The group criticized by Rep. Luis Gutierrez earlier this week for their secret recording of a meeting he had with parents of detained immigrants pushed back Wednesday, saying that the Illinois Democrat’s characterization of them was erroneous.
The National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), on its Dream Activist affiliate website, took issue with the Illinois Democrat’s criticism of it as exploiting undocumented immigrants who were detained after approaching authorities at the U.S.-Mexican border requesting political asylum.
The immigrants, who were brought to the United States as minors and were deported or left on their own, approached the border in separate groups in July and September as part of a protest against U.S. immigration policies and deportations.
NIYA, which describes itself as “the only national network that is led entirely by undocumented youth,” played a key role in coordinating both protests. Gutierrez, long a vocal proponent of immigration reform laws that would pave a path to legal status for many of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, has met with the parents of the immigrants who were in the first group, which was known as Dream 9 (there were nine people), and the second, known as Dream 30.
On Monday, Gutierrez said he was upset to learn that someone at a meeting he had recently with about five of the parents had secretly recorded the conversations between him and them, which he considered a breach of confidence. Gutierrez said the discussion with the parents were emotional and candid, and should not have been recorded. In a press release, Gutierrez said that the recording was the last straw in a series of troubling actions by NIYA, including what he said was the group’s manipulation of the Dream 9 and Dream 30, and racist comments.
He said he would no longer work with NIYA, though he said he would continue to work with the parents and fight for the release of their children from detention.
NIYA responded in its statement on dreamactivist.org: “The decision as to what we work on and the direction in which we go are completely in line with the needs of the undocumented community. That is the reason why we have already, purposefully, infiltrated several detention centers and have had members willingly return to Mexico in an effort to bring home other exiled Dreamers.”
The statement accused Gutierrez of putting ego before what the group said is the reality that Mexican undocumented immigrants were making demands for actions and not just lip service.
“Once they begin forming their own political opinions and demanding more than just the scraps from the table, [it] can only mean they are being manipulated,” the statement said.
Asked for a comment on NIYA's statement, Gutierrez spokesman Doug Rivlin declined.
Gutierrez has said that NIYA’s leader, Mohammad Abdollahi, doesn’t face the same risk of deportation that the immigrants who approached the border do because of past comments that Abdollahi has made that he is gay and from Iran and it would be unlikely that the United States would deport him, given the Iranian government’s condemnation of gays.
Gutierrez said that in his view, Abdollahi was manipulating people who are vulnerable to deportation by putting them in situations where they take risks that he does not.