YANELLI HERNANDEZ has tried to commit suicide twice and could do so again if she's deported to her home country of Mexico, where she hasn't lived for nine years and no longer has immediate family, immigrant-rights activists say.
They point to the November suicide of Joaquin Luna, 18, of Texas, as an example of an undocumented immigrant who killed himself because, advocates argue, he suffered from the pressures of being in this country illegally.
Hernandez, 22, was scheduled to be deported this morning. Early this afternoon, her attorney, Jorge Martinez, said he received a fax from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) saying it denied an emergency stay of removal petition he filed on Friday. It's his understanding, he said, that Hernandez has already been deported to Mexico or is in the process of being deported today.
Yesterday, activists around the U.S. rallied and held phone banks calling ICE in a last-ditch effort to stop her deportation.
"She needs treatment and not to be deported to Mexico, where she knows nobody," said Fernanda Marroquin, an organizer with DreamActivist Pennsylvania, who participated in the phone bank at the Nationalities Service Center in Center City yesterday. "Today is to save Yanelli's life and get her out of detention so she can get treatment."
Marroquin, 22, said the goal nationally was for immigrant-rights activists to make at least 2,000 calls to ICE to request that Hernandez, of Ohio, not be deported.
Yesterday, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, an umbrella organization of undocumented-youth groups, launched "Undocumented Youth Mental Health Day," which advocates say will be recognized each year, to highlight stress factors faced by undocumented immigrants.
Hernandez came illegally to the U.S. from Mexico at age 13, and worked for many years at an aircraft-assembly plant in Cincinnati before she was detained last year. After her arrival in Ohio, her mother joined her. She now has a little brother, born in the United States.
Martinez, her attorney, said yesterday that Hernandez was stopped by police outside Cincinnati in April and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
She was sentenced to nine months in jail for the DUI and an attempted-forgery charge related to an identification-card issue. After serving that time, she was transferred to ICE custody.
Martinez said Hernandez had tried to commit suicide in 2008, then tried again in June while behind bars.
She has since been taking an antidepressant, but the bigger issue, he says, is that she needs treatment that she may not be able to get in Mexico.
It "would be really sad if she goes to [Mexico] and commits suicide there," said Martinez, who filed an emergency stay of removal for her with an ICE office in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday.
Marco Saavedra, an organizer for the Undocumented Ohio youth group, said yesterday that ICE should use its prosecutorial discretion to allow Hernandez to stay in the U.S.