On New Year’s Eve 2010, Jorge Narvaez posted a video on YouTube of him and his daughter singing a cover of Edward Sharpe’s song “Home.” The video of the pair singing a song about feeling at “home wherever I’m with you” saw millions of views within a week of being published and today, four years later, has more than 27 million views.
Narvaez and his daughter Alexa went on to appear on “Ellen,” “America’s Got Talent,” and even starred in a Hyundai commercial. But he couldn’t share that success with his mother in person: She was across the border in Mexico, unable to come back to San Diego where she raised her family.
Esther Alvarado raised Narvaez in California. Narvaez says his mother entered the U.S. in 1987 without authorization to meet the rest of the family in San Diego.
“She crossed the border by walking over mountains, she almost lost her life trying to get to us,” Narvaez told Fusion.
Last month, Narvaez posted a second version of the “Home” video on YouTube with a very different purpose — to keep his mother in the United States.
“My mother Esther Alvarado, is currently detained with the 150 families trying to come home,” Narvaez wrote in the YouTube video’s description.
In March, Narvaez’s mother was one of 78 adult individuals who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to turn themselves over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and seek asylum from the countries where they were born.
In 2007, at the advice of a legal adviser she traveled to the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez for an immigration interview that she understood would help her legalize her status in the United States.
“That person made the biggest mistake,” Narvaez said. “He didn’t know the laws as well as he should have. We were naive and we thought it was right thing to do.”
The plans didn’t work out as she hoped, however, and she’s been stuck in Mexico for years.
Alvarado works for a government agency in Juárez and has been receiving extortion calls and death threats, according to Narvaez. So last month, she walked up to a port of entry in San Diego and told immigration officials she was seeking asylum.
But according to Narvaez, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services did not approve his mother’s claim that she faced a “credible fear” of persecution in her country of birth. That’s one of the first steps for immigrants seeking asylum.
Alvarado crossed with a group of individuals organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance in a campaign called “Bring Them Home.”
This is the third time the activist group has organized this type of border-crossing action, but this time, participants in the crossing have hit roadblocks when trying to apply for asylum and have been deported at higher rates, according to an attorney representing the group.
An attorney representing Narvaez’s mother believes Alvarado is likely to be deported.
"Almost everyone that failed their credible fear interview and court review has been deported," David Bennion, an attorney representing Alvarado, told Fusion.
Meanwhile Narvaez is trying to use his more than 450,000 YouTube followers to increase awareness for his mother’s case in hopes that will put pressure on immigration officials.
“My followers know what’s going on and this is hurting my family and kids and they’re in full support,” he said.
She still has the ability to appeal the decision by immigration officials to deny her credible fear claim.
“Everytime I hear the song now I only think about my mom,” Narvaez said. “The concept of home is distorted now because my mom is not home.”