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Tuesday, May 28th, 2013



Viridiana Martinez



Father of 3 US Citizen Children Faces Deportation

The children will hold a vigil to ask for their father’s release 


Sanford, NC– Juan Joya Mejia (A#097-951-344)  lives in Sanford, North Carolina with his family but was in Pennsylvania looking for work to provide for his family. He was arrested after a neighbor called the police accusing Juan of looking suspicious when he was only playing with a bee bee gun. The police did not arrest him at first, but they came back after and asked him for his immigration status and turned him in to ICE. Juan is now at risk of deportation even though he did nothing wrong. He is currently detained at York County Prison in Pennsylvania and faces imminent deportation.

Juan has severe liver complications and onset heart problems. He needs medication that he cannot access in detention. He is the father of 3 U.S. citizen children who need him home. His wife, Maria, is at high risk for ovarian cancer, and she needs help sustaining their children.

Juan’s friends, wife and three US citizen children will be holding a vigil to ask immigration authorities for his immediate release.

WHEN:          Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

TIME:            7PM

WHERE:       St. Stephen Catholic Church – 901 N Franklin Dr.,  Sanford, NC 27330

WHO:             Organized by The NC Dream Team as part of the Secure Your Own Community (SYOC) project, where immigrant youth fight to stop the deportation of our peers and community.

Juan was born in El Salvador but came to the United States to escape violent gangs that were trying to recruit him and threatened him when he refused to join them. Juan has been living in the United States since 2003 and has no criminal record. He is a caring and hard-working father.

Juan needs to be released so he can join his family in North Carolina, receive proper medical care and provide for them. He is a low priority for deportation and meets the requirements for favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion under the 2011 Morton Memo. 


For more information about Juan, you can visit the online petition:


The NC DREAM Team is an organization composed of undocumented immigrant youth and allies who are dedicated to the creation of a sustainable, community-led immigrant rights movement in North Carolina. We aim to help undocumented youth recognize their individual and collective power to activate their communities. We will escalate in our efforts to achieve a just reform that is acceptable to–and guided by–the voices of those directly affected by our broken immigration system.


Location: St. Stephen Catholic Church – 901 N Franklin Dr  Sanford, NC 27330

Time: 6 to 8 pm


On Tuesday, May 28th at 6 pm, we will be holding a vigil in St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Sanford, NC calling on Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement (ICE) to release Juan Joya, a day laborer from the area.

RSVP to the facebook event here! 

Juan was on a trip to work in Pennsylvania. He was sitting on the steps of a building playing with a bee bee gun when a neighbor called the police. When they arrived, they asked Juan for ID and when he showed the only one he has from his country of El Salvador, he was detained and placed under the custody of ICE. Despite having no criminal record, living in the US for 10 years, and having 3 US citizen children, Juan is facing imminent deportation. 

Also, Juan has serious liver and heart problems which he has not been able to receive treatment for. On Tuesday, Juan’s wife and 3 US citizen children – Kegri (6), Madeline (4), Elwin (1) – will be joined by supporters, family members, and clergy to ask for the immediate release of Juan.


Location: St. Stephen Catholic Church – 901 N Franklin Dr  Sanford, NC 27330

Time: 6 to 8 pm

Estephania Mijangos coming out for the first time about her immigration status at a Youth Empowerment Summit in Sanford, NC.

My name is Estephania Mijangos and I am undocumented. I came to the United States in the summer of 1999 with my family in order to join my grandmother. It’s a decision that my mother has regretted many times during these last few years and that at times I have as well. At first everything was great I started school and made many friends which I love deeply even now and who i am still relatively close to even after all these years. Whenever I introduce some of them I always say how they were my first translators when I started school and how they always supported me. I think that a big part of why I learned to love school quickly here was because of them without their support I don’t know how easy my transition would have been. From the beginning I was a favorite of my teachers and I always loved to see their faces of approval at my quick development and grasp of things. I continued to excel in school and already had my life planned out. I would graduate with high grades get a few scholarships and if that still wasn’t enough I would just go to a community college while I worked to be able to move on.

My freshman year of high school I began to see just how tough things really were for someone in my position. Laws began to pass that barred undocumented students from community college but because of talks I heard about the Dream Act I decided not to worry about it. I always believed that it would get passed by the time I graduated and that my life would continue to just advance. My sophomore year I began to realize how things might not be so easy. All of my friends got their drivers permit and some were given cars by their parents it was then that I had to begin to make excuses as to why I didn’t do what was expected of me. I didn’t get my permit, then my licence, and a car. I didn’t start to look at colleges when they did or even talk about college plans. I always avoided such conversations my supposed lack of interest in my future made me look stupid and my ego made me hate my situation even more.

