Chanting “Undocumented! Unafraid!” and “Where are we going? We’re going home!” nearly three dozen young immigrants crossed the U.S.-Mexican border on Monday without proper documents, in a challenge to this country’s immigration policy and soaring deportation rates.
The immigrants, wearing graduation-style caps and gowns, crossed a bridge on the Texas-Mexico border at the Laredo port of entry and were detained by immigration authorities.
The nearly three dozen young immigrants were processed individually, apart from regular pedestrian traffic. Unlike their entourage, which went through without a problem, none of them came out of immigration immediately.
The 32 trying to cross on Monday hoped to follow in the footsteps of the so-called DREAM9, who were released pending asylum hearings in Arizona in August after two weeks in detention.
The group spent a week of preparatory meetings and bonding at a migrant shelter here with a view of Texas.
“They come from all over! Some of these kids have traveled from as far as Tijuana, Guerrero, Cancun & even Lima, Peru!” said a press release by Mohammad Abdollahi, head National Immigrant Youth Alliance, which organized the first protest re-entry as well as Monday’s.
The second crossing comes at a time when Congress is bitterly divided over what to do about the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. In June, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that would, at its core, tighten enforcement and provide a path to legal status to undocumented immigrants who meet a strict set of criteria.
But immigration reform efforts have stalled in the House, where Republicans have a majority. A conservative faction of the Republican Party is adamant about not passing any measure that would give legal status to undocumented immigrants.
Some Republicans who oppose what they consider amnesty, however, say they would consider allowing undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to legalize their status.
Just like the DREAM9, who were held in a detention center in Arizona for a few weeks before being released pending a final decision on their political asylum claims, the DREAM30 have come under fire from critics who have said they were engaging in a publicity stunt and are mocking a program that exists for people whose lives have been threatened in their home countries.
The DREAMers are requesting political asylum, saying they feared persecution if they returned to Mexico, where drug violence from cartels has soared. While the U.S. makes a decision on their application, they are allowed to work and remain in the country legally.
It is unclear what the federal government will do with the 30 more DREAMers who tried to cross on Monday.
“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, in a recent interview with Fox News Latino. “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.”
Even some in favor of immigration reform have called the strategy naïve and counterproductive.
Supporters of the DREAM9 say they are heroes because they risked not being able to return to the United States, where they lived as children and grew up, to fight for more rational and humane immigration laws.
The DREAM30 have roots in 16 different states – Arizona, California, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Kansas and Pennsylvania – said the press release.
“The oldest member taking part is Leonardo, from New York at 33, and the youngest, Ingrid at 13. Ingrid and her family, just like the other 30 DREAMers, have tried everything else to come back home,” said the DreamActivist.org press release.
Abdollahi vowed that more such actions are coming.
“We're already in touch with dozens of more DREAMers ready to participate in the next round,” Abdollahi said. “Bottom line, we won't rest until the 1.7 million [who have been deported] are allowed to be reunited with their families.”