Hispanic Heritage Week: Chilean Exile, Activist Fights Deportation
As part of NY1's week-long focus on Hispanic heritage, NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner traveled to the Bronx to catch up with an activist who's been fighting deportation for five years.
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It's been a long road for Bronx activist Victor Toro.
Arrested in 2007 following an immigration rally in Rochester, the Chilean exile faced deportation after more than two decades of raising a family in New York.
"It is a real devastating feeling because it is not fair at all," his daughter, Rose, said at the time.
Not only is it devastating but Victor Toro claimed that it is also potentially dangerous, since he'd already been imprisoned in Chile by the military dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet.
“I was in concentration camps,” Victor Toro said through an interpreter. “I was tortured by Pinochet's secret agents and I was deported three years later by the dictatorship, expelled from the country.”
Victor Toro entered the U.S. by way of Mexico, crossing the border, admittedly illegally, to make a life for himself in the South Bronx.
“I understand, without a doubt, that this was a violation to the immigration law here in the United States,” he said through an interpreter. “However, I stayed for 23 years until I was arrested by immigration.”
Victor Toro has made a name for himself in the community. Over the years, NY1 profiled La Peña, which is a cultural and political group he founded to tackle issues like poverty, homelessness and, of course, immigration.
Wearing a t-shirt that said ‘no human being is illegal,’ he saw his own fight as part of a much bigger picture.
“I've tried to demonstrate in the last five years that an undocumented immigrant can fight for his rights, fight for their case,” he said through an interpreter. “My case can have repercussions in our community. It can create more activism, make people take a stand for immigration and wake up to this movement.”
His own legal battle has been slow going. Last year, a judge refused to grant his request for political asylum. His new tactic is to shift his defense to family reunification. His wife is an American citizen, his daughter is a legal resident and his granddaughter was born in the U.S.
“You never forget where you come from,” Victor Toro said through an interpreter. “But right now, my loves are my wife, my daughter, my granddaughter and the revolutionary love I feel for this community.”
There is no date for his next court appearance.