Estephania speaks out at a vigil

I stopped working as hard in school as I should have something which I deeply regret now but can’t change. I can now see that even though then I didn’t acknowledge it I was depressed. I began to make arrangements to go to school in Mexico because although I had stopped working hard I still saw what I wanted and still cared enough to try to find a way to it. All my plans were quickly slashed one after the other because of family differences or because of the violence in Mexico that made it impossible for my parents to allow me to go to a certain region. I hated it and was so cynical that by then the faces of approval the teachers made when they talked to me about an essay or when discussing novels angered me. I hated those looks and wanted them to stop when before I had worked for them.

I began to see the differences in my AP and Honors teachers toward other students. They always smiled at us and encouraged us but always stated their dislike for having to teach one non-advanced class every now and then. Every time they made these remarks I began to look around and saw that my classmates just smiled and some laughed clearly proud of being the favorites and never thinking that she was talking about other students. I was ashamed when I realized that not long before I made the same stupid faces would simply agree with what she said. I was so selfish. If they disliked students simply because they were not at the advanced level how would they treat me if I ever told them I was undocumented. Would they still invest time on me? Would they care for me and smile every time that they saw me and hugged me or would they have ignored me because to them I would have been a waste of time. I distinctly remember one day while we sat in English 12 discussing a novel when the principal walked in. The teacher finished explaining her points and then greeted the principal warmly. They talked about us and she proudly said that we were all headed off to the best universities in the country and began to point out the students that had already received their acceptance letters and mentioning the scholarships they had received. She walked around the classroom and petted us on the head as she walked by. My whole day was ruined after that. I remember that there were days I would sit in my room and just look out the window for hours not thinking about anything just staring at the trees or my dog running around then I would do my homework and go to sleep. I wonder if it would have been easier I had just allowed myself to cry.

“I am Estephania Mijangos. I am undocumented, unafraid, and unashamed. I refuse to remain in the shadows as I watch the inhumane way in which we are treated when we are equal.” #Raleigh3

When graduation arrived I didn’t take part in anything that marked the end of high school. I didn’t take the senior pictures, buy my cap and gown, or even attend my own graduation ceremony. To me graduating wasn’t an achievement or something worth celebrating because after that I had no plans or roads to follow.

The Dream Act would help change that not just for me but also for many other youth that are in the same situation. I’m twenty-one now but I think back to when I was just sixteen and the way I thought and felt and it is because of everyone that has felt the same or does now that it is important to support the Dream Act. To speak loudly about it and work as hard as possible to make sure everyone knows about it. To reach the student whose world at age eighteen is falling apart and feels like they have no one that understands their pain. The student who feels useless in their own life making decisions because someone has already decided how far they are allowed to go without once getting to know them as a person. It is for all of them that it’s important to speak out and encourage them so that hopefully they can reach the point where they can say undocumented and unafraid.

At that point they can speak up for themselves and no longer watch as others speak for them just like I did before joining the NC Dream Team. When I began to be active in NC Dream Team I didn’t want to be open about it. I was still scared but with time they helped me build my courage and gave me the strength to come out. In the team I have found a family of support and care which I wish I had always had. I’m learning to care for them more than I have for people in a long time. We face many challenges and there’s going to be many people against us but it will help us be stronger for each other and make us better human beings in the end.


Estephania Mijangos is a graduate of Lee County High in Sanford, NC. She is an active member of Brick City Dream Team.

Image by J. Valas

My name is Cynthia Martinez. That’s me in the picture above at my first rally ever. And it was the first time I “came out” too. For the first time ever, I shouted out my immigration status. “My name is Cynthia Martinez and I am Undocumented and I am no longer afraid!” I had chosen to come out of the shadows and leave my comfort zone. I had chosen to take a stand. Along with seven other undocumented young people from across North Carolina, I sat down at an intersection in Charlotte. We refused to stand up. We were then arrested and semi-processed. I say semi-processed because immigration officials processed us but later “dropped our immigration charges”. And they did so because they felt pressured by the publicity that followed this action. ICE is afraid when you and me come together and take a stand. It’s time more of us took a stand too

Image by Justin Valas

I live in Sanford, North Carolina. Here, because my family and I are Hispanic, we are constantly targeted by local law enforcement. I grew up in Sanford since the age of two and given so, I think it’s safe to say that I consider this my home and community.

