Update: The Dream 9 were released from immigration detention on Wednesday, according to the L.A. Times. They are on parole and will await a decision on their asylum appeals.
On Monday, more than 60 faculty members at the University of Illinois at Chicago released a letter in support of nine undocumented immigrants who are currently being held at an immigrant detention center in Arizona.
Among them is Lulu Martinez, a student at UIC. Three of the nine, including Martinez, returned to Mexico last month and then tried to re-enter the U.S. They were joined by six others who had been deported or previously returned to Mexico.
Their action, which they call civil disobedience, was designed to call attention to the need for immigration reform.
Some immigration lawyers have question their so-called self-deportation, including the former head of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, David Leopold.
“To suggest that anyone should be able to walk out of the U.S. and turn around and knock on the door and come back in, I don’t know anybody who thinks that we ought to have an open border,” Leopold told The New York Times.
But the professors wrote that the students are struggling for their civil rights. Many of the nine detained immigrants came to the U.S. as young children and were educated here. Martinez came to the U.S. at the age of 3. The following are some excerpts from the letter sent by UIC faculty to President Obama and federal immigration officials.
Today, young people who may have spent a few months or a few years in their birth country but who have grown up, gone to school, and worked in the United States for 15 or 20 years, are deemed “outsiders.” This may be the law but it is also wrong and unjust. For this reason, we stand with the Dream 9 who have been jailed because of their struggle on behalf of human rights and citizenship rights for immigrants.
The youth leaders of the immigrant rights movement are acting in a venerable tradition. They are serving as the conscience of a nation, reminding us of the dangers of exclusive and elitist definitions of who belongs and who does not.
It does not make any sense to continue detaining and deporting the future of our country, especially at a time when there is overwhelming consensus across the country that our immigration system is broken and unjust. For all of these reasons we demand the release of Lulu Martinez and her fellow activists.
I agree that these young activists have gone to an extreme to call attention to immigration reform. But some of them have been working to change the laws for more than 10 years.While the Senate passed a bill, the House is not making any strides on immigration reform.
These youth were fully aware of the risks they faced. They are enduring jail to call attention to the plight of the undocumented. They are fighting for their freedom and we should respect that they have put their futures at risk for a greater good.