Dreamers test the limits of immigration law

Dreamers test the limits of immigration law
Photo by Steve Pavey/NIYA

During the presidential campaign Mitt Romney offered up the idea of self-deportation.

Well some immigration activists have tried that with a twist.

Three undocumented youth voluntarily returned to Mexico and then this week tried to re-enter the U.S. at an Arizona border crossing. They were also joined at the border by six others who had previously returned or been deported back to Mexico.

They were taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol and are being held at a detention center. One of the young activists is Lulu Martinez of Chicago.

Another, Lizbeth Mateo, wrote a blog about their planned actions for the Huffington Post.

"In the United States, undocumented immigrants run the risk of being taken from their home, no matter where we are. We have won many fights against deportation, but not all of them. It's time to take away the power deportation has over us," she wrote.

Most of these youth, also known as the "Dreamers" because they would qualify for the DREAM Act, grew up in the United States. They were brought to the U.S. by their families as children. Martinez has been here since she was three years old.

These youth supported by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance also are part of a movement of youth "coming out" as undocumented. They have held protests and faced arrest across the country over the last few years. This action is the most dramatic they have taken.

They are now pushing the boundaries of immigration law. They are testing the Obama Administration to see if they will be allowed back into the U.S.

Several of the youth would qualify for prosecutorial discretion and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This is an Obama policy implemented in 2012 that exempts from deportation most undocumented immigrants brought here as children. It was put in place as a temporary substitute for the DREAM Act.

But it is unclear how the law applies to the youth who left the United States and returned to Mexico. They may try and claim political asylum usually reserved for those who face religious or political prosecution.

They want immigration reform to allow the undocumented parents and youth who were deported under the Obama Administration to come back into the United States. Under President Obama, more than 1.5 million people have been deported, a record for a modern presidency.

It's a calculated risk and perhaps the highest form of civil disobedience by allowing oneself to essentially be incarcerated to make a point about how unfair the system treats the undocumented.

These youth have taken extreme action to make a point. They are brave young souls.

Most of the youth also known as "Dreamers" have contributed to their communities. They are not "drug mules" as Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa wrongly suggests.

"For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," King recently told Newsmax. "Those people would be legalized with the same act."

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, condemned King's comments. It's time for him to do more than talk and take leadership and work on passing immigration reform in the House.

Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez showed his support for the "Dreamer"s in a Facebook post.

“I have heard about the Dreamers who attempted to return home to the United States today after deportation, including my constituent Lulu Martinez from Chicago. I hope the Obama administration will do the right thing and let them back in. To make us whole in immigration reform, I believe that people deported without a criminal record should be able to apply to return in the U.S.”

These young people should be allowed to come back to the U.S., the only home they have known.

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