Category Archives: La Migra

ALERT: BUSD Superintendent warns of ‘infamous tradition’ La Migra, urges families to discuss chase-game’s racist origin and danger

[Note from BenIndy:  Benicia Unified School District (BUSD) issued a district-wide warning that the annual occurrence of the racist, violent “game” Benicia High School students call “La Migra” is anticipated to occur soon. For more than 20 years, the La Migra “chase-game” has inflicted deep emotional and often physical harm on Benicia’s vulnerable youth, especially our youth of color. La Migra also claims countless hours of our police department’s time, tying up emergency resources and costing Benicia thousands in overtime wages and related spending. After you read Superintendent Damon Wright’s warning, please keep reading to learn more about an amazing event coming to Benicia tomorrow!]

Infamous Traditions

Posted by Benicia Unified School District, March 22, 2024

We want to bring your awareness to an unsanctioned and dangerous activity that Benicia teens have participated in over the last twenty years, an underground, unwelcome event in our community. It is a chase-and-capture game referenced as “La Migra”. This activity happens in the Spring, usually on a Friday evening in late March or April.

While this activity is not in any way organized or condoned by the schools, Benicia Unified School District, or the City of Benicia, there is an urgent need to provide our community with information and ask for your partnership in putting an end to this event once and for all. We want to provide awareness about this event and see it stopped for two important reasons: the inappropriate, racist, and offensive nature of the game and the incredible safety concerns for our students and innocent bystanders.

“La Migra” is slang for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and is the name used for this controversial game based on ICE agents deporting undocumented immigrants. The event involves older students chasing younger students through the city, trying to catch them, and possibly transporting or holding them against their will. The event begins at one location, typically a park in town, with the younger students attempting to get to a second designated location without being caught by an older student. A student who is captured is sometimes dropped off in an unknown location. There are reports of highly unsafe situations in the course of this event, including dangerous driving, students dressed in all black with masks running through backyards and private property, speeding, physical contact causing injury, unsafe physical detainment, and students being left without the ability to contact someone to pick them up. BUSD along with various community partners are working to stop this activity immediately to keep students from being injured or harmed.

In addition to the physical safety concerns, Benicia Unified School District strongly advocates for respect for all individuals, regardless of race, place of origin, sexual orientation, or disability. A game such as “La Migra” causes harm, both physical and emotional, to members of our community.

We urge every family to discuss this event, use this as an opportunity for education and understanding, and help us end this game in our community.


Damon J. Wright, Ed.D.
Benicia Unified School District


Reminder: Fiestas Primavera Saturday, March 23, 2024

The Solano Aids Coalition (SAC), along with logistical support from the City of Benicia, the Benicia Public Library, the Benicia Unified School District, Benicia Black Lives Matters, and the Kyle Hyland Foundation, is proud to announce the creation of a beautiful and inclusive Benicia cultural event “Fiestas Primavera” a Mexican/Latino Indigenous tradition to celebrate and honor the coming of spring. Please review the promotional video linked here: Fiestas Primavera

Fiestas Primavera spring fest benicia gazebo park open 10:30am to 5:00pm

For more information about Fiestas Primavera and La Migra, check out our archives!

Fiestas Primavera / Spring Festival at Benicia City Park, Sat., March 23

Let’s Educate and Celebrate, Not Denigrate

Click the image to enlarge.

Benicia, California – On March 23, 2024, Solano Aids Coalition, in partnership with the Benicia Unified School District, the Benicia Public Library, and Benicia Black Lives Matters, with help and support from a wide host of agencies and local businesses and non-profit groups, are bringing a spectacular cultural event to Benicia. Fiestas Primavera Benicia is a Mexican/Latino and Indigenous celebration of spring. This inclusive and free event will take place at Benicia City Park by the gazebo from 10:30am until 6pm and will be an extravaganza of ceremony, music, dance, art, education, vendors, food, and children’s and teen activities. There will even be a small classic car show and virtual reality trips to the past.

