As nine deported immigration reform activists remain in custody at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona this week, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) has been organizing vigils around the country to call for humanitarian parole for the detainees — known as the “DREAM 9” in social media — which would give them temporary legal residence status.
The DREAM 9 were taken into custody on Monday when they attempted to re-enter the United States at the Nogales, Arizona port of entry. Three of the detainees — Lizbeth Mateo, Marco Saavedra and Lulu Martinez — self-deported last week and re-entered the U.S. with the other six in order to test the Obama administration’s policy on deported immigrants.
DREAM 9 supporters held vigils at the offices of U.S. House members around the country this week, including Representatives Ed Pastor (D-Arizona) on Wednesday, Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Illinois) on Thursday, and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) on Friday. NIYA is asking members of Congress to sign a letter to President Obama, asking him to exercise his discretion to allow the DREAM 9 to return to their homes in the United States. As of today, 25 members of Congress have signed the letter.
Outside the office of Rep. Joyce Beatty yesterday, the vigil focused on the ties of Marco Saavedra — one of the three detainees who self-deported — to the Congresswoman’s state.
Saavedra, who was brought to the United States at age 3, is a graduate of Kenyon College and co-founder of DreamActivist Ohio. He has been a leader in the national campaign by undocumented students for legal status in the U.S., where they have lived most of their lives.
“Marco is a person of faith,” said Rev. Carl Stevens, who was the Episcopal chaplain at Kenyon College when Saavedra attended there. “For people of faith of any persuasion, there is always a critique of the world. There’s an understanding that in order to bring about the world that God intended, one has to act, with love.
“Marco said that there is no fear where there is perfect love,” Stevens said. “It summarizes his entire theology.”
“We need to bring the national conversation back to the deportations,” said community organizer Rubén Castilla Herrera. “It makes no sense to talk about immigration reform, while at the same time deporting people, breaking up families.”
Rep. Joyce Beatty was unavailable on Friday, but members of her staff welcomed the 26 vigil attendees into a conference room to discuss the issue. “We’re on the same side in this fight,” said Greg Beswick, Rep. Beatty’s District Director.
The DREAM 9 began a hunger strike for phone privileges on Thursday. DREAM activist blogger Prerna Lal reports that six of the DREAM 9 were placed in solitary confinement on Friday for refusing to eat. “At first, they refused food because of their restricted phone access, and now they are refusing food until they are released,” Lal writes. “The six in solitary confinement are Lizbeth Mateo, Claudia Amaro, Ceferino Santiago, Lulu Martinez, Marco Saavedra, and Mario Felix.”