Ramon Dorado adjusted the tassel on his graduation cap as he stood stiffly in front of a group of about 35 people he would soon lead 200 yards north to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Flanked by friendly Mexican police and surrounded by supporters, he stared at the metal bars and gates that mark the beginning of the U.S. "I just want to go home," the 24-year-old said. "I miss my mom and my sister and my grandparents."
Dorado and 35 more young people between the ages of 3 and 33 — a group known as the Dreamers — crossed the border at noon Thursday at Otay Mesa and asked U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials for asylum. They were the second group this week — a third group is expected to cross at noon tomorrow, March 16.
In organizing these concerted actions, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance is challenging how inconsistent immigration policies are breaking up families and harming people who never set out to do wrong.
"No human is illegal," said Hugo Castro, event co-organizer. "These are people who were brought to the U.S. as children and were forced out as adults because their parents didn't get them the papers they need."
Dorado, who lived with his family in Albuquerque, was deported after a routine traffic stop two weeks before he was set to graduate from the University of New Mexico. He arrived in Mexico without family, identity documents, or money and with very poor Spanish.
Next to Dorado, Angel Ariaga, 27, waited in line with his two children: Alexandra, 3, and Brian, 2. Ariaga lived in Alabama for 17 years before he was deported after a workplace raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. His wife and their U.S.-born children came to Mexico to live with him, but she returned to the U.S. two years ago to care for her ailing mother.
"It was a difficult decision for her to leave us behind, but she couldn't support our children and care for her mom," Ariaga said. "We miss her every day and we just want to be together as a family again, where our children will go to good schools and live in a safe neighborhood."
After about a half hour, the group of 35 walked north and went into CBP processing, disappearing from sight. While the group prepared to walk into an uncertain process and future, about 200 supporters chanted and cheered.
"This is about an unprecedented number of deportations in the last few years," said Enrique Morones. "We are very close to 2 million [deportations] that have sent innocent people to places they've never lived and where they have no family or history. So many families have been broken."