The Solano Aids Coalition has been producing cultural events throughout the county for many years, including the beautiful Dia De Los Muertos Festival, Fiestas Patrias, and Cinco de Mayo. This will be the first of its kind in Benicia, and will host vibrant entertainment, including elaborately costumed Aztec Dancers and Diablos de Oaxacanos, culminating with a Latin pop and jazz band which will get you out of your chair and onto the dance floor.

The children’s activities include catrina face painting, pinata making, clowns or payasos, and an exploration of the Mexican/Latino and Indigenous cultures and their own heritage through educational art projects and displays. Students will have the opportunity to display their artwork and read essays that demonstrate their passion for equity and inclusion. There is even a scholarship for two Benicia juniors and two sophomores for those who submit meaningful essays on history, immigration, and the impacts of racism on our community.

The purpose of this event is to bring education, awareness and celebration of the Mexican/Latino and Indigenous cultures to this community. The population of Benicia includes at least 14% Latino/Hispanic, making it the second largest ethnic group in the City, with another 13.5% of the population reporting to be of mixed race. More than 30% of our population is non-white. Benicia is ready to honor its cultural make-up and heritage through this interactive and inclusive event.

Fiestas Primavera Benicia is born out of the need for more community understanding and acceptance of our cultural make-up and the social and economic benefits of immigrants. Students in Benicia have been sponsoring a game they call, La Migra, which is an unsanctioned chase game modeled after the brutal and tragic capture and return of undocumented immigrants by INS agents. Teens have been playing this racist-based and bullying inducing game for decades, generally during the early spring. It has been the cause of much individual trauma and is a huge public safety concern.

“We need to focus on the benefits that immigrants bring to our country and communities, and not allow our children to grow up believing that immigrants should be sent back to where they belong.” says Mario Saucedo, Director of the Solano Aids Coalition and producer of community wide cultural events. “This country is built by immigrants – in fact, almost everyone in this country has an ancestral history of immigration, whether it was a decade or centuries ago. We really are all one people – the human race. So let’s celebrate – not denigrate – our cultural make-up and our history.”

Solano Aids Coalition and the supporting community of Benicia invite you to attend this amazing event on March 23 in Benicia City Park by the Gazebo. It will be a beautiful and inclusive celebration and eye opening event for all people of all ages.

An Alternative to Hate is to Celebrate – Celebrate Fiestas Primavera Spring Fest at Benicia City Park on Saturday, March 23

Sheri Leigh
Sheri Leigh, Benicia resident and educator.

By Sheri Leigh, March 8, 2024

Along with the longer lasting daylight and the blossoming of our beautiful downtown trees comes the anticipation of Spring Break. And during the last few decades, at this time of year some of our students look forward to the tradition of the La Migra chase game – the game that gives the teens something exciting and edgy to do in our small, quiet town.

Each year the game is staged, those who choose to play look forward to the challenge of either getting strategically and successfully across town on foot while being pursued by their older peers who are behind the wheel of the motor vehicle, or, on the other side, finding and apprehending the cunning escapees. If caught, the “runners” are captured and “deported” to some remote area on the outskirts of town.

Sounds like fun, right?

Definitely not for everyone. There are a lot of serious problems associated with this so-called game.

Some Benicia High School students have taken action against the game, posting warnings to discourage peers from participating. | This image is a still from a 2023 NBC Bay Area report.

The premise of the game is racist – flat out. It’s simulating the brutal and terrifying experiences of many immigrants and other marginalized people who have been targeted, beaten, and/or run out of town (or the country) because of the color of their skin, their status as a citizen, their religion, their sexual orientation, or their vulnerability. Historically, Mexican and Central Americans, Blacks, Jews, the Queer community, Native Americans and many other groups of people, have been the victims of hate crime in the United States. And in that same spirit of xenophobia and hate, a few bullies who, under the pretext of playing the game, have chased down and terrorized anyone they felt like harassing, whether or not their target was participating or even knew the game was underway.  Some victims of these students have been severely traumatized and carry that with them for years afterwards.  

And then there’s the public safety aspect. With young people running away from their pursuers into private yards and through traffic, with teens being abducted and abandoned alone in remote areas, and with inexperienced drivers focused on the pursuit, rather than the road, it’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt or even killed. 

