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'Dream 9' Activists Released From Immigration Detention

by Eyder Peralta
Aug 8, 2013

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Eyder Peralta

Nine young activists who have come to be known as the "Dream 9" were released from an immigration detention center on Wednesday, while their asylum cases come before a court.

The Los Angeles Times has the background:

"Last month, the five women and four men, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, staged an unconventional and risky protest at the U.S.-Mexico border to spotlight the thousands of people deported under the Obama administration.

"When the Dream 9 — named for the Dream Act, which would provide such immigrants a path to legalization — attempted to reenter the U.S. at the Nogales, Ariz., port of entry on July 22, they were arrested. They had been in federal custody since.

"On Tuesday, immigration asylum officers found that all nine had credible fear of persecution or torture in their birth country and could therefore not be immediately removed."

Our public radio colleagues at Fronteras Desk were at the Tucson, Ariz., Greyhound bus station where the activists were released. They spoke to 22-year-old Maria Peniche, who was born in Mexico and brought to Boston when she was 10.

"We are taking a field trip," she said. "I want to go back to Boston and say hi to my friends and my family and then come back to Tucson and start helping everybody, everybody else that wants to come back," Peniche said.

Lisbeth Mateo, 29, who was one of three activists who self-deported to join the protest, told Fronteras Desk that she decided to take part in the unusual demonstration because she "was already at risk."

"Being undocumented for so long, I was already at risk of being picked up," Mateo said.

The journey is bound to be a long one for the activists: Asylum cases can take years to come before a judge, and the approval rate is low, especially for those from Latin American countries — and particularly Mexico. For fiscal year 2012, for example, the Justice Department reports (pdf) that it received 9,206 requests for asylum from Mexican nationals. Immigration judges granted 126 of them.

NPR's Ted Robbins will have more on this story on tonight's All Things Considered. Click here to find a member station near you.

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