David Bennion: July 2010 Archives

CA DREAM hunger strikers.jpg
As some GOP Senators work with anti-immigrant organizations to derail the DREAM Act and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus continues to hold onto the chimera of comprehensive reform this legislative session, three brave activists are in Day 11 of their hunger strike in California. The strikers are fasting to raise awareness of the DREAM Act and pressure Senator Feinstein to be a true champion of the DREAM Act. They began the fast in solidarity with the 21 DREAMers who were arrested for civil disobedience last week in Washington, D.C. The DREAM Act would provide a path to legal status for undocumented youth brought here as children who complete two years of military service or college.

The courage and dedication of DREAMers and documented allies to this cause continues to amaze me. DREAMers are putting their bodies and futures in this country on the line in front of a Congress that it seems couldn't care less.

I have to wonder whether Senator Grassley or Roy Beck of the anti-immigrant organization NumbersUSA, both of whom are behind the recent "USCIS memo" attack on the DREAM Act, have ever sacrificed as much as the DREAM fasters are right now.

Where are the anti-immigrant sit-ins and hunger strikes? Where are the anti-immigrant faith groups making the moral arguments in favor of our own Berlin Wall? Where on the anti-immigrant side are the civil rights allies, the educators, the business groups? All I see on the anti-immigrant side are old rich white men giving speeches and writing press releases, and neo-Nazi border militias in fatigues shooting at migrant workers.

Like Lt. Dan Choi told DREAMers last week in Las Vegas, one side in this debate is on the right side of history and the other is not. It is now up to elected officials and the voting public to decide: Will you side with the DREAMers or against them?

Below the fold are the bios of the three remaining hunger strikers, as well as the release for yesterday's press event.

[Video courtesy of Democracia Ahora]

Update: Read DREAMer Matias Ramos's account at firedoglake of why he stood up for the DREAM Act at Netroots Nation.

After last week's civil disobedience action in Washington, D.C., when 21 undocumented youth were arrested for peacefully sitting in Senate Office buildings, four DREAM Act-eligible youth stood in silence during Harry Reid's remarks at Netroots Nation Saturday to ensure he doesn't forget about the importance of passing the DREAM Act this legislative session.

Four DREAM Act-eligible undocumented activists, or DREAMers--Matias Ramos, Yahaira Carrillo, Lizbeth Mateo, and Prerna Lal--had traveled to Netroots Nation to participate in panel discussions, network, and raise awareness of the DREAM Act.

And to participate in direct actions like a mock ICE checkpoint at the entrance to a Civil Rights luncheon in which white Netroots Nation attendees were stopped and asked for ID while people of color were waved through. (How cool is an ICE checkpoint run by undocumented activists?) And then to break the action down beautifully to the video activists who filmed them.

During the "Q&A With the Speaker" segment at Netroots Nation on Saturday at the point that Senator Reid began answering a question about comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act, the four DREAMers at the conference walked up solemnly to stand in front of the stage where Reid was sitting with moderator Joan McCarter. Dressed in the graduation caps and gowns which have become the symbol of the undocumented youth movement, they stood in silence to remind Senator Reid of his commitment last week to move the DREAM Act forward once advocacy organizations signaled that comprehensive reform was no longer viable this year.

[Ed. Check the Dream Is Coming website for updates.]

Over 20 undocumented youth risk arrest, deportation, stage sit-in at congressional offices on Capitol Hill

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

For Immediate Release
Juan Escalante 407.602.8675
dreamactmedia@gmail.com and media@thedreamiscoming.com

Washington, D.C. Today, July 20th, over 20 undocumented immigrant youth from all over the country are risking arrest and deportation as they stage sit-ins at various congressional offices in Washington D.C. in order to urge congressional leadership to take action and pass the DREAM Act, a narrowly-tailored, bipartisan bill which would grant immigrant youth a path to citizenship. According to recent surveys by First Focus, 70% of the American public supports the DREAM Act.

