This group of dreamers is pushing too hard for one Latino congressman’s taste.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) distanced himself from the National Immigrant Youth Alliance on Monday, saying the group had secretly recorded his private conversation last week with the parents of detained immigrants. The rift exposes long-simmering tension between Gutierrez and other establishment politicians trying to push immigration reform through a deadlocked Congress, and undocumented activists who have adopted brazen tactics in the face of congressional inaction.
“The Office of Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) will no longer work with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) and their affiliated advocates at DREAMActivist.org,” Gutierrez spokesman Douglas Rivlin said Monday in a press release.
Rivlin's statement criticized National Immigrant Youth Alliance's opposition to comprehensive immigration reform and accused it of “disturbing racism.” Gutierrez’s office combed through social media postings of National Immigrant Youth Alliance activist Mohammad Abdollahi and cited a tweet in which he said he was “limiting my white friends” and a Facebook posting in which he referred to “typical white shit.”
The activists, who had been pressing Gutierrez to support a group of detained migrant workers known as the Dream 30, took credit for recording the conversation, but dismissed Gutierrez’s criticism.
“We haven’t had a working relationship with Gutierrez’s office for about two years now,” Abdollahi told HuffPost. “It’s not accurate to say we’ve had a split. … It’s just ridiculous that they’re resorting to personal attacks instead of defending the community.”
Abdollahi said National Immigrant Youth Alliance favors a piecemeal approach to immigration legislation rather than the comprehensive legislation backed by Gutierrez. "We’ve always been a fan of whatever legislation has a chance of passing," Abdollahi said.
Members of National Immigrant Youth Alliance visited Gutierrez’s Washington office on Monday and refused to leave unless he called President Barack Obama to ask for the release of Dream 30 activists. Capitol police arrested Marcela Espinoza in Gutierrez’s office and two other protesters in other offices.
National Immigrant Youth Alliance has built a reputation for unconventional tactics.
In July, three undocumented activists affiliated with the group -- Marcos Saavedra, Lula Martinez and Lizbeth Mateo -- traveled to Mexico and returned to the United States through a legal port of entry, openly declaring their immigration status as a unique form of protest against the Obama administration’s record pace of deportations. The activists became known as the Dream 9 after six sympathizers joined them on the Mexican side of the border at Nogales.
The group staged a similar protest in September. A group of 30 people who had lived part of their lives as undocumented immigrants in the United States gathered in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and crossed through a legal port of entry into Texas. They retained the name Dream 30, though they gathered new members along the way.
By Tuesday, seven remained in detention and two -- Rocio Hernández Pérez and Brandon Peña -- have been deported. The rest have been released either through a form of discretion called “parole for significant public benefit,” or to pursue claims of asylum.
In pushing for the release of the Dream 9 and the Dream 30, National Immigrant Youth Alliance has targeted Latino lawmakers who support immigration reform, including Gutierrez, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).
Columnist Ruben Navarrette with The Washington Post Writers Group praised National Immigrant Youth Alliance in an article last week for holding both Democrats and Republicans accountable for the failure of immigration reform.
Rivlin told HuffPost that, despite distancing himself from National Immigrant Youth Alliance and DreamActivist.org, Gutierrez continues to support the Dream 30’s release.
“They shouldn’t be detained,” Rivlin said. “They should be released to pursue their cases.”