UCC pastors, lay leaders aid protesters demanding DREAM Act executive order
Written by Jeff Woodard June 14, 2012
DREAM Act protesters, 24-year-old Veronica Gomez and 23-year-old Javier Hernandez, inside President Barack Obama's Denver campaign headquarters. Photo: Facebook
UCC pastors and lay leaders are providing support to two undocumented young adults whose six-day hunger strike and sit-in at President Obama’s re-election headquarters in Denver is triggering a ripple effect of similar protests throughout the country.
Protesters Veronica Gomez, 24, and Javier Hernandez, 23, spent June 5 through the morning of June 11 behind closed doors in the Obama campaign headquarters in Colorado. They are now part of a larger group of undocumented protesters walking across the country to demand that Obama sign an executive order enacting the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act. The act passed the House in 2010, but failed in the Senate.
“The hunger strike ended without ever a response from the president,” said the Rev. Anne Dunlap, the UCC pastor of Comunidad Liberación/Liberation Community in Aurora, Colo., a ministry of Mayflower UCC in Englewood, Colo. “The staff at the campaign office did let a nurse and doctor in on June 7 and another walker to check on them on June 8, but after that would not let anyone in, not even a nurse.”
Dunlap said the UCC was the denomination “most present” with the hunger strikers in Denver. “And [the hunger strikers] have noticed that,” she added.
Deliveries of water and other hydrating liquids were allowed in for the strikers, said Dunlap. “They also brought in a security guard to watch them and who began filming them constantly. That intimidation was part of the reason for ending the strike.”
Another reason, said Dunlap, was news that the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) announced that similar hunger strikes and sit-ins are underway nationwide, demanding that Obama sign an executive order to stop deportation of DREAM Act eligible youth. Similar protests are now being reported in Cincinnati, Ohio; Dearborn, Mich.; and Georgia.
“The DREAMers will be heading back out in a couple of days, with their next major stop being in Chicago,” said Dunlap, adding that the journey may take them through downtown Cleveland and a visit to the UCC’s national offices.
Gomez and Hernandez were born in Mexico, but have lived the vast majority of their lives in the United States. Hernandez's family reportedly moved to California on a visa when he was 4 years old. Gomez's family did likewise three days before her fourth birthday.
Gomez and Hernandez risked arrest and deportation for their hunger strike.
“If they want the Latino vote in Colorado, they must show the community what they are doing for us,” said Hernandez on June 11, the day he and Gomez ended the Denver sit-in. “We are asking them to stop the deportation of all DREAM eligible youth.”
The DREAM act, first proposed in the U.S. Senate in 2001, would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal aliens of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment.
The NIYA is activating its network to carry out acts of civil disobedience in Democratic campaign offices across the country from now until the November elections.
“Obama has to prove that he’s different from [presidential candidate Mitt] Romney,” said Rodrigo Hijonosa, an NIYA member from New Mexico. “He’s not, as long as we’re getting deported. Undocumented youth are self-deporting, and their families are getting torn apart by ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. We need an executive order now.”
The NIYA is an undocumented youth-led network committed to achieving equality for all undocumented youth. It has member organizations in Alabama, California, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington and has relationships with activists throughout the United States.