North Carolina: Undocumented youth block intersection for college access

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By Elisa Benitez-Hernandez
September 29, 2011

Sept. 6 protesters occupy street with banner reading: “We will no longer remain in the shadows.”

Seven undocumented youths blocked traffic in front of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 6. This civil disobedience was protesting the inaction of the Democratic Party, the harsh anti-immigrant agenda of the Republicans and Tea Party, and the outrageous out-of-state tuition imposed on undocumented students to attend community college.

The event started with a “coming-out” rally, with several youths sharing their stories and publicly announcing their undocumented status. Approximately 200 people, of all ages and backgrounds, gathered in support of their message and courageous actions. The rally proceeded to a march. Finally the youths sat in the middle of an intersection in uptown Charlotte, causing traffic to stall within minutes. At the top of their lungs they shouted, “Undocumented, unafraid! Undocumented, unashamed!”

Those arrested for civil disobedience include Alicia Torres, 25, of Carrboro, N.C.; Angelica Velazquillo, 25, of Charlotte; Manuel Vazquez, 21, of Raleigh, N.C.; Santiago Garcia, 20, of Asheville, N.C.; Cynthia Martinez, 20, of Sanford, N.C.; Martin Rodriguez, 20, of Hamptonville, N.C.; and Marco Saavedra, 21, of Cincinnati. However, the police also went on a rampage, arresting a total of 15 people that day. They included three more undocumented youths, two volunteer paramedics, a bystander and two Raleigh FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) members.

Those who were undocumented were taken and immediately processed at a Mecklenburg County, N.C., jail. Their cases were in the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and they awaited with uncertainty as to whether they would be released or deported. Fortunately, they were all released the next night and all deportation proceedings were dropped. “I even got my alien number — everything was set for me to go and why I didn’t go I don’t know,” said Garcia.

WW photos: Dante Strobino

It was no coincidence that the date the youths held their action, Sept. 6, is also the kick-off date for the Democratic National Convention next year. The youths’ goal was for the Democratic Party to know they won’t stand by and be satisfied with empty words. NC DREAM Team ally Domenic Powell said, “This is what we have to do because these are young people whose lives are in limbo. If Democrats think we’re going to go with them, they need to remember they’re dealing with idealistic young people with nothing to lose.”

The arrested youths are frustrated that things have only gotten worse for them. They are now forced to pay out-of-state tuition and can only enroll in classes after all other U.S. residents have been enrolled.

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