Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Two illegal immigrants from North Carolina have been arrested and could face deportation after staging a sit in this afternoon in downtown Atlanta to protest laws that bar illegal immigrants from attending public colleges.
Supporters say Jose Rico, a student at Wake Tech, and Viridiana Martinez of Sanford, were arrested with five other undocumented students who were protesting recently proposed legislation in Georgia and North Carolina.
The students were taken to an area jail. The supporters said the Atlanta jails participate in Secure Communities, which identifies and places illegal immigrants into deportation proceedings.
A vigil will be held tonight outside Atlanta Detention Center for the seven undocumented youth who were just arrested.
“I’m doing this because our communities are living in fear,” Rico said before the rally.
Organizers say more than 200 supporters from Georgia, the Carolinas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, among other states, are in Atlanta supporting the rally.
Rico is a member of the NC Dream Team, a state-wide group that advocates for immigrant rights. He is a student at Wake Tech in Raleigh and plans to transfer to NC State. 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 wants to become an engineer.
The students are part of The Dream is Coming project, which was created to advocate for the Dream Act, legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for certain young people who were brought here at a young age. It has failed to pass congress several times, most recently in December.
“Fifty-one thousand undocumented youth had their dreams torn apart when our senators voted against the Dream Act," Rico said. "They are trying to criminalize our existence.”
The young students have started using civil disobedience as a tool in their fight, including a high-profile sit-in at the Tucson offices of U.S. Sen. John McCain, when some of them were arrested. They have likened their struggle to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and say they are bolstered by support from some of the leaders of that movement.
Legislators in North Carolina are considering banning illegal immigrants from attending public colleges and universities. Two bills in the NC General Assembly, HB 11 and HB 343, would ban illegal immigrants from attending the state's public colleges.
Viridiana Martinez, who came to the United States when she was 7-years-old and lives in Sanford, will also participate in the sit in. Last year, she was one of three undocumented young women who participated in a thirteen-day hunger strike with the hope of encouraging Senator Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, to support the Dream Act. The Dream Act succumbed to a Senate filibuster after several key Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the bill.
“Rallying and protesting are no longer enough,” Martinez said. “Remaining in the shadows is no longer acceptable.”
Associated Press Contributed.