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Associated Press: Undocumented Youth Fight to Come Out of the Shadows

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Great read from the Associated Press today about DREAMers and the growing movement of students who are defying the law, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and their parents by “coming out” publicly as undocumented.

From the article:

It began several years ago, tentatively, almost furtively, with a few small rallies and a few provocative T-shirts. In the past two years it has grown into a full-fledged movement, emboldening thousands of young people, terrifying their parents, and unsettling authorities unsure of how to respond.

From California to Georgia to New York, children of families who live here illegally are “coming out” — marching behind banners that say “undocumented and unafraid,” staging sit-ins in federal offices, and getting arrested in the most defiant ways — in front of the Alabama Capitol, outside federal immigration courts and detention centers, in Maricopa County, Ariz., home of the sworn enemy of illegal immigrants, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

In “outing” their families as well as themselves, they know they risk being deported.

But as states pass ever more stringent anti-illegal immigration laws — and critics denounce their parents as criminals — these young people say they have no choice.

The article interviews Angy Rivera, of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, who came from Colombia when she was 3 and didn’t truly understand what being undocumented meant until she started looking for jobs and applying to college; Mohammad Abdollahi of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, who came from Iran when he was 3 and cannot return because he is gay; Alaa Mukahhal, who came from Kuwait when she was 6 and cannot work in her chosen field of architecture; Tereza Lee, who came from Brazil with her Korean parents when she was 2 and is famous for being one of the first DREAMers to go public; Keish Kim, who came from Korea when she was 8 and participates in an “underground” university set up by Georgia educators after the state banned undocumented students from Georgia’s top five universities and colleges; Dulce Guerrero, whose parents were furious after she was arrested during an act of civil disobedience in Atlanta last year—among many, many others.

Together, they tell the story of a youth movement forced to fight for its rights—despite the threat of deportation and despite the concerns of their parents.  Overwhelmingly, they want to let people who want them to “go home” or “come back the right way” that they are Americans too.  The strength and force of the movement was illustrated just last week, when United We DREAM and activists around the nation organized 25 different protests in 16 different states, including one on top of an ICE building.  The nationwide event was part of their “Right to DREAM” campaign, which is asking President Obama for increased protections for DREAMers and their families via prosecutorial discretion.

“Our generation, we were cowards,” Alejandro Benitez, the father of a New York DREAMer, told the Associated Press.  “These young people, they are fighters.”

Read the whole Associated Press article, “Young illegal immigrants, unwilling to accept life in the shadows, declare themselves publicly.”