(AP Photo/Samantha Sais)

Dream 9 released from custody after 17 days in detainment

The DREAM 9 have been released from custody in the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona after 17 days in detainment and have arrived at a bus station in Tuscon to return home.

Earlier, DreamActivist founder Prerna Lal, had confirmed the Dream 9 had been allowed to leave the detention center.

Domenic Powell, the media manager for the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), also announced all nine Dreamers will be permitted to leave the detention center.

“They’re being released while the asylum process moves forward,” Powell says. “They have established they have credible fear of returning, which is a screening process, and now the process will move forward.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a statement saying, “After an individual custody review of each case, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has granted the nine individuals temporary parole into the United States pending immigration court hearings to consider their asylum claims, pursuant to long standing policy regarding the use of parole for individuals found to have credible fear.”

Christopher Bentley, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services press secretary, says their release will be a part of the path to humanitarian asylum in the U.S.

“Any individual who asserts a fear of persecution or torture or an intention to seek asylum during the course of the expedited removal process is referred to an USCIS asylum officer for an interview to determine if the individual has a credible fear of persecution or torture,” Bentley says. “Credible fear determinations are dictated by longstanding statute, not an issuance of discretion. The USCIS officer must find that a ‘significant possibility’ exists that the individual may be found eligible for asylum or withholding of removal.”

He says if the credible fear threshold is met, the individual is placed into removal proceedings in Immigration Court, where the individual may apply for relief from removal, including asylum. The final decision on asylum eligibility rests with an immigration judge.

Over the past two weeks, 43 members of Congress voiced their support for the release of the Dream 9 in letters and issued statements urging the president to release the Dreamers. Along with the supporters in Congress, 25 unions also issued statements backing the Dream 9 and more than 27,000 people signed a petition demanding their release.

RELATED: 34 House members sign letter asking for Dream 9 release

David Leopold, a prominent immigration attorney who has worked with Dreamers, legal permanent residents, and undocumented people, says he is thrilled the Dream 9 have been released, but there are questions about their tactics remaining.

“My criticism was never about the Dream 9, but about the tactics they used,” he says. “We all know the immigration system is broken and in need of a comprehensive overhaul. That’s why I strongly believe the focus should be on the House GOP leadership and Speaker Boehner to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship.”

By coming into the U.S. without documentation, the Dream 9 proved that there are consequences to coming into the U.S. undocumented and that detention centers are uncomfortable places to be locked up, Leopold says.

“But the question remains: What was the point of the protest?” Leopold added. “What did they show that was not already common knowledge? I also think this action leaves serious questions as to the political motives of protest organizers.”

But Powell says members of NIYA were discussing the repercussions of the Dream 9 reentering the U.S. for months.  Moreover, he adds, NIYA members and Dream 9 were expecting ICE to detain the Dreamers, but they agreed it was the only way they could come home.

“This is their home and plain and simple, this is where they want to be,” Powell says. “They have ties here and everyone should live their life in their home.”

The story has been updated since its original posting. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) quote has been exchanged with a more recent quote. 

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