About two months after nine DREAMers either left the country voluntarily or were deported then tried to cross the border to protest U.S. immigration laws, 30 others will make the same attempt next Monday, an immigration advocacy group said.
The National Immigrant Youth Alliance, which coordinated the summer crossing in which the so-called DREAM9 asked for political asylum, said in a press release that 29 people from Mexico and one from Peru will seek to enter the United States.
The summer crossing was intended as a protest against the record number of deportations that have occurred under President Obama, and to push for comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate passed a bill in June that would both tighten enforcement as well as provide a path to legal status for millions of the estimated 11 undocumented immigrants.
"The Obama administration has created a deportation machine resulting in the destruction of over 1.7 million lives, and the devastating separation of those families by the border," said Lizbeth Mateo, who was part of the DREAM9, in a press release about the new group that is planning to seek entry. "Those 1.7 million people are not lost and forgotten; rather, they are people who deserve to have the choice to return to their home in this country. While we fight to dismantle the system of continued deportations, we must also fight to bring our community home."
Proponents of strict immigration laws condemned the planned protest.
“Obviously this is theater and they’re looking to make further mockery of U.S. immigration laws,” said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which pushes for strict immigration policies. “They’re going back to a country they say they’re being persecuted in only to request political asylum. They’re taking something from U.S. immigration policy – political asylum -- that is reserved for humanitarian purposes and using it to create some kind of street theater for their own political agenda.”
DREAM9’s efforts have been largely attacked by activists from both sides of the immigration debate. Immigration activists have called the actions by the DREAMers – who were brought to the country illegally as children – naïve, risky and overly provocative.
Some, like David Leopold, the former president of American Immigration Lawyers Association, said that while he supported their views, he disagreed with their tactics. Others call them courageous and say the risky move may give a necessary jolt to an immigration reform effort that seems to have stalled in Congress.
Immigration reform has stalled in the Republican-controlled House, where some party leaders are adamant about not supporting any measure that provides a break to undocumented immigrants. Many such opponents say that the path to legal status is amnesty, and rewards lawbreakers.
But those who support the measure say something must be done about the huge population of immigrants who live in the shadows.
"The clock is ticking for this administration to make the right decision and to bring home the 1.7 million deported."
In August, Mateo and two other undocumented immigrants brought as children to the United States left to Mexico and, joined by six others, including some who had been deported, sought re-entry. Immigration officials detained them, but then released them pending their petition for political asylum.
The stakes of the DREAM 9 protest were, on a personal level, quite high. The immigrants risked being denied re-entry, or being kept indefinitely in the Arizona detention center where they were taken after they attempted to return to the United States.
The nine asked for political asylum when they approached the U.S.-Mexican border, and recently were found to have sufficient grounds to pursue a claim, and were all released pending a resolution. While they wait for a decision, which could take years, they can obtain a work permit and a driver’s license.
But beyond themselves, the DREAM 9 have become a flashpoint, a new chapter in immigration activism, many experts say.
This next group, said the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, includes four children and 26 others who were left the United States on their own, or who were deported.
Most of them left of their own accord about six or seven years ago after the DREAM Act failed to pass or because they had no immigration papers they couldn’t go to college and couldn’t do anything with the education they did have,” said Mohamad Abdolahi, co-founder of the alliance. “Others left out of desperation.”
The DREAM9 sparked divisions within immigration advocacy circles, with some applauding their courage, and others deriding their protest as a publicity stunt that could actually jeopardize efforts to reform the immigration system.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.