Seven Undocumented Students Arrested for Wanting an Education


Original source: The Atlanta Progressive News

(APN) ATLANTA -- Seven undocumented students from around the nation were arrested yesterday, Tuesday, April 05, 2011, while staging a sit-down protest on Courtland Street at Georgia State University for over an hour.  Risking prison and deportation these brave students practiced the age old tradition of civil disobedience to protest the shameful laws which ban them from attending college. 

Georgina Perez, Viridiana Martinez, Jose Rico, Dayanna Rebolledo, Andrea Rosales, David Ramirez and Maria Marroquin were arrested and taken to the Atlanta City Jail.  

In October 2010, the Georgia Board of Regents joined Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, and other states in banning undocumented youths from attending college. 

In Georgia, starting this Fall, undocumented students cannot attend Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, Medical College of Georgia, or Georgia College & State University.  These are some of the same southern universities which Blacks were not allow to attend over fifty years ago.

The arrested students are affiliated with, a national movement to pass the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act. 

The DREAM Act would allow a legal pathway for some undocumented youth to become citizens.  DREAM was first introduced in 2001, but has yet to make it through US Congress. The DREAM Act has four basic requirements (1) you entered the country before the age of sixteen, (2) you graduate high school or obtain a GED, (3) you have good moral character, and (4) you have at least five years of continuous presence in the US.

The seven undocumented and unafraid activists each told their personal stories of being brought to the United States as children by their parents and living in the shadows as undocumented children.  They talked of their fears of family and friends being deported.  They talked of their hopes that the law would change and allow them to become citizens.  They are tired of waiting for a legal path to citizenship which never comes and living in fear.  They are now standing up, speaking out, and fighting back.

Georgina Perez, 21, has been in the US since she was three years old and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.  "I am doing this for my friends who are in the same situation and also for my mother who did everything she could to give me a better life and to have an education.  We are being denied an education and criminalized for wanting an education," Perez said.  

Maria Marroquin was brought to the US from Peru at age thirteen.  "We are being shut out of universities, criminalized, and deported in states around the country.  The time is always right to fight for our civil right," Marroquin, an undocumented student from Pennsylvania, said. 

"It took me five years to get a two year degree at a community college.  As an international, I paid triple the amount that my peers paid.  It was all out of my own pocket.  I want to continue my education and become an attorney to defend my community."

David Ramirez has been in the US since he was one year old and lives in Chicago, Illinois.  "If you are undocumented, don't be afraid to defend your dignity.  If you are an ally, don't be afraid to be an advocate.  We need to come out of the shadows and show the State of Georgia we are not afraid," Ramirez said. 

Andrea Rosales came to the US at age five and lives in Chicago, Illinois.  "We need to take a stand in Georgia.  We need to let the Board of Regents know that by banning undocumented students they will deny a future for a whole generation of students that make up this state," Rosales said.

Dayanna Rebolledo was brought to the US from Mexico at the age of nine and lives in Detroit, Michigan.  "Being undocumented does not define who I am as a human being.  The reason why I am coming out of the shadows as an undocumented is because I want to empower my brother and sister who lost hope when the DREAM Act failed.  We all deserve equal education," Rebolledo said.  

Jose Rico was brought to the US at 13 and lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.  His family moved to north Mexico because of the jobs created by NAFTA.  In 2000, the jobs moved to even cheaper labor markets, so his family moved to the US with a visa.  Because of the complexities of the visa system, he is undocumented.  Jose has a 3.8 GPA and wants to go to college and become an engineer.  He works very hard to afford the out-of-state tuition at a community college.

Viridiana Martinez was six years old when she came to the US and now lives in North Carolina.  "Last year in Raleigh, North Carolina, myself and two other undocumented women went on a thirteen day hunger strike demanding Senator Kay Hagan to co-sponsor the DREAM Act.  She didn't, she killed the DREAM Act.  That inaction by the federal government is now leading individual states to ban undocumented students from a college education.  We are not criminals, we are students.  We want to go to college and become doctors, nurses, and teachers," Martinez said.

Rev. Tim McDonald, pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church and a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement told the students, "There is a connection between the civil rights struggle and the immigration struggle in America.  You are not in this struggle alone.  Civil rights veterans, African-American community leaders, pastors, elected officials are in soldiery with you and we will go all the way with you." 

Noting that Dr. Martin Luther King once said "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come," McDonald said, "Today the idea of, I am undocumented and unafraid - your time has come.  They are trying to make you fear -- but those who are setting public policy are the ones who are going to fear from now on.  They are going to be afraid of our ability to organize.  They are going to be afraid because they don't know what we are going to do next."

"Fear is the enemy and you have overcome fear.  When you overcome fear you can beat back any enemy.  I refuse to give my money to anyone who wants to take my rights away from me.  Can you say boycott," State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) asked.  The crowd yelled back, "Boycott!"

The students delivered a letter to GSU President Mark Becker asking him to not comply with the ban on undocumented students at GSU.  President Becker responded by shutting the admissions office door in their face.

They returned to the crowd and led the march around GSU campus chanting, "Education not Deportation," "Don't Believe the Lies - Organize," "Education not Segregation," "Refuse the Ban," and "Shame on Georgia."

The march ended with the seven students sitting in the street where they were arrested by City of Atlanta police.  They are being held on a two thousand dollar bond each.  2,406 dollars has been raised as of this afternoon.

Photo by Korean Resource Center/cc by 2.0/Flickr

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