- photo by Bob Geary
- Viridiana Martinez (seated) early in last summer’s hunger strike
[UPDATE 4/7: The seven were released today with no deportation process initiated. I’ve posted their statement below the fold. The Raleigh vigil is still set for 6:30-9:30 tonight.] Seven people who are the undocumented children of undocumented immigrant parents were arrested today at a protest on the Georgia State University campus in Atlanta. Two, Viridiana Martinez and Jose Rico, are North Carolinians and members of NC DREAM Team.
Martinez was one of the three NC DREAM Team members who conducted a 13-day hunger strike in Raleigh last summer during a campaign to convince Congress to pass the DREAM Act. (For background, see this story.)
Rico, according to a press release from the DREAM Team, is a Wake Tech student who hopes to study engineering at N.C. State — except he can’t afford to pay the out-of-state tuition rates charged to young people in his circumstances.
Long story short, these are young people whose parents brought them to the United States, who’ve grown up in this country and graduated from the public schools here. This is their home. But to the federal government, they’re illegal and subject to being deported to — well, to where?
Regardless of the risk, they are unwilling to live in the shadows, Martinez says in the press statement.
A DREAM Team spokesman said the group will hold a vigil in Raleigh Thursday, beginning at 6:30 p.m., on the plaza where the hunger strike took place — it’s across the street and to the east from the General Assembly building.
Here’s the press release in full:
ATLANTA—Two young undocumented North Carolina residents who participated in a sit-in today on the campus of Georgia State University have been arrested and taken to an area jail. Atlanta participates in the Secure Communities program, which makes the risk of detainment and deportation high.
“I’m doing this because our communities are living in fear,” said Jose Rico, one of two sit-in participants from North Carolina. “51,000 undocumented youth had their dreams torn apart when our senators voted against the DREAM Act. They are trying to criminalize our existence.”
Rico is a student at Wake Tech in Raleigh who plans to transfer to NC State University. After excelling in high school being accepted to numerous colleges, Rico could not afford to go to school because of the out-of-state tuition that undocumented students are required to pay. Rico plans to stay in North Carolina and become an engineer.
Georgia, like North Carolina, is considering banning undocumented students from attending public colleges and universities. Georgia has already banned attendance at its top-tier institutions. Two bills in the NC General Assembly, HB 11 and HB 343, would close the doors to immigrants on higher education. Both bills, along with others, have been introduced by Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow).
Viridiana Martinez, the other sit-in participant from North Carolina, has spoken to Cleveland personally.
“He doesn’t understand that he’s hurting people,” Martinez said. “These people are North Carolinians who love this state as much as he does.”
By participating in this sit-in, Martinez and Rico risk arrest and deportation. However, lobbying and political campaigns have yet to deliver federal reform.
“Rallying and protesting are no longer enough,” Martinez said. “Remaining in the shadows is no longer acceptable.”
Here’s what came in this morning (4/7) from Atlanta:
NC DREAM Team members released from Atlanta jail
ICE makes contact—fails to begin deportation proceedings
ATLANTA—The seven undocumented youth who were arrested yesterday in an act of civil disobedience at Georgia State University have been released from jail. The students were protesting bans on college attendance like those being considered in Georgia and North Carolina.
“We definitely felt privileged—not everyone who is undocumented is treated the way we were,” said Viridiana Martinez, one of the sit-in participants from North Carolina. “We are not sure why we were not detained.”
Shortly after being taken to jail, immigration officers arrived and asked them to sign forms. All of the participants refused. It is not known why ICE did not take further action.