The Great Marco Saavedra

This is an article I wrote about Marco.  We’re holding a rally for him today, Friday July 26th, at Rep. Joyce Beatty’s office (471 E. Broad Street, Columbus).  The rally is at 11:00 AM.  If you can’t come to the rally, please sign this petition or call I.C.E. at 202.732.5000.

“There is no fear where there is perfect love,” Marco Saavedra said, just minutes before being detained by Border Patrol agents as he and eight others attempted to cross the border back into the United States on Monday.  Marco had gone to Mexico four days previously as part of an action sponsored by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA).  He and two other undocumented activists were intent on bringing home five young adults who had either been deported or returned to Mexico for economic or familial reasons.  Dressed in graduation robes and mortar boards, and surrounded by reporters, the nine walked to the border as hundreds of supporters filled the streets or watched a live broadcast of the demonstration online.

I met Marco during his first year at Kenyon College, where I was serving as the chaplain.  He was a shy sociology student and watercolorist who often sat in the middle of campus, painting the scenery.  As he matured over the years, he formed the habit of beginning prayers or introducing speakers with lengthy quotations, which he had memorized.  He was as familiar and at home with George Herbert and Gerard Manley Hopkins as he was with Martin Luther King, Jr.  He became a Peer Minister in the campus ministry, and after college was part of the Episcopal Leadership Institute for Young Adults.

It wasn’t until his junior year that he “came out” to me as an undocumented immigrant.  I had always found it strange that he never traveled by plane, taking long bus rides between the campus in Ohio and his home in New York City.  He told me that his parents, sustenance farmers from Oaxaca, Mexico, brought him to this country when he was three years old.  Unlike many undocumented young people, he had exceptionally good luck.  He was admitted on scholarship to Deerfield Academy, a private college prep school, and from there made his way to Kenyon, which like many private colleges doesn’t require that applicants provide proof of citizenship.

He could have gone on to a fairly normalized American life, finding work in the areas that interested him and keeping quiet about his immigration status.  Instead, he decided to follow the examples of Martin Luther King, Jr., W.B. DuBois, and his other heroes, and use his relative privilege to help others.  He became a DREAM activist, advocating for the passage of the DREAM Act and other immigration reform.  Since September, 2011, Marco has been leading protests and asking for action from the Obama administration.  His work has gotten notice in the national media, including an appearance on the NPR show This American Life in late June.

Watching the nine young activists march to the border yesterday was incredibly moving.  I once thought of myself as Marco’s teacher, there to guide him in his spiritual development and help form him into a leader of God’s Kingdom on earth.  Now Marco has become my teacher, through his commitment, his bravery, and his willingness to sacrifice his own safety on behalf of others.  He and the eight other young adults are being held in detention by the I.C.E.  I pray and make phone calls for him, knowing that it’s the least I can do, and knowing that he is doing so much more to exemplify the faith that we both practice and bring about the world that we both believe in.



One response to “The Great Marco Saavedra

  1. This is so moving, Karl!

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