They are holding sit-ins in the offices of the following elected officials: Senator Menendez, Senate majority leader Reid, Senator Feinstein, Senator McCain, and Senator Schumer.

Erika Andiola of Arizona states, "My parents sacrificed everything for me so I could pursue the American Dream. To deny my dreams is to deny the dreams of my parents. I'm doing this for them." Andiola is a graduate of Arizona State University and holds a bachelor of arts in psychology.

After two months of coast-to-coast actions, including dozens of sit-ins, civil disobedience actions, and protracted hunger strikes by both undocumented youth and community members, they have decided to bring the cause of their lives to Washington D.C. The immigrant youth participating in today's action hail from Illinois, Virginia, New York, California, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, and Michigan.

Rosario Lopez of North Carolina states, "We have nothing to fear anymore except inaction. Our spirits grow stronger every day." Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, holds a bachelor of science in biology, and aspires to pursuing a PhD. In June, she participated in a 13-day hunger strike in front of Senator Hagan's office.

Jose Torres of Texas states, "The DREAM Act is the critical first increment in a longer process of immigration reform. We're here to fight for our dreams and the dreams of our communities." Torres is a graduate of the University of Texas. He holds a bachelor of arts in business administration and aspires to attend law school.

At least 65,000 undocumented immigrant youth graduate from high schools every year, and many of them struggle to attend institutes of higher education and the military. The DREAM Act will grant youth who traveled to the United States before the age of 16 a path to citizenship contingent on continuous presence in the country, good behavior, and the attainment of at least a two-year university degree or a two-year commitment to the armed forces.


The DREAM is Coming project is a collaboration between multiple organizations, including the New York State Youth Leadership Council, the Immigrant Youth Justice League, Dream Team Los Angeles, Kansas Missouri Dream Alliance, Arizona Dream Act Coalition, the Orange County Dream Team, University Leadership Initiative of Texas, Virginia DreamActivist, and DREAMActivist.org.

To read the personal stories of the DREAMers, visit www.thedreamiscoming.com/meet-the-dreamers/

These photos of the arrests of 21 undocumented activists on Tuesday in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. speak louder than words. Find more at DreamActivist1's flickr photostream. [Images: Erin Fleming, KSMODA]


Undocumented and Unafraid

Eddy and Uriel

UrielTwenty-one undocumented youth were arrested in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday after staging sit-ins in the Hart Senate Office Building atrium and the offices of Senators McCain and Reid. This followed on the heels of a similar action in Senator McCain's Tucson office in May in which three undocumented leaders were arrested and turned over to ICE in what was the first civil disobedience action carried out by undocumented activists that I am aware of.

The students had come from all across the country to Washington, D.C., to participate in a three-day series of rallies and legislative visits to promote the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would provide a path to legal status for undocumented youth brought here as children who complete two years of college or military service. Currently, these youth face deportation and long-term separation from their families and friends.

The students began their sit-in shortly after an annual symbolic graduation ceremony, held at a nearby church, attended by hundreds of DREAM Act-eligible students in caps and gowns. Groups of DREAMers and supporters had driven from Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, and many other states to attend the days of action.

Shortly before 3:00 p.m., the 21 activists fanned out to the offices of Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Reid (D-NV), McCain (R-AZ), Menendez (D-NJ), and Schumer (D-NY), where they began peaceful sit-ins. After a short while, they left the offices and congregated in the atrium of the Hart Senate Building, except that the students in Senators Reid and McCain's offices stayed put.

Twelve DREAMers in the Hart Building atrium began a peaceful sit-in and were arrested by Capitol Police shortly afterwards. They were then taken to a local processing facility. Four DREAMers in Senator McCain's office and five in Senator Reid's were arrested between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. after the Senate office buildings closed. Seventeen of the DREAMers were released Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, while four were held overnight and released after appearing at their arraignments.

The activists in yesterday's action risk deportation if ICE gets involved as they go through the criminal process. Their arrests triggered an immediate and intense emotional response from the groups they had traveled with to D.C., which included siblings, parents, teachers, and friends, many of whom did not know the 21 would be arrested.