DREAMers Declare Undocumented Youth Mental Health Day

Activists say detained DREAMer Yanelli Hernandez needs treatment, not deportation.

By Jorge Rivas Jan 31, 2012

Immigrant youth around the country are holding vigils as part of "Undocumented Youth Mental Health Day" in response to the imminent deportation of Yanelli Hernandez, a young undocumented immigrant who has attempted suicide while in detention. Hernandez is slated for deportation to Mexico today.

Last November, a DREAM Act-eligible youth named Joaquin Luna committed suicide because he was reportedly distraught about his immigration status. Activists say depression is common among undocumented youth and they’re rallying to save Hernandez’s life.

Hernandez was charged with a DUI last April–activists say that she turned to alcohol to deal with the depression that came with her immigration issues. She had attempted suicide first in 2009, and attempted suicide more recently in jail while incarcerated. 

Luna’s family has spoken out in support of Hernandez.

"I hope that ICE and the proper authorities find it in their heart to release her. She needs to be out, with her mother. Only a mother knows how to take care of her child, and also what it feels like to lose a child after we’ve try everything to keep them safe," Luna’s mother said in a statement.

The National Immigrant Youth Alliance, which organized the nationwide vigils, also have plans to launch a 24-hr hotline in the future so that undocumented youth can reach out to fellow young immigrants. The plan is for the newly launched website, undocuhealth.org, to be a resource, and a way to address the very real mental health issues that come along with being young and undocumented.

"A lot of our very active DREAM leaders contemplated suicide or have dealt with depression, so it’s a very real thing for us. We want people to know that if you’re feeling that way, it’s okay. There are other folks who can support you and help you," the National Immigrant Youth Alliance’s Mohammad Abdollahi told Colorlines.com

"We are stepping up and identifying ourselves as undocumented, and also as survivors of depression. We’re coming out and saying it. It’s a very taboo thing, and it’s a very difficult thing to say, and if we never represent it, then other folks are going to feel they’re doing something wrong or they don’t have support."

For more information and resources visit undocuhealth.org/.