‘Dream 9’ Tactics Take Debate Beyond Halls of Congress
ELOY, Ariz. — From inside the tiny rectangular windows at the Eloy Detention Center, the Dreamers arrested in last weekʼs protest could see the long white banner outside that spelled their names in red letters: “Maria, Claudia and Adriana.”
Dozens of people have been demonstrating outside the detention center in support of the “Dream 9,” a group of nine undocumented immigrants who were arrested after taking part in a controversial action on July 22: They turned themselves in at the U.S. port of entry in Nogales, Ariz., asking for humanitarian parole to re-enter the United States.
As the House of Representatives debates long-term immigration reform, the group behind this unprecedented act of protest is shining a light on what they see as an immediate humanitarian crisis: the deportations and detentions being carried out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
On July 22, nine Dreamers presented themselves at the port of entry of the border city of Nogales, wearing caps and graduation gowns, each of them accompanied by a religious leader.
They asked to be allowed back into the United States on humanitarian parole. When this was denied, they asked for political asylum. They have been held since then at the private detention center in Eloy.
The nine young people identify as Dreamers, or youth who were brought to the United States when they were minors and grew up in the country.
Three of them, Lulu Martinez, Lizbeth Mateo and Marco Saavedra, “self-deported” to Mexico in order to organize the action, after different circumstances forced the others to go to Mexico. Some of them went back to get an education they couldnʼt afford in the United States; others went for medical care and one due to the deportation of a family member.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not commented on the cases of the Dreamers who were arrested, or the conditions of their detention, citing confidentiality laws.
Last weekʼs Dream 9 border action has sparked criticism – including from immigration attorneys and advocates for comprehensive immigration reform. “What we ought to be talking tonight is about the politics in the House and the Republican Party,” said David Leopold, an immigration attorney and
former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). “But instead our focus is on this action, so it pulls away attention from the big issue, which is fixing the system so 11 million can get out of the shadows.”
Roberto Lovato, a political strategist for Presente.org, a non-profit that advocates for Latino issues nationally, disagrees. For Lovato, the conversation taking place in Congress right now distracts from the fact that this administration has deported closed to 1.7 million people.
“You donʼt have social change by keeping people comfortable. You have to escalate and escalation doesnʼt mean putting a suit and tie on and lobbying corrupt politicians,” he said. “Escalation means raising the levels of audacity and courage within the movement.”
Under DACA, almost 400,000 .young people have been able to obtain a deportation reprieve. Itʼs unclear how many who could have qualified for DACA have already been deported or left the country of their own will.
Truax points out that the impact of the Dream 9 action must be looked at in the context of all of the Dreamer groups and the advances theyʼve made since the DREAM Act failed to pass Congress in 2010. The legislation would have allowed millions of undocumented youth to legalize their status in the United States and access a path to citizenship.
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