Reflecting on Luis Mora

Community Members Discuss UC's Support of Undocumented Students

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Nkechi Ikem
Staff Writer

During winter break, when students are supposed to enjoy their freedom from reading assignments and study guides, University of California, Berkeley third year Luis Mora was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

After a wrong turn coming back from an event, Mora came face-to-face with a Border Patrol checkpoint. Following the encounter, Mora was detained in San Diego on Dec. 30 and then transferred to ICE custody at the Otay Mesa Detention Center.

During his time in custody, Mora told the Daily Cal that it was “horrifying” to witness how they treated him and others who were detained.

He recalls officers calling him “fuckface” and “exotic” during the time he spent at the facility, and he remembers thinking that fear tactics were used to keep people from seeking medical attention.

Since Jan. 17, Mora was released with the help of his lawyer Prerna Lal, who works for the East Bay Community Law Center. But to some students, the event exemplifies the reality of being an undocumented student attending a UC campus.

“After seeing how UC Berkeley responded to Luis’s detainment, personally I’m just scared that if that were happened to me UC Santa Barbara wouldn’t do anything,” said Mariel Islas, a fourth year undocumented student who studies history at UCSB. Islas was one of the many student activists who used Twitter to tweet and bring awareness to the situation.

She says that the University of California system at-large should have handled the situation better.

“It responded very poorly. The UC itself should be ashamed for not doing enough,” Islas said.  

Islas said she feels that UC President Janet Napolitano’s lack of a statement on Mora’s behalf was disappointing, especially since all of the UCs are technically under one system. Furthermore, Islas said that undocumented students are used as publicity stunts for the system to present itself as being cultural accepting and diverse.

While Mora was detained, students activists and organizations like Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education (RISE), worked tirelessly to free him. A hashtag called #FreeLuis started on Twitter which eventually caught the eyes of prominent California politicians like Senator Kamala Harris, Representative Dianne Feinstein, and Representative Barbara Lee.

But while an awareness of the problem was growing, UCB took until Jan. 8, more than a week, to release any statement regarding More. Even then, the statement did not mention his name.

“I sent a message of support and solidarity to the Berkeley students who are making extraordinary efforts to secure the release of our student detained near the U.S.-Mexico border,” according to the statement. 

Such a response was disingenuous to RISE. In a statement to the Daily Cal, they responded, “To this day, Chancellor Christ has not sent any message directly to any of the students who have mobilized in support of Luis Mora, nor has she explained anything regarding privacy laws. Her silence has been absolute.”

For students who are dealing with similar issues, Diana Valdivia says that the Undocumented Student Services here at UCSB does provide resources.

Valdivia says that the Undocumented Student Services has a legal services program that is in partnership with the UC Immigrant Legal Service Center, which is based out of the University of California, Davis law school.

“I think in general we are just aware that it could happen for folks, whether they are students or family members,” Valdivia said. “So these conversations continue to happen about what it looks like to support students in that case.”

An earlier version of this article stated Luis Mora was detained by ICE agents on Jan. 30. He was detained on Dec. 30.