The La Migra Game is a blight on Benicia. Several of the students who are playing are well aware of the racist implications and take the opportunity to behave badly. And the really sad part is there are many adult Benicians who simply look the other way or consider the game a tradition and a teen rite of passage. Our collective ambivalence towards the game adds to Benicia’s reputation of being a Sundown Town, unwelcoming or even hostile towards anyone who is not white and/or socioeconomically well situated.

Fiestas Primavera Benicia






Solano Aids Coalition, under the organization of an experienced cultural event coordinator and the director, Mario Saucedo, is offering a spring time alternative to this game.   For just one example of Mario and SAC’s skill and passion for bringing cultural events to life, see this article about the Dia de los Muertos event in Vallejo last year.

This year, for Benicia, SAC is bringing a vibrant and energetic opportunity to learn about and celebrate the Mexican/Latino and Indigenous cultures through an inclusive and interactive event called Fiestas Primavera Benicia or Spring Celebration.

The event will take place on Saturday, March 23, 2024 in the Benicia City Park by the Gazebo at the top of First Street from 10:30am to 6pm. This event is supported by local and State officials, the Benicia School District, the Benicia Police Department, the Public Library, Benicia Black Lives Matters, the Kyle Hyland Teen Center, local artists and businesses, and a host of others who want to establish an equitable and welcoming community.

As a prelude to the event, you will see some of the supporting First Street businesses have their storefront windows decorated with colorful floral paintings done by local artists and high school students (if you are a First Street business who is interested in signing up to have your window painted, contact Sheri using the details provided on the flyer image below).

On the day of the event there will be an extravaganza of dance, music, and art by professional performing and fine artists and local students. Arts and crafts vendors, food trucks and a lowrider parade around the park will draw in people of all ages. Students will have the opportunity to display their artwork in the art pavilion and speak about their experiences and the need for diversity and inclusion during an open mike session. Doña Benicia will mingle with the crowds to share her wisdom, and clowns or payasos will entertain with their antics and charm.

In the children’s area, Catrina face painting, pinata making, street chalk art, and bounce houses will help the children enjoy and appreciate Mexican/Latino culture. And everyone will have the opportunity to look up and remember their own ancestral journey of immigration to this country, no matter from where or how long ago.

We all need to remember that less than two hundred years ago Benicia was part of Mexico, and before that, it was the land of the Suisunes and Miwoks and other Patwin tribes. We should be honoring the history of our land and its many diverse inhabitants and celebrating our cultural diversity, including the tremendous contributions of the Indigenous peoples and immigrants to the United States and Benicia over the ages.

Please join us in solidarity and celebration at this landmark event, Fiestas Primavera Benicia on March 23 anytime from 10:30 until 6pm.  Stand up against racial bias and hate – celebrate.  

For more information and details, including how to support this event through monetary donations and volunteering, please visit the Solano Aids Coalition Website at

La Migra: Another Parent’s Perspective

Sheri Leigh
Sheri Leigh, Benicia resident and educator.

By Sheri Leigh, January 11, 2024

A while ago, I spoke to a close friend who recently moved to the East Coast from the Benicia area.  As we were catching up, I mentioned my efforts to educate our community about the La Migra Games.  At first, she didn’t know what I was referring to, and as we discussed it further, she got it.  Not only was she aware of the game, three of her children, who are now adults, had participated as “undocumenteds” while in high school.  Despite our closeness, my friend and I sometimes have completely different perspectives. This was one of those times…

My good friend, whom I will refer to as Alice, was a long time Benicia/Vallejo resident but has since moved away.  Alice has several children, and like their mother, her children are smart and adventurous. They enjoy outdoor activities and extreme sports when the opportunity arises.  The younger ones attended Benicia public schools, including the high school, spanning from about 2010-2019.

As underclassmen at BHS, they were each challenged to participate in the “La Migra Games” by the seniors who were hosting, and three of them took it on. They loved the idea of a long distance (three-mile) chase game at night where they needed to use their skills and wits to get to the other end of town without being caught by students posing as ICE officers. However, since the chase was what appealed to them rather than the pursuit, they only participated as underclassmen running from their older peers.

