The movement to highlight unjust immigration policies launched late this summer by a group of undocumented immigrant activists called the 'Dream 9' is coming to Texas today, as 30 more individuals join in a historic push for fair and comprehensive immigration reform.
You can watch the livestream of the #Dream30 starting at 11am CST here.
In conjunction with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), the Dream 9 helped initiate the #BringThemHome campaign. The group of nine, composed of people brought to the United States from Mexico as children, received international attention by presenting themselves at the US-Mexico border crossing in Nogales, Arizona. Wearing graduation caps and gowns, the group petitioned the US government for humanitarian parole, and were quickly detained by immigration officials. After a tense and contentious 17 days in federal custody, Homeland Security officials granted the Dream 9 asylum.
Today's group, now three times bigger, will hold a second border protest in Laredo, Texas to bring attention to the continued inaction on immigration reform and the record-high pace of deportations under the Obama administration.
Read more below the jump“The idea we're trying to make about immigration is that there's no reason to detain them. They're not high priority, they're not a flight risk, in fact they're actually fighting to stay in the country,” says Mohammed Abdollahi, an organizer with NIYA, on the message of #BringThemHome.
When the Dream 9 launched their action and entered detention, they garnered support from 43 members of Congress who wrote letters on their behalf to President Obama. An online petition supporting them received more than 27,000 signatures.
While the process for the Dream 9 was short compared to the many who languish in detention centers, they still spent over two weeks in the Eloy Detention Center in Southern Arizona. Two were put into solitary confinement for urging their fellow detainees to call a free legal hotline to fight deportation, and others faced reprisals after beginning a chant of “Sin Papeles! Sin Miedo!” (Undocumented! Unafraid!) during dinner, inspiring other detainees to chant along. One of the Dream 9 was placed on suicide watch after harsh solitary confinement. But with political pressure mounting and a spotlight on their cause, immigration officials buckled and the Dream 9 was able to establish credible fear, meaning that their return to Mexico would result in harm or death. The asylum process can be a long one, but all nine are entitled to remain in the US until a hearing date.
The extremely difficult route these activists are taking for justice has attracted controversy in the immigration debate, but there's no doubt of the risk and sacrifice involved. The fact that a new group triple the size of the original was ready to form in such a short period of time shows how those most affected by a broken system, the undocumented themselves, are not waiting and are taking charge of their own destiny.
The Dream 30 is composed of US residents from fourteen states around the country, as well as several who have been deported. The activists are a wide range of ages (the youngest activist is 13) and identities. One cites the brutality against LGBTQ people in their current residence of Peru for wanting to return to the US.
You can read stories shared by participants in the Dream 30 on DreamActivist.org. Two of these are stories of youths who have spent most of their lives in Texas.
Edgar Torres was forced to leave his home and family when he was 18 years old, for a small altercation at his high school:
Edgar, now 22, had previously lived in Texas for 13 years from the time he was seven until just before graduating high school. Edgar did not leave his home of Texas willingly; on July 24, 2010, he was deported. “It was stupid, I got into a silly fight with a friend senior year of high school and since we were 50 feet off campus the principal called the police. I was arrested and deported. The kid was even shocked; he tried to advocate for my release but they didn't listen.”
Just like that Edgar's life was forever changed. “I was kicked out of my home of 13 years, pushed away from my family.” Living in Houston, Edgar was your typical All-American kid, he enjoyed skateboarding, rollerblading and NASCAR. As a teenager he was part of the church choir Vita Nova, for six years he volunteered with Youth for Family and Life, he also played on the school's basketball team. Edgar tried to stay has involved as possible in the community: “I just wanted to be a part of everything.” Edgar was a member of the Junior Senate of America, and DECA, where he once placed first and second place in the Aldine District Science fair, global destination challenge.
For the last three years Edgar has been in a country foreign to him. “I just don't fit in here, it's not my home.” Besides the normal nostalgia, Edgar is afraid for his life. “Here in Mexico if they think you are American then you are in trouble. Sometimes when I talk I know people just know, from my accent, that I don't belong here. I can't count how many times I've had a gun to my head, they think I have money. The police here have even tried to extort me. It's just dangerous here.”
Just this past year Edgar tried to apply for a tourist visa, to come home to visit his family. “I haven't laid hands on my own family in 3-years! I just wanted to hold them.” His visa was denied, immigration said because he had lived in the U.S. before they would not grant his permission to even visit.
Marco Pacho left Mexico with his family when he was just 12 years old and moved to Mansfield, Texas. In his story, he explains the difficulty of paying for college, and the tough decision he made to leave the country, just one month before the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was announced and offered some relief for many undocumented youths.
“A week after graduating, just one month before DACA was announced, Marco made the decision to return to Mexico. “I had to say painful goodbyes to both my parents, five sisters and three brothers, as well as nieces and nephews, friends and schoolmates and the place where I grew up.” Arriving in Mexico, Marco realized the mistake he made, the country he was born in was nothing like what he remembered. “Even a trip to the store was dangerous because there are gangs on every corner and at any moment they will fight each other or jump someone who was not from that neighborhood.”
In June of 2012, after DACA was announced, Marco attempted to cross the border and come home to his family. He was caught and deported after five days in a detention center. Back in Querétaro, trying to make the best of his situation, Marco tried to enroll in school but was told, because he had gone to school in the U.S. it would take nearly a year to validate his previous schooling. Marco then tried to do things the “right way” by applying for a student visa, to come back home. “They told me I wouldn't get the Visa because I had lived in the U.S. before. I was devastated.”
These are just a couple of examples of the many stories of broken families and unnecessary interruptions of lives that have occurred due to the problematic policies in place. With the current stalemate in Washington, it's uncertain when any proposal, if any, will find its way through — even less likely is one that doesn't come with the heavy price tag of further militarizing the border, putting more lives at risk, and draconian enforcement that funnels more of the undocumented into detention centers and tears families apart. In the mean time, the Dream 30 will need support as they cross and face expected detainment. You can follow NIYA here, or support by donating here.