Luis Mancheno '13, an immigration attorney in Arizona, talks about representing non-citizen detainees facing deportation -- as they cheer the U.S. team in the World Cup.
From the HUFFINGTON POST: "Cheering for the USA From a Detention Center in Florence, Arizona" by Luis F. Mancheno, Staff Attorney, the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, Arizona.
July 9, 2014: Through a tinted glass window I saw a group of men watching a World Cup match. Neither Belgium nor the US had scored any goals yet. "Cuidado!" ("Watch out!") yelled one of the men when one of the Belgian players got close to scoring. Everybody had their eyes glued to the television. This game was going to determine whether the US team would make it to the quarterfinals.
I work as an immigration attorney in Florence, Arizona, providing free legal services to non-citizen detainees who are facing deportation from the United States. I saw this group of men during one of my visits to one of the many detention centers that the Department of Homeland Security uses to detain more than two thousand people in this state. Although I had seen this same group of men watching other World Cup matches before, this time was different.
Once the prison guard let me into their common cell there was no mistaking which team they were all cheering for. "USA! USA!" They chanted together. I quickly asked one man if he was cheering for the US team. "Claro! (Of course!)", he answered. "I have lived in this country my entire life. I don't know any other country." I was shocked by his answer. I smiled but inside of me I felt like crying. I couldn't understand how this man could cheer for the same country that was trying to deport him, the same country that had detained him for months, and the same country that separated him from his family. This man, like most in this group, felt "American" and there was nothing that an immigration judge, a prison guard, or a border patrol agent could tell him that would make him change his mind. He was cheering for the United States, for "his country." [...]
Luis F. Mancheno is a Staff Attorney at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona.
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