Benicia High School staff, administrators, and students have taken steps to prevent students from participating in the game. | Uncredited image.

The eldest of the three, and the one who was at Benicia High School first, was probably the biggest thrill seeker of the family.  He apparently had an amazing experience playing the game and encouraged the younger ones to take advantage of this opportunity when it was their turn.  One younger brother and even younger sister followed suit a few years later.  All of them individually made it to the “safe” zone without being captured, and felt the same exhilaration as did their older brother by their accomplishment.  They each shared their experience with Alice, who appreciated that her children voluntarily participated in something that required ingenuity, bravery and physical endurance.

When I brought up my concerns about “La Migra,” it was clear that Alice did not connect the name of the game with the actual event. She really didn’t know what it was called until my clarification, although I’m sure the kids did.  This family is of white European heritage and their ancestors have been in the United States for several generations now. The kids don’t have the perspective of a modern immigrant family, so the name, “La Migra” didn’t trigger them the way it does some others. Once we discussed the impact of the name, Alice could definitely see how the title and the assertion could be offensive.  She suggested that changing the name and the premise  to something less racially charged and continuing the tradition would be the appropriate thing to do.

I need to mention here that this family has deep roots in the military.  Two of Alice’s three children who played the game continued on to serve our country, while the youngest is still contemplating service.  Being in the military includes participation in potentially dangerous games, in preparation for real life military missions.  Neither the kids nor Alice were concerned with the individual and public safety.  She dismissed my points that there is no roster, that no one is formally accounted for, that the parents don’t necessarily know where their children are during the game, and that the game is played on public streets and encroaches on private property.  She ascertained that if there were formal rules, it would require adult supervision – something that would definitely minimize or even eliminate the independent and thrilling nature of the game.

Some Benicia High School students have taken action against the game, posting warnings to discourage peers from participating. | This image is a still from a 2023 NBC Bay Area report.

As we discussed it more, Alice suggested that the City could let the community know that this game is happening and that we should all exercise more caution that evening rather than try to shut down the game.  She sees the game as a unique and important opportunity for teens to participate in an activity which requires them to use their emerging survival skills – something that could be valuable later in life.

One of the few things that did capture Alice’s attention from my extensive list of concerns was that some young people who aren’t voluntarily playing the game are being targeted, with severe trauma often being the result.  We agreed that some identifying and visible article of clothing or accessory could be worn so that everyone can unequivocally know who is playing and who is not.  She felt that, as in life,  there should be a code of ethics among the students. Only those who self-identify as a participant should be chased.

And finally, much to my personal relief, Alice was absolutely concerned about the alleged increasing violence, including the use of gel pellet guns, as part of the game.  For this, she put responsibility directly on the shoulders of the parents or guardians of the young people who opt to use verbal or physical assault as part of their chase tactics.  She feels that parents need to establish a strict moral code and that children should never be allowed to use weapons, whether real or “toys,” irresponsibly.

Use of gel pellet guns by teens is on the rise, with sometimes violent or even deadly consequences. Youth caught firing pellets at people or animals may be charged with assault and battery or animal cruelty. | NBC Boston.

I care very much about my friend and her family, and I want to hear her perspective and consider this into the equation.  From their point of view, there are good reasons for young people to have the opportunity to participate in a game that promotes excitement, fear, exhilaration, and wits, as long as it’s done voluntarily and with honor.  The question remains – how do we provide something like this for our young people without inciting racism, bullying, violence and, as I will continue to emphasize, unsafe conditions for those involved and for the public?

Share your story
If you would like Sheri to hear and share your perspective on the ‘La Migra Game,’ please contact her through the Benicia Independent. Remember that it is your story that is critical for others to hear, not your name, unless you would like to be identified.
Reach out to Sheri:
Leave a voicemail for the BenIndy: ‪(707) 385-9972‬

(This is not a live line. You will be sent straight to voicemail.)