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.