Undocumedia: Undocumented, Organized and Unafraid

Undocumedia, created and run by young immigrants of Los Angeles, delivers self-improvement information and tools to thousands of immigrants in the country. It is urgent that immigrants take control of their own destiny, they say.

The point that the undocumented community has now reached, after years of fighting for some kind of progress in immigration laws, seems to be stuck in despair.

Without immigration reform, with adverse decisions in courts that prevented the temporary legalization of millions through DAPA and the extension of DACA, millions of people remain undocumented, under uncertain status, and they might continue to live that way.

But the persistent DREAMers movement, young people who came to this country as children with their parents crossing the border illegally, has produced a generation of young leaders who do not see a political solution to their problems: they see it in themselves and in the change they can promote.

They are thousands, and they are everywhere, with more or less luck depending on where they live, since there are states with more resources, more possibilities. But there are also people in other parts of the country who need more guidance, more help; and that is where these two come in: Ivan Ceja and Justino Mora.

Both are residents of Los Angeles, both are undocumented, or rather “dacamented”, having qualified for DACA or 2012 Deferred Action.

Ivan and Justino are the founders of “Undocumedia” a nonprofit that has so far functioned primarily as a means of social media organization: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Temor de redadas invade redes.
Temor de redadas invade redes.

Their goal: to inform the undocumented community – and their loved ones –, empower and help those who need to know clearly where they stand and what resources they can access.

For several years, both young men were involved in activism for the California Dream Act and the executive action announced by President Obama in December of 2014.

Both have been in the trenches and, in 2013, Justino was one of a group of young undocumented immigrants who met with the President at the White House to discuss their legal situation.

When the original DACA began in 2012, both young men took advantage of it, but they soon realized that despite the efforts of community organizations, there was a lot of misinformation about it.

“In my case, I had cousins who started sending me messages like, ‘how do we apply for DACA?’” Ivan explained. “Instead of answering each one individually, I created a group to inform, and this eventually became a website, a Facebook page, etc.”

Undocumedia is run by young immigrants for other immigrants and try to connect with this community to explain, in a fast and direct way, what they need to know. In 2014 they began calling themselves Undocumedia and they became a non-profit in 2015.

“Right now, we are the most-viewed Instagram account when it comes to immigration; on Facebook we have one of the three most successful accounts on that subject and have a particular range among young people, although we have a very wide audience,” Justino said.

The information shared by Undocumedia is especially useful in parts of the country where there is a lack of easy access to community organizations that typically offer help and guidance, such as in large cities, like CHIRLA or CARECEN in Los Angeles, said the young man.

“There are places in the country where an immigrant has to drive several hours to get to a place where they can get information and help,” said Justino. “Through social media we reach them in seconds and give them the information they need.”

How to apply for DACA? What happened with DAPA? How to request a permission to leave the country? etc. Justino and Ivan are not lawyers said Ceja, but “we constantly work with legal advisers so the information we give is accurate,” he said.

One of the virtues of Undocumedia is that the information is simple to understand.

“Sometimes we use images or graphics. It’s concise and free,” Ivan said. “Now we have visitors from all states and between 1 and 3 million visits every week, which come to our sites to see what is happening.”

But they not only seek to provide information, but also promote the empowerment of undocumented youth and their families.

After hearing about the negative decision of the Supreme Court regarding deferred action programs, Undocumedia broadcasted live a press conference in which several activists and immigrants expressed disappointment with the results.

The reactions received were diverse. “Many questions, many people very devastated, but many also asked: What now? What comes after this?”

“We’re telling them that we must continue with the struggle, to be involved in the process, they are the ones that will facilitate the change, and not others,” said Justino.

Partially, information is power, but Undocumedia is not the only project that this pair of “dreamers” has in mind. The ultimate goal is to “inspire people to seek change with existing tools,” says Justino.

Both are working on another project, Polibeats, a mobile application to “enable people to get involved in politics.”

“Many people have never had any involvement in politics, have never met or talked to one of their representatives, but it’s not easy,” Ivan said. “If it is difficult sometimes to find a phone number to call a politician, either you speak English or Spanish, how will my mom do it?”

The application, which plan to launch later this year or the beginning of the next, will help people to have direct access to their politicians or at least to send them messages from various platforms and to be informed from their actions and positions.

Ivan and Justino, who have lived and continue to live personally the experience of living in an immigration limbo that millions of people have been experimenting for many years, have drawn their own conclusions from all this way they have had to go over, particularly after the last big disappointment .

“We have reached this point many times since the 90s,” Ivan said.  “We know that immigration has been a political factor ever since, and we have had to live with uncertainty for years.  But the truth is that we have the power, as a community, to change the course of things, when we get involved.”

Ivan adds that “the last three elections were ‘a joke.’ I love politics but I think there are many former presidents of this country who would be turning in their graves if they could see what is now happening in the United States of America … especially seeing people like Trump.”

We, immigrants, says Ivan, “are tired of political games, but we who will have to drive a change.”

Who are they?

Ivan Ceja, 24-year-old immigrant from Michoacán came to the United States when he was 9 months old and now lives in Compton. His vocation is drawing but he focused his studies in engineering and robotics. In 2009 he established the first “Dream Team” at the University of California at Fullerton and then worked with other dreamers in activism for that community. In 2012 he created Undocumedia.

Justino Mora, 26, came to the U.S. when he was 9 years old and now lives in Santa Monica. He recently graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science, is the co-founder of Polibeats and an online consultant. After migrating with his family in 2000, he graduated with honors from high school and was the first in his family to attend college. There he became involved in pro-immigrant activism, with the CA Dream Network and CHIRLA, as well as the “Right to Dream” campaign.