing immigration issues. Gilmore said campus officials were looking into doing “everything” possible to support and assist Mora.

Udarbe said that now that Mora is in ICE custody, his “rights have kicked in.” In the Border Patrol holding center, Mora was restricted from seeing his lawyer and making copies of the documents he signed, Udarbe said.

“(Mora) called me every morning to update me,” Udarbe said. “When he was first detained, he was really scared (and) he didn’t know what to do. Now he’s doing fine, knowing that the public is out to support him.”

The next step for Mora is a hearing to determine his status, according to Udarbe. Udarbe said she hopes that Mora, a political science and pre-law major, can get back to school in time to start the spring semester.

Mora’s story has received attention because of a social media campaign spearheaded by Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education, or RISE at Berkeley, a campus immigrant rights organization. The organization put Mora in contact with a lawyer and started the campaign to support him and share his story. RISE made posts with the hashtag #FREELUIS and gave instructions on how to call immigration officials, according to RISE co-chair Valeria Suárez.

“I’m hoping for Luis to be free — he shouldn’t be detained in the first place — (as well as) for the community at large to realize how large this is,” Suárez said. “We should be fighting to liberate all people in detention, whether (they have) a degree or not.”

Since the campaign launched Tuesday night, the voicemail boxes for the phone numbers provided have been filled, Suárez said. She added that this recognition creates a sense of urgency for Mora to be released and shows that the public is paying attention to this case.

On Thursday night, Mora’s lawyer tweeted that U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as well as U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, have reached out to ICE on behalf of Mora.

Although Mora was supposed to be transferred to an ICE detention center in 48 hours, the detention center was holding too many people, delaying Mora’s transfer until Wednesday evening.

ASUC Senator Juniperangelica Cordova-Goff, who has been voicing support for Mora via social media, said Mora’s treatment by the system has been “inhumane.”

“I am not shocked that any Black/brown person could find themselves locked behind bars … There is a dehumanization factor that is intertwined within the law and our people find themselves on the wrong side of those laws too often,” Cordova said in an email. “The massive attention being drawn makes sure those in power understand that we refuse to allow our people to be lost within the system — being lost is too familiar a reality for our community.”

A YouCaring fund has been created by RISE for a bond once it is set. The fund has raised $2,970 as of press time.

“Please help Luis get back to school on time,” Udarbe said. “All he wanted was an education at UC Berkeley.”

Contact Mary Kelly Ford at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MaryKellyFord1.

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  • Left Unsaid

    Money earmarked for education is diverted to aid foreign nationals in the country illegally. Tell me this is not malfeasance.

  • John Smith

    Judgment Day is coming for the Traitorous Trump Clown Show when the Blue Wave hits in November. This guy will end up having the last laugh.

    • lspanker

      So you think that people who entered the country illegally should be allowed to remain here? Why is that again?

  • chinaskee

    Sure are a lot of foreigners in this country who overstay their visas. If they don’t have to follow the law here why should anybody else ?

  • Captain Obvious

    Build that wall and build it high
    I want to see it touch the sky
    Build it deep and build it long
    Build it so it’s good and strong
    Build guard towers on it too
    Make it tough for illegals to get through
    And when the wall is finally done
    Toss illegals over it one by one!

  • matt10023

    I don’t feel like paying California taxes….. because …. they are not fair. Oh… there’s a law? Who cares.

  • fed up tax payer

    Why is it Brown and all these colleges want to charge legal students out of stat costs but illegals in state cost? So who is paying for his education? Who gets stuck with the cost of it?

  • garyfouse

    Cordova-Goff’s statement is absurd. This is not a racial issue. This young man is not even a Dreamer. He is a visa overstay and this is an obvious case for deportation. The university should not be trying to shield him from deportation.

  • privacycare

    How the heck he got admitted to UC Berkeley? Oh that’s right, he is an illegal alien, he has more rights and privileges than citizens do. He is in detention and the two US senators are making calls to get him out, if only they cared so much about each and every individual citizen and legal resident, but oh well citizen tax payers are just idiots and fools their job is to pay taxes out of which the CA leaders can spend over a billion dollars every year for healthcare of illegal aliens in addition to free education, and numerous other welfare showered upon them.

  • Muns


  • Vineyard Sanford

    Now we need to deport the other 22,000,000 illegal aliens.

    • lspanker

      We don’t even need to forcibly deport most of them. Many of them would self-deport on their own volition if we merely enforced our own immigration, social services, and employment verification laws.

  • Curtis Jones

    Boo Hoo, drop kick him back over the wall.

  • kaypee

    He knows he is here illegally since he applied for DACA and yet he knowingly passes through an immigration check point. It makes no sense.

  • rychastings

    how about we enforce the law?

  • Homer Simpson

    He is an ILLEGAL ALIEN, not an undocumented student. He probably has lots of documents. His birth certificate from Colombia, his EXPIRED visa from the US, his enrollment and financial aid documents from the University of California, now his arrest documents. You see, when the documents that you DO have do not give you the legal right to be in this country, you are not undocumented. You are here ILLEGALLY. Taking the place at the University of a legal resident of the State of California.