Photo courtesy of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance

Detained DREAMers begin hunger strike to push for better phone privileges

After three days in detainment, nine DREAMers, known as the DREAM 9 on social media, engaged in a hunger strike to demand more flexible phone privileges and raise awareness for their plight behind bars.

“The actual facility is preventing them from making phone calls,” said Mohammad Abdollahi, an organizer with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance.

He said DREAM 9 has not been allowed to hold a conversation for more than 10 seconds. He said the phone numbers are also blocked so some family has not been able to call them back directly. DREAM 9 intends to continue the strike until they are permitted phone privileges.

Abdollahi said those in DREAM 9 did have a plan in case they were detained.

“If they were sent to a detention center, they would gather stories despite tight limitations,” he said. So far, DREAM 9 have interviewed 7 other detainees who have no committed a crime like theft or larceny that could warrant detention.

“We continue to insist that the [Department of Homeland Security] to release these dreamers on humanitarian parole leave,” said Kiran Savage-Sangwan, a member of DREAM 9’s policy team. “That is our first application and the Department has not denied or approved it. Our second app is an asylum request and each has strong meritorious asylum claims.”

She said NIYA and supporters of the Bring Them Home campaign have successfully received 19 co-signs for a letter requesting DREAM 9 be granted humanitarian parole. At about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Congressman Luis Gutierrez posted his support of the Bring Them Home campaign on his Facebook.

“My staff met with Maria Martinez, the mother of Lulu Martinez, this morning. Lulu is one of the #DREAM9 detained at the border as they attempted to return to the United States,” he wrote. “I appreciate Mrs. Martinez sticking around my Chicago office as she waits for a copy of the letter I am sending to President Barack Obama in support of her daughter and the #DREAM9. I and my staff are working to #BringThemHome.”

Savage-Sangwan said because each of the DREAMers is more familiar with the U.S. than with Mexico, they will have a difficult time assimilating to the culture and will become targets for kidnappers and other criminals.

“Each will be interviewed by an asylum officer to establish each has a credible fear of persecution if they are denied admittance to the U.S.,” she said. “These young people are certainly not at a threat of public danger, they are not going to flee. They knocked on the door of the U.S. to re-enter, so they should be released pending litigation of their asylum claims.”

DREAM 9 is currently in detention at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, where they have remained since Tuesday. They attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico Border through a legal port of entry in order to start a movement and send a message on immigration and the need for reform. They have been detained in Nogales by U.S Customs and Border Protection officials since Monday evening.

This article has been amended since its posting. Kiran Savage-Sangwan wss originally listed as DREAM 9’s attorney.

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