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San Bruno immigration activist faces deportation

San Bruno immigration activist faces deportation

Activist, hard worker, and dedicated are three words that describe Mexico native Miguel Araujo, a longtime community activist residing in San Bruno.

He has organized, led, and advocated for immigrants’ rights since moving to the Bay Area in 1965. The 72-year old has been a voice for his community for over 40 years but faces deportation after his petition for review of the denial of his applications for withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) was denied. The court ruled that Araujo was not a credible witness nor eligible for withholding or CAT relief. 

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“I feel for some reason that every time I go to an immigration judge, they don’t try to get the truth and justice,” Araujo said. “No matter what I do the court always decides to refuse and that’s why the case goes all the way to the ninth circuit. They make one good decision for me and then later they change it into something bad.”

Araujo’s son Miguel Araujo Jr. has been collecting signatures and urging folks to write letters and contact United States Representative of California Jackie Speier and United States Senator Alex Padilla. Hundreds of letters have been sent to Araujo and his family since the call to action was announced. All the letters are being put together as documentation that will be sent to Padilla and Speier.

“Senator Padilla’s office has been very helpful,” Araujo Jr said. “We’re in the stage of getting everything together and we’re very thankful for what Padilla has done.”

Padilla’s office has been in contact with Araujo giving him information on how to quickly move forward in the process and what is required to do so. Speier’s office has not shown the same level of urgency toward Araujo’s case

“I just feel that I have a lot of trust in Senator Padilla’s office,” Araujo Jr said. “I’m still holding out hope that we will be able to move forward with Jackie Speier’s office.” 

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Araujo has a deep history in his community of San Bruno. He first entered the United States in 1965 at 12-years old and settled in the Bay Area. Araujo got involved with Centro Azteca, an activist organization that fights for the rights of immigrants, uplifting and fighting for undocumented folks. While Araujo continued to organize, he was able to open up his restaurant in 1980 and became the head cook working with his family. 

“The majority of people in this community know who I am,” Araujo said. “In business,I have never gone “under the table” and I have organized with legislatures, council members, and senators.” 

In 1980 he also became the host of “Hablemos Claro,” a weekly radio show that gives voices to the Latinx community in Northern California. Araujo has been hosting it consistently for the past 41 years.

Miguel Araujo, a longtime community activist and owner of Araujo’s Restaurant in San Bruno, poses for a portrait from his restaurant. Araujo is being threatened with deportation. Photo: Alexis Terrazas

“He helps voice the concerns of the communities that he knows,” Juan Castro said. “Other people aren’t able to do it for many different reasons, but he is brave for doing it.” 

Araujo was first deported from the United States in 1994 after being arrested in San Rosa under false pretenses. Araujo reentered the same day. A year later, he helped organize movements to give driver’s licenses to undocumented folks in Sacramento working closely with current Los Angeles city council member Gil Cedillo. While AB 60, which allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, did not pass until 2013, he continued to fight for legislation to pass by participating in rallies and marches.

“He has been involved for a long time in the struggle to get legislation done for undocumented immigrants,” Castro said. “We’ve been writing immigration proposals, writing to the president and legislators proposing ideas on how to solve immigration problems.”

Araujo has two sons, and one daughter who have all been involved in the community throughout the years. In the 2000’s Araujo became the secretary-general of the California chapter of Mexico’s left-of-center Democratic Revolution Party. On May 1, 2006 he helped coordinate the Immigrant Rights march that took place in San Francisco, and a year later Araujo Jr. ran for Mayor of San Bruno but lost to Jim Ruane. His son also ran for the city council of San Bruno.

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“We are well-known in this community, we’ve been around for a long time,” Araujo said. “Whether it’s people who have eaten at our restaurant or know what we do in the community, we have made an impact in the community.”

On December 9, 2017, Araujo was detained by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after the Mexican government reached out to Interpol to find him. He was arrested for allegedly conspiring a crime and was sent to ICE’s Cosumnes River facility in Sacramento before being moved to Yuba County jail. Araujo was released after posting a $5,000 bail with the help of Francisco Ugarte and Matt González, lawyers from the San Francisco Public Defender’s office. The case was dismissed because of a lack of evidence, but because he was detained, his immigration case was reopened after being closed in 2016. Now, Araujo faces deportation for the second time.

“I believe that this is more to keep my mouth closed because I speak about what I believe the Mexican government is doing to immigrants and the poor,” Araujo said. “They have a problem with me because I’ve been doing radio criticizing them for a long time.”

Araujo suspects that the Mexican government has made an effort to go after him and his family for a long time. 

“The government is very corrupt and they killed my brother in Mexico,” Araujo said. “They sent a red note asking the United States to deport me.”

Araujo is hopeful that things will turn out well for him and that he will continue to be as vocal as ever. He will continue to serve his community despite the minor setbacks. 

“I have been here for a long time and I will always serve the community,” Araujo said. “I am a big part of this community, almost every publication in this area has written about me and what I have done for it.”

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