A group of undocumented youth that presented themselved to immigration authorities at a legal port of entry in Nogales has raised a controversy over their audacious tactics.
The National Immigrant Youth Alliance has organized sit-ins in congressional offices and “infiltrated” detention centers to verify whether the Barack Obama administration has made good on its promise to use prosecutorial discretion to focus on hardened criminals. But its most brazen protest occurred this month, when three undocumented immigrants -- Lulu Martinez, Lizbeth Mateo, and Marcos Saavedra -- returned voluntarily to Mexico then tried to reenter, along with six other undocumented immigrants who sympathized with the protest.
They were detained in an Arizona facility owned and operated by private prison contractor Corrections Corporation of America. The episode has sparked a debate over whether the protest, conceived as a way to shine a light on the detention and deportation system, helps or hinders efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration bill.
“Essentially they’re waiting at the Eloy Detention Center for a decision from the Obama administration whether they’re going to be allowed to come home, or they’re going to be deported,” Mohamad Abdollahi of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, which organized the protest, told HuffPost Live.
David Leopard, an immigration attorney who sharply crticized the Dream 9’s protest as a “publicity stunt” in an interview with VOXXI published over the weekend, appeared to roll back his comments during his appearance on HuffPost Live.
“I’m not critical of the Dream 9,” Leopard told HuffPost Live. “In fact I admire their fortitude, I admire their courage, I admire their passion. What I think they should have done is take that courage and passion and marched on John Boehner in Washington, and Republicans who are failing to fix this immigration system after the Senate has given them a very good bill to work with.”
He went on to say the Dream 9 organized the protest “just to embarrass the president for no good reason at all.”
Some 35 Congress members, including U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) have called upon the Obama administration to release the Dream 9.
President Obama has consistently supported both the DREAM act and comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Last year, his administration enacted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, new guidelines that effectively exempt most undocumented immigrants brought here as children from deportation.
But immigrant rights activists also criticize his administration for the family separation caused by his administration’s record-level 1.7 million deportations.
Watch the full segment on the Dream 9 at HuffPost Live HERE.