Visiting activists draw attention to deportation issues

Leni Alvarez and Fernando Jose Trejo Guevara. / Photo by Benjamin Blazevic



Two young activists from Mexico and El Salvador visited Detroit Mercy to spread awareness of the lives of deportees and the creative efforts of young people in Central America.

Fernando Jose Trejo Guevara and Leni Alvarez visited the campus on Friday, Feb. 7, as part of a CLASA event.

Guevara and Alvarez are part of a tour of youth leaders from Central America and Mexico that aims to raise awareness of the impact of deportation.

The ten-day tour is sponsored by Alianza Americas and Strangers No Longer. Both highlight the lives of immigrant communities across the world.

Guevara and Alvarez shared their personal experiences during the event.

Guevara was born and raised in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.

He spoke through an interpreter during the event.

Guevara was raised in a community that was in the middle of a “triangle” of the three most dangerous communities in El Salvador.

According to Guevara, the situation was difficult for young people in El Salvador.

Access to jobs and public education is limited there for young people, he said.

Young members of the community were denied jobs because they were born in a certain community that was considered dangerous.

Gangs also make it difficult for young people to travel in the city.

“We realized that if we were going to make any progress in getting rid of this stigma, this stain on our community, we had to do it as young people,” said Guevara.

Guevara became involved with the “Graffitour” project in 2017.

“It’s essentially taking this idea of street art and making it into a project that generates tourism,” said Guevara.

“Graffitour” is going to be implemented in the four most dangerous communities in San Salvador.

Guevara is also involved with Soy Vida (I am Life), another project in El Salvador that creates entrepreneurship opportunities for young people and challenges myths and stereotypes about urban youth.

One of the most important things about these projects, according to Guevara, is helping young people avoid getting involved with gangs or drugs.

Alvarez is a returned migrant and activist.

She is legally Mexican but raised in the United States.

Alvarez came to the United States at age 2.

In high school in the U.S., Alvarez was taking AP classes and looking into which college she wanted to attend.

Her plans were cut short when faculty at the high school told Alvarez that she was undocumented and had to leave the country.

Alvarez is now part of an organization known as Ottros Dreams en Accion (ODA), which translates to “Other Dreams in Action.”

 ODA supports political action for and by those who grew up in the United States and are now in Mexico due to deportation.

Alvarez has been using her story and experience to support others who are going through similar ordeals and to spread awareness of these events.

Alvarez said that people being sent back to Mexico may not have as comfortable of a time there as some may think.

Some deportees might be undocumented, and some might not even know the language, she said.

“We arrive to a society that also doesn’t see us as Mexican enough,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez mentioned that this is still the situation that deportees and returnees deal with today.

“We hear migration and we usually think migration equals negative or migration equals problems,” said Alvarez.

According to Alvarez, migration is beautiful.

“What we (ODA) try to advocate against is forced migration,” said Alvarez.

Forced migration causes families to risk their well being to find a new home, she said.

Immigration systems and laws should be based on an understanding of why migration happens, she added. Otherwise, we will never be able to stop forced migration, according to Alvarez.

“It doesn’t matter how big the wall is,” said Alvarez. “People will get through.”