Educators And Immigration

Immigration Law and Policy

2017 Cohort Meeting with Attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado and Dr. Angeles Maldonado

2019 Cohort Meeting with Attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado and Dr. Angeles Maldonado

There are many push and pull factors for immigration, and the 2019 trip took place during a significant increase in immigrants entering from the northern triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) and asking for asylum. Those seeking asylum are individuals who are being persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group and/or political opinion.[i] While refugees have to demonstrate these requirements from their countries, asylum-seeking immigrants complete this process upon arrival in the United States.

We were able to meet with several people long involved with assisting immigrants in the often onerous process of seeking asylum as part of a non-profit organization, “Casa Alitas”. We learned that when immigrants are seeking asylum, they must turn themselves into Border Patrol Agents to petition for asylum. They have to provide proof of a well-found threat as well. After that, these people have to travel to where their U.S. sponsor is located. Casa Alitas had been given the use of Tucson’s former Benedictine Monastery as a place to house migrants after they were dropped off by I.C.E.[ii] At any one moment, the monastery housed dozens of families and children in transition from their release by I.C.E. and their journey to their U.S. sponsors, usually close relatives. Scores of volunteers support the migrants with medical attention, clothing needs, food, and transportation. While the number of migrants arriving varied, there were days when over 700 migrants came in. The 2017 LIBRE cohort had advocated for a hands-on volunteer opportunity, and we were able to spend a day working at the Monastery.

Our group also had the opportunity to share stories with another shelter that seeks to end the systematic violence and abuse against LGBT immigrants held in prison and detention centers. The group also provided hospitality and temporary housing for some who had been released from I.C.E. custody and were awaiting their final hearings.

As we met with various volunteer in supporting migrants in Arizona, one of them shared a resource binder created by the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP).[iii] The binder is in English and Spanish. It includes template of letters to write, resources, etc. One of our students was working with a community-based organization so she took one of the binders to see if something similar could be created for our community.

One of the founding LIBRE faculty had built a relationship with Attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado and Dr. Angeles Maldonado back in 2014 during the first trip to Arizona. Both were then invited to do a one-week residency at our institution about immigration. Our group visited their law firm in both 2017 and 2019 to talk with them about immigration policies and their involvement in the greater Phoenix community. Most recently, attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado traveled to Mississippi to help those impacted by the Aug 7, 2019 raids.[iv] The work he was doing was similar to response to then Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s raids in Arizona between 2008 and 2015 that resulted in hundreds of arrests of undocumented workers. When we met with Ray, Angeles and their team, we learned of heir personal story, their commitment to helping people, and how they established their law firm. The team continues to produce updates on immigration issues through their Facebook channel, and this has been an ongoing resource for our students.


[i] ARRC, “Community Navigator Training: Immigration 101” 2017, .

[ii] Nicole Ludden, “Tucson’s Benedictine Monastery More than just a Shelter for Migrant Families,” Cronkite NewsApril 19, 2019.

[iii] FIRRP, What if I’M Picked Up by I.C.E. in Arizona? (Tucson, Arizona: The Gloo Factory,[2017]).

[iv] Daniel Gonzalez and Alissa Zhu, “He Fought for Workers Arrested in Arpaio’s Raids. Now Phoenix Attorney is Battling for Workers Arrested in Mississippi ICE Roundup,” AZcentral.Com. August 29, 2019.

Student Projects

As we learned about various topics relating to immigration, the LIBRE participants used art to express what they learning.

Poster created by Jahdai Guerrero

Poster created by Stephanie Florencio

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