For nearly a decade, Marco Saavedra, owner of a popular south Bronx eatery, has led the fight for immigrant rights in the United States.
On Thursday, November 7, Saavedra received a temporary halt in his deportation case. His next court appearance is January 7, 2020, where a federal judge will determine a final ruling.
Saavedra is requesting asylum because advocates for human rights and migrants in Mexico face persecution, and he will be at risk if he is forced to return.
Saavedra, 30, owns La Morada, 308 Willis Avenue, in Mott Haven, which specializes in Oaxacan food.
After self-deporting in 2013, he has been fighting for political asylum since.
With more than 4,000 people signing an online petition and a packed courthouse, the support has been overwhelming, he said.
“I think the hearing went as well as it could have went,” Saavedra said. “I put myself on the front line believing in immigration rights.”
Saavedra grew up poor in Mexico and his parents Antonio and Natalia envisioned a life for them in the USA.
At 4-years-old, he came here undocumented, and today his family lives in Washington Heights.
He attended Kenyon College in Gambier, OH, but upon entering his junior year was not sure what he wanted to do after school. So, he spent a semester at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., where he lobbied on Capitol Hill for immigrant rights.
It was there where he discovered his love for activism.
After graduating in 2011, he spent the next couple years fighting for immigrants throughout the country.
“It was eye opening to meet the real people doing the work,” he said.
In 2010, he outed himself as an undocumented immigrant to build solidarity and advocate for the immigrant community in the U.S. He also worked with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance to expose cases of medical neglect and the lack of due process in Florida.
Eventually, he began communicating with immigrant youth in Mexico that would have benefitted from DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), but were either self- deported or deported before an executive action was passed in 2012.
To further aid the cause, Saavedra self-deported in 2013 for three days and returned with a group-seeking asylum.
“It was my responsibility as a well known ‘Dreamer,’ to extend my resources so others could remain in the USA,” he explained.
According to Saavedra, his activism has not only helped people throughout the country, but locally as well.
His restaurant has hosted events and is a safe place for people when they need help.
“We’re visible in the community,” he said. “It’s been terrific to have the restaurant.”
He works at La Morada with his parents and sisters, Carolina and Yajaira.
However, Saavedra recalled that his family was initially nervous about his activism due to the fear of being deported.
Looking back, Saavedra told the Bronx Times he does not regret self-deporting and the juice was definitely worth the squeeze.
“The effort on the front line was worth it even though it was taxing,” he said. “It’s a waiting game. We hope that it ends soon.”