Advocate For Tijuana Deportees Dies At 67

Credit: José Pedro Martinez, used with permission Above: Micaela Saucedo fought to improve the lives of deported migrants living in Tijuana.

Credit: José Pedro Martinez, used with permission
Above: Micaela Saucedo fought to improve the lives of deported migrants living in Tijuana.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
By Adrian Florido

Men and women who land in Tijuana after being deported from the U.S. lost a great friend this week.

Micaela Saucedo was one of the city’s most vocal advocates for that city’s vulnerable deportee population. She died Sept. 1 after a battle with cancer.

Saucedo was a founder and executive director of the Casa Refugio Elvira, which began in 2007 as a shelter for women and children who found themselves stranded in Tijuana after being deported from the U.S.

More recently, she moved her old 10-bed shelter into a larger building and began housing men, who make up most of the deportee population on the streets of Tijuana.

The idea for the shelter was sparked when a Mexican immigrant named Elvira Arellano left the Chicago church where for a year, she’d been seeking safe harbor from deportation. She traveled to Los Angeles, but was arrested there and deported to Tijuana.

It was Saucedo, a retired nurse and activist, who greeted Arellano at the border. The shelter ultimately bore Arellano’s first name.

As the shelter’s director, Saucedo tried to differentiate Casa Refugio Elvira from others. She placed no limit on how long people could stay, realizing it often takes much longer than a week or two for a recent deportee to figure out what to do next.

“She saw a wrong, and she tried to fix it right away,” said Enrique Morones, a border activist who worked with Saucedo and La Hermandad Mexicana, a pro-migrant nonprofit, to establish the shelter.
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A virtual way to be with their deported friend

BY CHRIS O’BRIEN for the Los Angeles Times
Sept. 2, 2013

Kyle Kuwahara, left, and Jude Kratzer use the video game Minecraft to stay in touch with classmate Rodrigo Guzman, 10, who was deported along with his family to Mexico. (Craig Kuwahara)

Kyle Kuwahara, left, and Jude Kratzer use the video game Minecraft to stay in touch with classmate Rodrigo Guzman, 10, who was deported along with his family to Mexico. (Craig Kuwahara)

To save their classmate who was deported to Mexico, the fourth-graders devised an epic plan.

That Rodrigo Guzman, 10, could no longer be with his friends and attend Jefferson Elementary seemed so obviously unfair to these students. So they started an online petition that got 2,788 signatures. They created a Facebook page and posted videos to YouTube.

They petitioned the Berkeley City Council and school district, which passed resolutions supporting their cause. They met with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) to ask whether she could intervene.

“We have to fight for Rodrigo’s rights because he is not able to do it himself!” Kyle Kuwahara said in a letter to President Obama. “Today I’m writing to you on Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday to do the right thing. To allow Rodrigo and his family to return to their home, school and friends in Berkeley.”

Even as the children’s “Bring Rodrigo Home” campaign built momentum, it became clear that things would not move fast. The immigration system is complicated, the students were told. There were too many agencies and politicians with rules that didn’t seem to share their urgency.
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Watch: Ghosts of the Canyon: Deportee Mystery Comes to Light After 65 Years

for video see


Woody Guthrie must have known that immigrants were more than just labels like “illegal” or “deportee.” In 1948, news of a plane crash at Los Gatos Canyon, in California’s central San Joaquin Valley, made headlines across the country, but while the four American crew members were identified by name, the 28 Mexican farmworkers who died in the crash were lumped together and referred to only as “deportees.”

Upon reading the New York Times’ account, Guthrie wrote his poem “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” to protest the media’s failure to accurately report on and identify the farmworkers killed. “Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?” Guthrie wrote. “The radio says, ‘They are just deportees.'”

Tim Z. Hernandez, a California poet and author, was offended too. In late 2010, while researching archives for his novel “Mañana Means Heaven,” he came across the headline “100 Prisoners See An Airplane Fall From the Sky.” It was a story about the crash, and it changed the course of his career. He grew up in the farming communities of the San Joaquin Valley, and he connected with Guthrie’s poem because it echoed his own feelings of injustice for the 28 Mexican men and women who were left unnamed.
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2 reviews of Transit by Anna Seghers


European Refugee Lit: Anna Seghers’s “Transit” Reviewed
By Joe Winkler On May 2, 2013

by Anna Seghers; translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo
NYRB Classics; 280 p.

Anna Seghers, one the most respected and important German authors of the 20th century, wrote perhaps the earliest account of the Nazi concentration camps. That book, The Seventh Cross, tells a similar story to her own time in a camp. Now, NYRB Classics has released a sequel of sorts. Transit tells the story of a lesser-known component of the Second World War, the displacement of millions of refugees. While it pales in comparison to the genocide, the displacement of millions of refugees signified its own traumatic experience which ended up changing the map of postwar Europe. Seghers’s unnamed narrator escapes first from a concentration camp in Germany and then from one in Rouen, France. He finds his way to Marseilles, a port city, which in this era of refugees desperate to leave transforms into a bustling town of the lost. The narrator feels a sort of modernist ennui until he finds himself a hustler in the shady business of visas and departures. There, he begins to create a glimpse of a solid life while remaining on the precarious ground of a displaced person. He loves, he attaches himself to a family and friends, all with an awareness of the inherent transience of his situation and consequently life in general.

The book begins with talk of a downed ship of refugees, and then the narrator proclaims his manifesto:
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Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies – A Doctor’s Journey among Migrant Farmworkers

Editor’s Note: After spending two years among indigenous farm workers in Mexico and in labor camps in the United States, medical anthropologist Dr. Seth M. Holmes documents how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment and racism undermine their health and access to health care in his book, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. He spoke to NAM Health Editor Viji Sundaram.

NAM: Did you set out on this project as a purely anthropological endeavor, but which later changed into something more?

Holmes: Yes, as I said in my book, I set out as an anthropologist to do the classic field research method of participant observation with migrant farmworkers. I wanted to learn about indigenous Mexicans who come to the United States to work on our farms, about their health issues, and about how this group of people is perceived.

NAM: So how closely did you observe the indigenous farm workers?

Holmes: I started this research in rural Washington State, living in a labor camp and picking strawberries and blueberries along with them. We next moved to the Central Valley of California, to Madera, where we first lived homeless for a week in our cars, until we found a slum apartment willing to rent to people without a credit history. In Central California, we were not able to find much work; we pruned vineyards very intermittently. After California, I moved with them to their home village in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico, and lived in a partially constructed concrete home built piece-meal with money sent by relatives in Madera and Washington State.
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