Monday, March 24, 2008

A Face for Change: Luissana Santibanez

Meet Luissana Santibanez (24), an immigrant rights advocate in Austin, Texas. The Open Society Institute recently named her one of the 2008 Soros Justice Fellows among 18 criminal justice advocates. Santibanez plans to build a Texas-based network of former immigrant detainees and raise support for policies to protect their rights (Austin American-Statesman).

"Our goal is providing support and amplifying the voices of former detainees and their families in the broader immigration debate," said Santibanez. "We believe there hasn't been enough attention given to immigration detention."

"Luissana always brings a fresh opinion to our program and we work closely with her on local issues dealing with immigration including the Hutto Detention Center," said AFSC Austin Program Coordinator Josefina Castillo. Santibanez became an AFSC partner through the Texas-based human rights organization Colectivo Flatlander and joined the AFSC Area Program Committee last year.

Photo: Luissana Santibanez (left) works with colleagues during a Colectivo Flatlander "Life with Dignity Workshop" (Taller Vida Digna) (photo courtesy of Josefina Castillo).

An Advocate's Personal Story

Santibanez's commitment draws from her personal experience. She cares for three siblings, all U.S. citizens, while studying at the University of Texas. Her mother, Sergia Santibanez was deported last year. "I am forced to raise my siblings without the love and guidance of the one person we need most in our lives," she said.

"Luissana's case is the perfect example of the harsh impacts of the 1996 immigration law," explained Paromita Shah, associate director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. "It never gave her mother her day in court," said Shah. >To learn more about her case click here.

Support Luissana's Work for Immigrant Rights

To learn how you can support Luissana's work for immigrants' rights in Austin please contact AFSC Austin Program Director Josefina Castillo at

Photo: Luissana brought presents and holiday cheer to children detained in the Hutto Detention Center last December.

Take Action to Stop the Detention of Children and Families

Luissana's future work will draw attention to the difficult reality of immigrants who have been detained. Despite the attention drawn to the increased number of raids and deportations, the most recent Congressional proposal is a disturbing repeat of failed policies.

The SAVE Act (H.R. 4088), also known as the Schuler-Tancredo bill, now under consideration in Congress increases the imprisonment of children and families. The bill would create a family detention space modeled after the infamous Hutto Detention Center in Texas.

This facility houses 400 detainees. Half of these are children who are part of refugee families seeking political asylum after fleeing persecution in their home countries.

Meanwhile the bill fails to address concerns about the treatment of those who are already in detention. On March 11, members of Congress filed a "discharge petition," which would force the House to vote on this flawed bill without review by a committee.

Call your Representative today; contact the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-2141.

Ask your Representative's office to:

  • Oppose the SAVE Act (H.R. 4088) discharge petition. Please do not let our taxpayer dollars fund the imprisonment of children and their families.

  • We need evenhanded and humane solutions, not impractical and unreasonable policies.