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DREAM activists on trial

Eight young immigrant activists were convicted on Friday of unlawful entry after sitting in at Senate offices in July to press for passage of the DREAM Act.  The eight represented themselves in an October 1 trial in D.C. Superior Court  – and offered testimony under oath about their undocumented status.

The eight — including Tania Unzueta, Reyna Wences, and Nicolas Gonzales from the Chicago area – were given unsupervised probation for a year by a judge who expressed admiration for their activism, a supporter said.

The young people sat in at the offices of Senator John McCain and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on July 20, calling on them to champion the DREAM Act.  All eight would be eligible for legal status under the bill, which would give the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency to young people who entered the country as minors and have completed two years of college or military service.

Prosecutors offered a plea agreement under which charges would be suspended and the defendants would be banned from Capitol Hill for up to a year, said Adam Kuranishi, and organizer with the Immigrant Youth Justice League.

The defendants turned down the offer in the expectation that the DREAM Act will be considered as a stand-alone bill in the lame duck session following the November election.  “They decided they couldn’t afford to not lobby” for the bill in coming weeks, Kuranishi said.

Last month the defense authorization bill, with amendments lined up to enact the DREAM Act and repeal “don’t ask don’t tell,” was prevented from coming to a vote in the Senate.  The DREAM Act may stand a better chance on its own after the November election, Kuranishi said.

At the trial, the eight activists gave testimony explaining their decision to risk deportation in order to fight for passage of the bill.  In the last year, undocumented youth have gone public to talk about their status and about the fear that keeps many immigrants silent when their rights are violated.

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Category: immigrants


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