'Stop the plane!' How twitterati mobilized to try to stop a deportation
Last week, blow-by-blow updates on the deportation of a young man to South Africa scrolled across Twitter over the course of several hours. It wasn't the first time that young immigrant activists have used social media to intervene in a deportation, but in this case, the plane was about to depart.
The emotional pleas contained to 140 characters related to Andy Mathe, the eldest son of an Atlanta family that had sought political asylum since 2007. The family said they had been subject to death threats and the attempted kidnapping of a daughter; their father, a native of Rwanda who left that country following the genocide there, had gone into hiding while the mother and children left for the United States.
Hundreds of activists, students, bloggers, immigration attorneys and other Twitter users participated in a last-minute campaign, urging followers to contact the federal government and the airline. As the clock ticked toward takeoff, increasingly urgent tweets related an unfolding drama. "Stop the plane!" one screamed; others tweeted that Mathe had been drugged, which was not confirmed, though the practice has been employed in the past.
Here are just a few of the tweets, in a timeline:
For ANdy Mathe "Help to Save My Son From Deportation ICE" on Scribd http://t.co/K6ide3f #Readcast
Mathe's mother was scheduled to meet with immigration officials today, according to immigrant activists. The family has lost its bid to remain in the United States and could be deported in the near future.