Victor Toro Defense Committee

Defense Committee Launches New Phase of Campaign in the case of Victor Toro

National Petition & Letters to Congress Campaign Set to Demand No Deportation of Victor Toro

The Victor Toro Defense Committee is launching the next phase of the campaign to stop the deportation of 69 year old Chilean activist Victor Toro. Diana Crowder, Coordinator of the Campaign stated that the Defense Committee has been meeting frequently recently to lay out innovative plans to re-energize the campaign for Victor Toro.

A new petition, brochure and postcard campaign directed to U.S. Attorney Eric Holder as well as Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is ready and available on the website www.may1.info

The Committee announced that Toro’s defense team has had a new boost with the addition of the CUNY Law School, Immigrant and Refugee Rights Clinic which has taken on Victor’s case as legal representative.

Background of the Case

Toro was arrested by U.S. border patrol on July 5, 2007 on an Amtrak train in Rochester, NY. The Committee states that he was racially profiled, asked for papers and detained. Victor and his spouse Nieves Ayress are both long time fighters for social justice.

In Chile, they both organized and fought against the U.S.-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1970’s.  Both were forced to leave Chile as a result of brutal torture and a wave of repression against the political movement. Tens of thousands of Chileans were massacred at the time.

But Nieves and Victor never gave up fighting for the rights of the people. In New York, they founded in La Peña del Bronx 24 years ago and are also active organizers in the May 1st Coalition for Worker & Immigrant Rights. They are both anti-war and social justice activists on every progressive cause.

In Chile, Victor was instrumental in struggles for basic survival for his community including the fight for water and housing. Nieves is a long time activist for women and indigenous rights as well.

In March of this year, the judge presiding over the case of Victor Toro denied Toro’s request for political asylum. Toro faces possible deportation anytime. The denial is a setback to the struggle for justice not only for Toro but for all the undocumented and documented immigrants for whom Toro has fought so hard.

The Defense Committee is demanding that Victor be allowed to remain in the U.S., since deportation back to Chile would uproot him from his family and community in the Bronx. In addition, he faces repression and even the danger of being killed if he is returned to Chile, as the repressive apparatus from the Pinochet era still loom in the shadows there.

The evidence presented to Judge Sarah Burr along with Victor Toro’s testimony was of such magnitude that no objective judge could have denied the petition for asylum presented by the Chilean former political prisoner.

Judge Burr concluded that Victor Toro took too long in presenting his application for Political Asylum and that the political conditions in Chile had sufficiently changed so that Toro can return to Chile without problems. This conclusion by Judge Burr completely ignores the testimony presented by Victor Toro and his defense team.

His legal team expressed concern since the moment lawyers for the Department of Homeland Security introduced the idea that Victor Toro was linked to “Terrorism” or that he was a “Terrorist” himself. The concern was that the accusation of terrorism, though unfounded, would not allow for the case to be judged justly and objectively. The decision by Judge Burr shows that the committee’s concerns were valid.

How supporters can help

The Victor Toro Defense Committee is urging progressives, immigrant rights and labor activists, anti-war and all people of conscience to demand no deportation of Victor Toro.  The Committee is preparing letters of support to be sent to Members of Congress, especially the New York representatives.

A postcard has been drafted by the Committee to send to U.S. Attorney Eric Holder as well as Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  A petition is also available for download.

Supporters can also help by getting union members, faith-based leaders, or anti war organizations to sign on to support Victor’s right to remain in the US. Victor, Nieves, his lawyer and other members of the committee are available for press interviews and to speak at events to help get the word out.