What can be accomplished in just 10 days by the courageous actions of young immigrants? More than many of us would hope to accomplish in a year, or a lifetime. It has been more than a week since the nine DREAMers arrived at the U.S.-Mexico Nogales port of entry on July 22 and asked authorities to let them come back home. They were willing to risk all they have gained to fight for immigrant families that have been torn apart by the 1.7 million deportations by the Obama Administration.
In just over a week, these courageous young immigrant leaders have received widespread national attention. Tens of thousands of calls and letters from supporters and organizations around the country have called for their release, including the U.S. Jesuit Conference. Multiple protests and sit-ins by nationwide members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance have included the parents and family members of the DREAM 9, gathering support from members of Congress. Just recently, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) made a floor speech in the House and nearly 40 other house members have signed a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to take immediate action and use his discretion for their release.
Bringing the DREAM 9 home is just the beginning of the struggle they have ignited from within the Eloy Detention Center in the heart of Arizona. For most of this past week, the detained DREAM 9 have been on hunger strike because of restricted access to phone service that limits them from revealing the stories and abuses on the inside of immigration detention. The Eloy immigration detention center where they are being held is a private facility contracted by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a place where, in March of this year, a man and a young woman from Guatemala committed suicide as two separate incidents just a few days apart.
Members of the DREAM 9 have also been kept in solitary confinement, but they report that other detainees are increasingly empowered by their presence and ready to also fight for their freedom and dignity. It is now reported that more than 70 other women in the detention center are joining the hunger strike, some of whom have been held in detention for years. The NIYA Bring Them Home campaign is now calling on supporters to take the pledge of calling on President Obama for their release and to join the hunger strike for a day this week.
We will be fasting, praying, and calling our elected leaders this week to bring awareness to the millions of immigrant families separated by detention, deportation, and border militarization in recent years. Join us in praying that the deep hunger for justice for immigrants will be satisfied.
Maryada Vallet works with No More Deaths, a humanitarian initiative on the U.S.-Mexico border that promotes faith-based principles for immigration reform. Steve Pavey is an applied anthropologist at the One Horizon Institute in Lexington, Ky.