On Monday, community members picketed in front of San Francisco Immigration Court during the asylum trial of Venezuelan political refugees Annelise Pineda and her daughter Oriana Benavides, a Berkeley High School, or BHS, student.
The picket was organized by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN. There were more than 75 community members, including UC Berkeley and BHS students and teachers, who came to support Pineda and Benavides, according to Stephanie Gutierrez, a campus junior and a national organizer for BAMN.
Supporters chanted, “We want asylum, we want it today, Oriana and Annelise got to stay,” and “No deportations in the Bay, refugees are here to stay.” They also held posters that read, “Asylum for Annelise and Oriana NOW!” When the trial began, 25 people entered the courtroom while the remaining 50 stayed outside because of limited seating.
“The passion and the anger in peoples’ voices, and the chants that were being said — it was something that I have never seen before,” Gutierrez said. “People were really out there, determined, and they were determined to get these demands across.”
Benavides and Pineda won their asylum trial, according to Yvette Felarca, a national organizer for BAMN. Felarca added that BAMN was notified of the Benavides-Pineda family’s case by a fellow classmate of Benavides’ at BHS.
“It was absolutely a stunning victory,” Felarca said. “Everyone in the courtroom felt that, starting with the two applicants. There wasn’t a dry eye in the courtroom.”
About two to three years ago, the Benavides-Pineda family crossed the border into the United States. While they were waiting to be granted asylum status, the family was detained after accidentally crossing the border into Mexico, according to Felarca.
Benavides and Pineda are the first in the family to have their trial. Rafael Benavides, Pineda’s husband, has not yet received his trial date and the situation regarding their two other children is unclear, according to Felarca.
According to BAMN civil rights organizer and attorney Ronald Cruz in an email, BAMN is “fighting to win full citizenship for all immigrants and to open the borders.” Cruz added that BAMN hopes to make Berkeley a sanctuary city for immigrants and that this case sets a precedent for the rest of the family.
“If we can do this for the Benavides-Pineda family … if more people take their question and speak out and mobilize for their immigration cases, it’s a real example of what can be done,” Felarca said.