How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Stop the plane!' How twitterati mobilized to try to stop a deportation

Photo by davipt/Flickr (Creative Commons)

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 #Readcast

July 25, 2011

URGENT: Call ICE Director Morton 1-800-821-9358, demand he keep Andy Mathe from certain death! #dreamact #whereisAndy

July 26, 2011

Update on Andy Mathe : Could go "Home" at any Moment: An update on Andy Mathe, the young man who is facing depor...

July 26, 2011

HELP - ICE is drugging and deporting Andy Mathe to death within a few hours via @Delta airlines. Tell @Delta to refuse to take him onboard.

July 26, 2011

@Delta If Andy Mathe is deported back to South Africa via your airlines, he faces death. Read his story here.

July 26, 2011

News: Was just informed that ICE has picked Andy Mathe and he is likely to be deported this evening via a Delta...

July 26, 2011

Just made the call to ask ICE to stop the deportation of South African youth, Andy Mathe. Will u?

July 26, 2011

Andy Mathe will be deported today at 7pm through Delta. Call the airlines directly and tell them to not fly Andy to his death (404) 765-5000

July 26, 2011

Correction: Andy Mathe is being drugged and deported by ICE and @Delta from Gate E11, S Terminal on Flight DL 200 at ATL airport at 7:20

July 26, 2011

STOP THE PLANE! Andy will be taken to his death if it leaves the airport! Flight DL200 Gate E11 Terminal S @Delta @Atlanta_Airport #immyouth

July 26, 2011

RT @thejval: Will anybody at #ATL @Atlanta_Airport please go to Flight DL200 Gate E11, Terminal S to help save Andy Mathe? @Delta #delta #immyouth

July 26, 2011

Flight DL200 to Johannesburg has taken off #WhereisAndyMathe

July 26, 2011

Re ICE deportation: We respect your passion, but deportation is the US govt's decision & as a privacy matter we don't share pax info.

July 26, 2011

Andy Mathe has been deported- read the story here: #dreamact

July 27, 2011

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. 

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