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Arrested DREAM Act students may prove to be the leaders in the immigration debate

Arrested DREAM Act students may prove to be the leaders in the immigration debate

LatinaLista -- It's been debated in certain circles for awhile that maybe the Latino community would be farther along with Washington in the immigration debate if there was one leader whose actions and words could spur both Congress and the collective Latino community into action.


People have been looking towards our national organizations and Latino politicians for that one leader or group of voices to come together to speak out in unison and take a courageous stand for immigration reform.

It seems we weren't looking in the right place.

Undocumented students sit outside Sen. McCain's office in Tucson.

Yesterday, four undocumented students took the opportunity to commemorate the anniversary of the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education by staging a peaceful sit-in in front of Sen. McCain's Tuscon, Arizona office, replete in caps and gowns.

The students wanted to impress upon Sen. McCain, other politicians, the media and the general public just how strongly they feel about Congress passing the DREAM Act soon. They knew they were risking deportation by staging this peaceful show of disobedience but while they may have been born in another country, each considers the U.S. home, and how could their "country" deport them so recklessly when it wasn't even their fault that they grew up here?

At the end of the day, the students were taken into custody by Tucson police, as they expected. One student missed being apprehended by police because she left five minutes before they arrived after the rest of the group felt she should avoid being arrested.

Yet, the criminal court proceeding that took place this morning stated that the three students who were arrested, Mohammad Abdollahi, Lizbeth Mateo, and Yahaira Carrillo, would not be referred to immigration authorities.

But ICE agents arrived anyway.

ICE took the three students into custody this morning. They have a court hearing on June 16 in Tucson Arizona.

Supporters of the students say that these students were willing to risk deportation just to show Congress how badly the DREAM Act is needed.

The unfortunate, and inevitable, consequence of their actions is: Will it be the outcome they're hoping for?

Whether it was brave or foolhardy for these students to act as the sacrificial lambs for a cause that has no easy resolution in these uncertain political times can be debated for eternity. However, it doesn't erase the fact that these three students, and the 65,000+ other students like them, deserve action from our government in putting an end to the legal limbo these students live in day in and day out.

By forcing action on the DREAM Act, separate from a more comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill, the risk exists that GOP Congressional representatives will claim they've done their part on immigration reform and be done with the issue.

Obviously, that's not the case but knowing that CIR can't pass without Republican support, of which none have stepped up to offer as of yet, then it just doesn't make sense to have these students wait any longer for the DREAM Act to be brought to the table.

If Democrats really didn't want the DREAM Act to proceed without being part of the larger immigration bill then a bigger collective push should be made to enact a moratorium on student deportations as was requested earlier this year by several advocacy groups.

But nothing has been done. Each side is waiting for the other to react and in the middle lie the real victims of Washington's inaction.

There are already plans for hunger strikes and protests to occur in cities across the country to support these young people in their quest to get the government to move, but to act our federal leaders need to show they have a conscience.

A conscience that won't allow them to see smart, educated young people, products of the U.S. school system, evicted from the only country they know as home and separated from their families and friends with the possibility of not returning for 10 years.

A conscience that won't allow the mean-spirited agenda of a minority group to prevail over common decency and traditional U.S. values and morals.

A conscience that allows them to put their priorities in order and see the bigger picture of what's good for these young people and the country and not their own political careers.

These students may have pushed the envelope but they took the lead where neither Washington nor traditional leadership in the Latino community have done.

It's time to follow their lead and focus on what these students are aiming for -- the future.



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