Formerly detained UC Berkeley junior Luis Mora donates $8.5K for release of 3 immigrant detainees

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Patricia Ojeda / Immigration Justice Project/Courtesy

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After being released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, custody Jan. 17, formerly detained UC Berkeley junior Luis Mora recently donated $8,500 in bond payments for the release of three other immigrant detainees from the same detention center.

The news came in the wake of Mora’s own high-profile case against ICE officials for his detainment at the beginning of the year. Mora, a formerly undocumented UC Berkeley student, missed his first week of classes, as he was first held by Border Patrol and then in Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego — an experience he described as “horrifying” in a recent interview with The Daily Californian.

In the blowback following Mora’s initial arrest on Dec. 30, campus activist groups launched a social media campaign under the hashtag #FreeLuis to raise funds on Mora’s behalf. One such student organization, Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education, or RISE, at Berkeley, raised more than $14,000 through a YouCaring fund, which far exceeded the $1,500 minimum bond paid for Mora’s release.

“I wanted to use the money I had to help others,” Mora said. “My mother’s mission in life — she was a doctor and a missionary — was to help as many people as possible. The day I got out she told me to help other people.”

On Feb. 1, Mora donated three payments of $1,500, $2,000 and $5,000 toward the release of three other detainees at Otay Mesa: a Haitian woman named Virginie, a Honduran man named Franklin and a Mexican man named Juan, respectively. The last names of the detainees were not released by their attorneys because of privacy concerns.

“He’s never met these people,” said Prerna Lal, Mora’s attorney. “This was a strong showing of solidarity towards people who have been similarly detained.”

The former detainees were shocked and moved by Mora’s donation, according to Immigration Justice Project attorney Patricia Ojeda, who represented two of the individuals in trial.

“Juan said this is the most anyone has ever done for him, especially someone who did not know him,” Ojeda said.

All three of the individuals have family in the United States, according to Ojeda. They are currently in the process of being reunited with their families.

“At the end of the day, it’s horrifying to see these people being treated as criminals,” Mora said. “If they are already being treated as criminals, why not let them spend time with their loved ones for the few months that they have left?”

Mora is awaiting his own trial with an immigration judge in San Francisco set for March as he continues to work toward securing legal citizenship by the time he graduates in 2019.

Contact Miyako Iwata at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dailycalmiyako.