Demonstrators for the Dream Act. [Photo courtesy of by Todd Dwyer via Flickr under Creative Commons license. Terms below.]
When President Barack Obama announced that undocumented youth would be allowed to stay and work in the United States under the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Korina Iribe-Romo felt a sense of hope.
She imaged herself being able to apply for a job and get a driver’s license.
“But life after DACA didn’t happen that way for me,” she said. “It didn’t happen that way for 19,000 Dreamers in Arizona.”
That’s due in large part to an executive order by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that directs state agencies to deny driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards to DACA recipients. Iribe-Romo said she applied for several jobs but was denied because the employers required her to have a driver’s license.
She is among the Dreamers in Arizona who are trying to reverse Brewer’s executive order. They filed a lawsuit last year, challenging the governor’s driver’s license ban.
Arizona and Nebraska are the only two states where DACA recipients aren’t allowed to get driver’s licenses. As of the end of 2013, a total of 18,981 Dreamers were approved for DACA in Arizona and 2,250 Dreamers were approved in Nebraska, according to the latest data by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
On Saturday, hundreds of Dreamers participating in this year’s United We Dream National Congress joined Iribe-Romo and other Dreamers from Arizona to protest Brewer’s policy denying driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. They marched about a mile to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s office in Phoenix.
Leading the march was Iribe-Romo and two other Arizona Dreamers who were driving to the ICE office. All three of them were approved for the DACA program but cannot get a driver’s licenses in the state.
Once at the ICE office, they met with the six undocumented immigrants who are on the sixth day of their 14-day hunger strike to fight for the release of their family members who are in detention. The fasters told the crowd of Dreamers that their family members were recently put in solitary confinement for also participating in the hunger strike.
Lucas Codognolla, a Dreamer from Connecticut and organizer with UWD, said Saturday’s march was also intended to show support for those participating in the hunger strike and to protest the deportations that have occurred under the Obama administration.
“We, at United We Dream, we’re committed to fight for our brothers and sisters here in Arizona,” Codognolla told the crowd. “We have come from all over the nation here today and we remain committed to fight for our communities and to fight for families.”
The three-day UWD National Congress, which is the biggest gathering of undocumented youth, will end Sunday. Dreamers will return home after setting the groundwork for what their fight will look like in 2014. Conversations held at the gathering so far indicate they will focus on pressuring Obama to use his executive powers to stop deportations.
Carlos Garcia, executive director of Puente Arizona, the group organizing the hunger strike, encouraged Dreamers to consider the “suffering” of the fasters as they strategize on how they plan to pressure Obama to stop deportations.
“Turn this pain into the force we’re going to need to make this change,” he told Dreamers.
Originally published by VOXXI as “Dreamers march for driver’s licenses, end to deportations.”
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