By Carolin Scholz & Lily Jamaludin
On Aug. 8, 2011, Grinnell Alumnus Dani Zamora ’08, was deported from the United States on his way to South Padre Island from his home in Houston, TX. An immigration officer stopped Zamora and his boyfriend for what seemed like a routine check-up. Unfortunately for Zamora, the stop turned into a point of no return. After he had given his California issued ID to the officer he was asked whether he had just crossed the border. Zamora said no. Threatened with being cited for other charges if he didn’t stop lying, Zamora was told to step out of the car and was subsequently arrested by the officer. The officers claimed there were several warrants for criminals who share Zamora’s name.
In an immigration processing office in McAllen, TX, the officers pulled every single criminal record associated with the name ‘Dani Zamora’ and reportedly found nothing. That is, until a higher-ranking officer gave an order to pull the immigration records. Here, Zamora’s story turns for the worst.
Born in Mexico, Zamora moved to the U.S. with his parents legally before starting high school. However, according to the immigration officials who took Zamora into custody, Zamora was issued a departure order in 2003, a document he told the S&B, among others, that he never received. At the time of his arrest, Zamora carried a state issued ID and work permit, issued, according to Zamora, in 2004.
Faced with the choice of going to jail or returning to Mexico and trying to regain entrance into the states legally, Zamora chose the latter.
“I was told I would have to leave the country voluntarily or go to jail and wait until I could get a hearing, but that it would take months before they could process me”, Zamora wrote in his piece “Exodus” about his deportation, that is posted on his blog, which until this event had been devoted to his artwork: cargocollective.com/danizamora.
During his time at Grinnell, Zamora was an Art major and member of both Grinnell Science Project (GSP) and the first LA posse to Grinnell. After graduation, he went on to make a living working on his art in Des Moines and later in Texas.
“After two years from graduating from Grinnell, I had finally been able to afford working on art while not working. I had just begun a new series of work that had me very motivated but I was torn away from it in the midst of making. I long for my gorgeous pieces of oversized paper, my molding materials, the various devices I had created to make my works a reality,” Zamora said in a Facebook group supporting his return.
Now Zamora is in Mexico, a country in which he hasn’t set foot in 11 years, and unable to work due to the lack of proper documents.
Zamora is currently working on reentering the country, legally. Due to his precarious situation, Zamora cannot say too much about his current legal situation. As stated on the bottom of his piece “Exodus,” Zamora’s only income for the next few months will be from his art exhibitions, grad school applications and other things. He is therefore calling for donations, alongside with asking people to spread his story. Those who wish to donate can do so on Zamora’s blog.
“All I have to say is that I have put all my faith in the legal system. As I stated in my memoir, I do believe it can reward,” he said in a message to the S&B. “We have evolved into societies too concerned with the imaginary racial and socioeconomic borders we have created in an effort to be the one who comes ahead. We have lost some of our humanity, our kindness and our love for one another. I dream of a utopia where our ultimate goal is the betterment of mankind rather than that of the individual.”