As long as the focus on immigration reform continues to be on border security, the frustration level about deportations will continue to grow, U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva says.
A group of nine young adults who lived most of their lives in the United States tried to cross the Morley Gate in Nogales Monday as a way to protest the 1.7 million people who have been deported under the Obama administration.
Some of them had left the United States voluntarily to pursue higher education or to get medical surgeries they couldn't afford. But three went back for the sole purpose of protesting current immigration laws - including one who was scheduled to start law school Aug. 12.
They were transferred Monday night to Florence Detention Center after their humanitarian parole applications were denied and moved Tuesday morning to Eloy Detention Center due to a lack of space, said organizers with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance.
"They are all in high spirits and planning to organize inside the detention center," a news release said.
All nine have filed asylum claims. Each of their stories is different, but Margo Cowan, a Tucson attorney representing them, has said they all have a strong case.
A small group of activists gathered in front of Grijalva's office Tuesday morning asking the U.S. to bring the "Dream 9" home. A vigil was held Wednesday night at the detention center.
Grijalva said it is not in his power to tell Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement whom to let go and whom to keep, but he worked on a letter with a group of lawmakers to be delivered to President Obama this week asking for due process and a "full investigation" of their cases.
Cowan has asked for their release while their application is pending since they are not a flight risk.
Asylum cases from Mexico are in general difficult cases to fight, Gloria Goldman, a local immigration attorney not involved in this case, said.
Typically cases of asylum from Mexico don't fit fear of persecution due to political beliefs or nationality, she said, but fall in a grayer area of being part of a particular social group, which are harder to prove.
Nearly 10,000 asylum claims from Mexicans were filed in fiscal 2012, out of which only 126 were granted. From the remaining, more than 1,000 were denied, close to 2,000 withdrawn and another 2,000 fell in the "other" category which can include cases that had a change of venue or were granted another type of relief besides asylum, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
Grijalva said it's good to bring attention to the issue.
"I can understand the frustration and that they feel some of us should be doing more," he said Tuesday.
But he doesn't think people risking themselves at the border is going to turn lawmakers such as Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, who told Newsmax for every young person who was a valedictorian, there was another 100 smuggling marijuana across the desert.
Still, the nine activists said before they tried to cross through the turnstile in Nogales they weren't going to give up until they found a solution. The message: "No one is going to be left behind."
• Individuals can request asylum if they fear harm if returned to their native country or if they have suffered harm in the past.
• To be granted asylum, the person must demonstrate past persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on the alien's race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, and/or membership in a particular social group.
Source: Executive Office for Immigration Review
Contact reporter Perla Trevizo at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4213.