Waco, Baylor students combat immigration crisis

Students who traveled to Tijuana over spring break encountered the border crisis. It was an emotional experience for many students and has led to many wanting to help. Photo courtesy of Ana O’Quin

By Emma Whitaker | Reporter

While most students after spring break are now looking forward to summer, Baylor students are still thinking about their trip down to Tijuana. Over 100 students from Baylor and various Texas universities went down to the border to better understand the conflict of immigration. Here in Waco, the Waco Immigrant Alliance is trying to help immigrants.

Hope Mustakim, director of the Waco Immigrant Alliance, faced the challenges of immigration policies in 2011 when Immigrant and Customs Enforcement officers knocked on her door to arrest her husband, Nazry Mustakim, for a drug crime that happened four years prior.

“They showed up, full SWAT gear, fully armed guards, and they came into the house and they asked my husband, ‘Are you a citizen?’ and my husband said, ‘No, I have a green card. I’ve been here for 25 years. They said, ‘oh, your felony in 2006 violated your green card, so you have to come with us. You’re being put in removal proceedings. You’re being deported,’” Mustakim said.

Mustakim fought hard for her husband’s case. She said one of the main problems is immigrants do not know their rights.

“He was detained 10 months in a for profit detention center. Ten months later his felony charge was actually dropped,” Mustakim said.

According to Mustakim, for-profit detention center have quotas for people to fill their cells. Since then, Mustakim began working for Waco Immigrant Alliance, which provides resources to immigrants.

“We’ve got a leadership curriculum that we’re going to launch soon. We have a hotline for people in situations,” said Mustakim. “A big fear for families is not just ICE showing up, but what happens to their home, the car, the food, the kids?”

For over a year, Mustakim and Waco Immigrant Alliance also have advocated for Estela Fajardo and her criminal and immigration legal issues since her arrest in January 2016.

In the McLennan County Courthouse on March 8, a jury deliberated Fajardo’s case and the guilty verdict was read out by Judge Ralph Strother. According to Mustakim, 48 hours after the verdict was made, ICE deported Fajardo.

“It’s hard to keep going after something like that happens, but we have to keep going with other families,” Mustakim said.

The organization has an emergency relief plan to help families. Hope said that this helps take some of the anxiety away that families are feeling.

Many students are concerned about immigration from opposite perspectives, amid current day’s political climate and talk of the wall.

Waco senior Ben Gorman said he believes many of America’s hourly wage employees are undocumented citizens.

“It’s important to understand immigration, because, especially in the southern states, it affects us largely,” Gorman said. “A lot of our economy is based on the current structure, and if that structure changed, it would affect us deeper than we realize.”

Austin junior Ana O’Quin was one of the students who took the journey down to the border on spring break and is still trying to grasp the impact it had on her.

“It’s easy to think about these issues in an abstract way,” O’Quin said. “But coming face-to-face with the border, and meeting people whose lives are severely impacted by policies, it makes conversation become than just a debate.”

The experience was quite emotional for some, O’Quin said. People that had never thought about border control were suddenly crying. She said the group is trying to find ways they can make a difference from up north in Waco.

Dallas freshman Jeffery Pistor was also on the trip. He said he is still thinking about the local people that would wait outside the border walls.

“There are a lot of people in Tijuana that are homeless because Tijuana is directly across the border and is the place America sends people when they are deported,” Pistor said.

From attending rallies, to babysitting children, to art therapy teaching, to music club leading, to bilingual translating, there are many ways to get involved with Waco Immigrant Alliance. If you desire to become involved, sign up at wacoia.org