Update: Luis has been granted a minimum bond at his hearing on January 17th and is being released today!

UC Berkeley student Luis Mora spent over two weeks in immigration detention in San Diego’s for-profit Otay Mesa facility. He was arrested for overstaying his student visa, and describes his time in detention as deeply traumatic.

***From Luis Mora’s immigration attorney, Prerna Lal***:

Trigger Warning (Detention Violence):

The conditions during the four days [Luis] spent in Border Patrol’s temporary holding cell were “horrifying,” he said.

“Whether you have a criminal record or not, they treat you like you’re a terrorist,” Mora said.

Agents called him “f — -face” and “exotic,” he said, and detainees weren’t given hygiene products like shampoo or toothpaste. Detainees shared two toilets and one working shower, he said, for about 60 people.

“They refer to us as bodies — ‘How many bodies do you got?’ — as if we were deceased,” Mora said. “You can be alive. You can be a human being, and they will call you a body. It’s shameful.”

To stay warm in the notoriously frigid cell, often called a “hielera” or icebox by immigrants, detainees had emergency blankets. Mora said detainees had to cover even their heads with the blankets for them to be effective.

He recalled looking around while everyone was sleeping.

“It looked like a pile of dead bodies,” he said.


On December 30th, Luis Mora, a junior at UC Berkeley, was apprehended by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a checkpoint in Jamul, near San Diego. Almost immediately, through Luis Mora’s partner, the Berkeley undocumented student group, RISE, got in touch with me and informed me as to what had happened. They started organizing as I tried to figure out where Luis was detained. I finally got a hold of him on Monday evening. He was detained in deplorable conditions for over four days at Barracks 5, which is supposed to only be used as a temporary holding facility. I contacted Barracks 5 for visitation rights with the help of another attorney more familiar with the area, and they told me that I could see him only between 12pm and 2pm on Thursday. They did not even allow him a pencil to write down my phone number.

As I traveled down to San Diego to see finally him on Wednesday evening, Luis was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at Otay Mesa Detention Center, a facility that has been sued for human trafficking. I finally got to see him on Thursday morning. I sought the help of his Senators and Congressional representatives, and requested that ICE release him on an order of supervision or an order of recognizance so that Luis can come back to UC Berkeley in time to resume the Spring semester of classes. Thus far, ICE has refused to accept this reasonable offer despite Congressional and mounting public pressure. They have kicked the can to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), and want us to fight for bond in front of an Immigration Judge. Alas, they have not filed his case with the court yet so Luis is languishing in detention without due process.

I have never had to conduct a bond hearing for a mere visa overstay; for those who do not understand how egregious this situation is, it is akin to asking for a bond hearing for someone jailed over a speeding ticket. And Luis does not even have a speeding ticket.

At this point, we are preparing for a bond hearing and to represent Luis Mora in removal proceedings before the EOIR. We are also working on long-term immigration relief for Luis. We are overwhelmed by the media attention as well as the community support behind Luis. Here is what you can do to assist us in bringing him home:

  • Write letters of support on behalf of Luis to the Immigration Judge to set bond. We would love to have letters from Congresspersons, state and local officials, national organizations, friends and family. Directives as to how to do this are posted here, along with information on where to mail the letters.
  • Donate to his bond fund: Once the Immigration Judge sets bond, we can post the bond, and have Luis home in no time. Once Luis gets lawful residence status, we will get this money back, with interest, and the funds will go towards helping other undocumented students who are similarly detained.


  • Write to Luis while he is sitting in a jail cell: For those interested in writing to Luis Mora, you can send letters via U.S. mail to:

Otay Mesa Detention Center
P.O Box 439049
San Diego, CA 92143

  • Put money in Luis Mora’s detainee account: The Otay Mesa Detention Facility was recently sued for human trafficking because the private facility coerces jailed immigrants to work at $1.00/hr and sometimes without pay for basic necessities. Please continue to put money into Luis Mora’s detainee account so that he can make regular calls to his legal counsel and he is not forced to work or trafficked in this private facility.For those interested in doing so, using Western Union transfer services, you’ll need the following:

First Name: Luis Last Name: Mora
Facility: Corrections Corp of America
Inmate #: 5400517
Receiver Information
Code City/State: XOTAYM IA

  • Leave Luis messages: Call 888–516–0115. You’d first need to deposit money into your friends and family account. Then go back to main menu and leave a voicemail for him. Voicemails cost $1.17 plus tax/fees to leave. He can call you back from the center from his detainee account.
  • Tweet your support for Luis Mora: The graphic above contains a list of demands to continue to pressure our elected representatives–and UC Berkeley–accountable to our community.

Thank you so much for all your love and support. I am confident that we will bring Luis home. He may miss a few weeks of the Spring semester, but we are working hard to ensure that he will still graduate in Spring 2019 with a Political Science degree in one hand and a green card in the another. You can count on me for that.

If you have something to spare after doing all the actions for Luis Mora above and if you appreciate my work, please consider donating to my tip jar. I’ve been doing this work pro-bono for a long time, and I don’t get paid much relative to Bay Area housing costs and supporting my own family. I need help taking care of myself too so I can take care of Luis Mora and other students like him. I would also appreciate it if friends could bring me food or kombucha while I’m burning the midnight oil. Every little bit counts.

Read this powerful op-ed written by RISE at UC Berkeley:


And by the Daily Cal Editorial Board:


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