I am fully aware of the different laws and regulations that are established to keep me and my community in the shadows. Such programs include the Secure Communities policy (active in all 100 counties in North Carolina) and the community colleges admissions policy, which includes Central Carolina Community College right here in Sanford. Not being able to obtain a drivers license to drive legally is one among many more but right now it seems to be the biggest upset within my community.

Here in Lee County, the 287(g) program has not been implemented but something just as bad has occurred. We have become apathetic to the idea that running into road blocks is normal and getting a ticket is just part of it. We haven’t stopped to realize that maybe programs such as 287(g) haven’t been established here not because we are actually “liked” but because we contribute by paying ticket after ticket after ticket and in cases paying lawyers to handle traffic infractions, most due to driving without a license or an expired license. How much money hasn’t gone to the growth of Sanford obtained from inconvenient fees such as these traffic tickets? And the police are strategic about where they station themselves when they set up these license check points. There’s often one near my house where many Hispanic people live! Looks like racial-profiling to me.

Image by Justin Valas

Well it’s time that Sanford wake up to the injustices that surround our community where on top of paying federal, state, and local taxes we are still forced to pay for a ridiculous amount of tickets that we wouldn’t have to pay if we were able to obtain a license. Yet after all of this we are still told that we have to pay out of state tuition to go to the community college here in town. Does this make any sense? That while we contribute to our community, our local and state governments implement these harsh laws and policies? This is not right, it is not just.

We came to this country searching for a better future, for the right as human beings to go to school, to drive, to walk freely in our towns that we contribute to with every paycheck yet we hit a wall when we try to practice these rights. It is time that we as a community start standing up for our rights. This is a problem that affects us all for everyone once lived it. Whether it was pilgrims who came to this land fleeing religious persecution, the Native Americans who were killed by those pilgrims that were once persecuted, African Americans who were enslaved and in many ways still are, Asians who were sent to concentration camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, people from the Middle East who were targeted after 9-11 and Latinos who are racially profiled among other things every day. Everyone has lived it. Will you sit and watch as injustices keep happening or will you stand and take action as I have? The choice is yours.

Cynthia Martinez from Sanford, NC wants to share her graduation story with you.

Graduation is just around the corner. What are you going to do when you graduate? If you have graduated already, do you have a story you would like to share with us? Send it to us at


My name is Cynthia Martinez and I graduated class of 2009 from Lee County High School in Sanford, N.C. I graduated with honors and as 1 of 2 Hispanic members of the National Honor Society. I was ranked 30th out of 404 students with a 4.01 GPA. I received a scholarship to St. John’s University, but because of my legal status, the only scholarship I could receive was $15,000. But mind you, a year of study there for my chosen major was $52,000. The difference as you can see, is a real big one. Putting a burden like that on my parents touched my heart, so I looked for other options.

I soon applied to Central Carolina Community College but to my dismay, I received a letter stating that because I was “an illegal alien, they were not obligated to allow me into their school.” That was my first taste of the discrimination that was soon to overtake many more communities.

Seeing no clear path as to my educational future, graduation began to seem very glum to me. I was no longer looking forward to graduating because I no longer knew what my future held. I saw everyone around me excited to be going to school and receiving scholarships and what not to places I knew that had my situation been different, I most definitely could have gone to. I saw people being awarded scholarships that I knew, had I had the chance, I could have received but I got nothing.

After graduation and two weeks vacation in Texas to “get my mind off things,” I began to work full time at McDonalds. Soon after that I was offered training to become part of the management program there which I took happily! McDonalds offers classes which they pay for and pay the employee to go to in order to learn proper business practices. Once you attend all your classes, they can transfer to college credit courses and one could have received their associates in business administration.

Business Administration was not my chosen major, but for now, having the opportunity to learn more into depth as to the ever-growing McDonald’s corporation sheds some light in my heart. For two years now since my graduation, the only form of learning that I have are these classes and while I am thankful for it, I can’t help but wish for more towards my educational future. So yes, I am undocumented, and because I lack a 9-digit number, I am not given the chance to further my dreams and enhance my education. A number. A number is what stops me–an accident of birth, even. We sit back and read the history of this country and we “aw” at the ridiculousness of some of the things people had to go through to be accounted for and what they did to make a difference and now I sit here dumbfounded at times to see how ridiculous it is that my life and thousands of others is being dictated by the presence of a 9-digit number!

What happened to “the land of opportunity?”

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