U.S. immigration officials confirmed Tuesday night that one of the 25 immigration activists who were detained several weeks ago after surrendering to U.S. authorities at the Texas-Mexico border was deported, while 11 of the activists were released.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa told The Associated Press that Rocio Hernandez Perez “was removed from the country.” Her removal came after a judge determined the 23-year-old was ineligible for immigration relief.
“She is no longer here and we are heartbroken,” Israel Rodriguez, one of the other detainees, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press from the detention center.
Perez was among the 34 immigration activists who crossed an international bridge from Mexico into Texas on Sept. 30. Nine of them were released soon after they were detained. The group is widely known on social media as the “Dream 30.”
Members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), which organized the action, say the 11 activists were released after passing their “credible fear” interviews. That’s the first step in the asylum process.
Deported activist could’ve qualified for DACA
When Perez was 4 years old, she and her family left Mexico to live in North Carolina. She grew up without a legal status. In 2008, she graduated from high school with a 3.25 GPA and soon realized she would have to pay out-of-state tuition to attend college in the state.
“She began to research options to fix her undocumented status but did not reach a solution,” David Bennion, the attorney representing the detainees, stated in a letter requesting humanitarian parole for Perez and the other detainees. “She wanted to pursue an education to be able to give back to her community but was unable to afford college in the U.S.”
When Perez was 19 years old, she and her parents decided it was best for her to return to Mexico to further her education at a rate they could affordable.
Three years after Perez left the United States, President Barack Obama announced that undocumented youth who entered the country when they were children would be able to stay and work under a new federal program dubbed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
But because Perez had left the country before Obama’s announcement, she didn’t qualify for the federal program. That was the case with most of the 34 immigration activists who turned themselves in at the Texas-Mexico border.
Bennion said many of the members of the “Dream 30” had hoped to stay in the U.S. but for various reasons went back to their country of origin several weeks or just days before Obama’s announcement of DACA.
“They watched as their undocumented peers and family members applied for and received DACA and were able to pursue educational and career opportunities which had previously been unobtainable,” he said in the letter.
Now, Bennion said, these individuals “find themselves in an unfamiliar country they left as children, isolated from family and friends, and under threat of harm for reasons they are unable to control.”
Some praise, others criticize tactics of ‘Dream 30′
The latest action by the “Dream 30” comes weeks after nine other immigration activists, known as the “Dream 9,” left the U.S. and tried to reenter the country through Arizona. Eventually, the nine activists were released.
The actions of these two groups have received praise by some who admire their courage to challenge the nation’s immigration policies. At the same time, the activists have received criticism from others who worry their actions are hurting the cases of asylum seekers who have credible fear claims and the chances of passing immigration reform legislation.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is among those who have come out in support of the “Dream 30” and the “Dream 9.” In a statement released earlier this month, he expressed his support for the release of the “Dream 30.”
Gutierrez released a similar statement when the “Dream 9” were arrested, but also stated he did not agree with the activists’ tactics.
Immigration attorney David Leopald also questioned the tactics of the “Dream 9” and argued the activists pushed it too far.
“I just don’t agree with this,” Leopold told VOXXI in a previous interview. “I think all it does is draw attention away from the real issue, which is that we do have a broken immigration system and that we do need Congress to fix it.”
Immigration Judge Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said during a training over the weekend at Harvard University that the actions of the “Dream 30” and “Dream 9” are presenting “very dicey and difficult questions that divide the immigration lawyers community.”
One “philosophical” questions she said attorneys face with these actions is:
“What do you do and what is your individual responsibility as a lawyer to your individual client, as opposed to development of the law in general where taking a position that might be considered too extreme or too forceful may end up hurting?”