Al Dia: Fight Raises Mental Health Awareness Among Undocumented

Fernanda Marroquin showed a photo of Yanelli Hernandez, who was recently deported to Mexico.
Fernanda Marroquin, of Wyndmoor, Pa., showed a photo of Yanelli Hernandez, who was recently deported to Mexico.

Yanelli Hernandez, 22, faced the threat of deportation with the support of a loyal group behind her. However, even with the efforts of DreamActivists like Fernanda Marroquin, of Wyndmoor, Pa., who fought to draw national attention to her story, she lost her case and was forced to return to Mexico on Jan. 31.

Since her deportation, Hernandez has been separated from her family in Ohio where she has lived since she was 12 years old. She came to the United States alone seeking a better life, but as an undocumented youth she faced depression and attempted to commit suicide twice.

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“Undocumented youth don’t have anywhere to turn so they resort to self-harm and hatred,” said Marroquin, who experienced similar issues as an undocumented youth. Unfortunately, depression is common in undocumented individuals.

DreamActivists provide support in various states, utilizing social media outlets, petitions, phone banks and rallies to increase awareness. On Jan. 30, 12 states fought for Hernandez using these same tactics. They brought in over 1,400 calls to legislators in Ohio. Hernandez’s case raised national attention, opening the forum for depressed undocumented youth.

“I knew her for a year,” said Marco Saavedra, 22, an organizer for Undocumented Ohio. “I worked with her and her family.”

Saavedra had contact with Hernandez and her mother throughout her detainment, so it was hard to see her deported. Though she does not have immediate family in Mexico, she is trying to connect with distant family members. He is making sure she is provided with resources in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where she is currently in a migrant house near the border.

Although the Hernandez case was not a success, DreamActivists and Undocumented Ohio will continue to fight for other undocumented individuals. Both organizations are part of the Education Not Deportation movement.

“People are deported every day,” Marroquin noted. “Sometimes their family doesn’t even know until they are back in their home country.”

Marroquin’s next fight is for Miguel Angel Orellana Garcia, 22, who has been in detention for nine months. He came to Philadelphia when he was 9 years old. Now, he has a 4-year-old, a fiance and a newborn on the way.

In all cases, DreamActivists hope to draw attention and raise awareness to prevent deportation, especially for individuals like Hernandez. A major issue in the deportation of individuals who have suffered from depression is that separation from their lives in the United States may only make their condition worse.

Hernandez’s case led to the creation of, a website dedicated to serving undocumented people with mental health issues. Marroquin said she hopes this will create a larger network of undocumented youth who can support each other.

“People need to come out of the shadows and declare their status,” insisted Marroquin, who is organizing group meetings so that undocumented youth can have a safe space.

While the support of DreamActivists is beneficial to the undocumented youth who are facing deportation, it is often the support of authority figures like politicians and attorneys who win cases. Support from an attorney for Hernandez came two days before her deportation but was unsuccessful on such a short time frame.

“We have to move forward and help others that suffer from the same kinds of things,” Marroquin said. “But this is not the end for Yanelli.”

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