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64029 Things about the #Dream9

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  • Steven L. Robinson
    Aug 5, 2013
      9 Things about the #Dream9

      by Aura Bogado
      Monday, August 5 2013

      There's been a lot of hype, hope, rumors, and misinformation about the Dream 9 since the crossed the southern border two weeks ago. Here are some facts you might or might not know about the nine people currently held at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, which is privately owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America.

      1) The Dream 9 crossed into the US legally.

      During a visit with the Dream 9's Marco Saavedra on Sunday, he was surprised to learn that people assume that what they did is illegal. It's not; entering into the US from another country and asking for humanitarian parole or asylum at a port-of-entry is perfectly sound in the eyes of the law. Saavedra said that current immigration policy automatically attaches the illusion that everything—and everyone—that exists on or near the Mexico-US border is somehow illegal.

      2) Three of the Dream 9 are indigenous.

      Ceferino Santiago and Lizbeth Mateo are both Zapotec; Marco Saavedra is Mixtec. All three have roots in the Mexican state of Oaxaca—where indigenous people are socially and politically marginalized, and face a disproportionate amount of violence.  All three explained that their indigeneity is inherent proof of credible fear in their asylum applications.

      3) One of the Dream 9 is a 37-year-old mother.

      We tend to think of Dreamers as those youth who are eligible for relief under Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Dream 9, however, are concerned with the return of anyone who's been separated from their families, like Claudia Amaro, who says she arrived to the US as a teen after her father and uncle were killed in Mexico. She then returned to Mexico in 2006 after her husband was deported there—and brought her US-born son along with her.

      4) Two of the Dream 9 are serving 15 days in solitary.

      When I visited Eloy on Saturday, one of the detainees (who's not part of the Dream 9) told me that word spread like fire after Maria Peniche and Lulu Martinez jumped up during dinner chow last week and urged their fellow detainees to call a free legal hotline to fight deportation. They yelled out, "Undocumented! Unafraid!" in Spanish—which inspired others to pound on the dinner tables, and begin clapping and chanting as well. But were Peniche and Martinez were punished for their action. A Department of Homeland Security disciplinary panel found that the two had violated a code, and were sanctioned to 15 days of solitary confinement.

      5) One of the Dream 9 was placed on suicide watch.

      After Peniche was sentenced to solitary, she hit a really low point. She was placed on suicide watch—although she says that the guards gathered all her belongings into a bag so that she could not hurt herself with anything in it, yet left the bag in her cell. In this phone call from detention, she explains what she was going through in solidary:

      "You feel like the world has forgotten about you…. I was gonna hurt myself. Too much anxiety. Too much fear. Too much anger at this entire mess. I just wanted to slam myself against a wall or put boiling water on my hands so I could feel some kind of pain or something different."

      Peniche continues her stay in solitary confinement—where she is left in isolation for 23 hours a day. She already suffers from heart arrhythmia, and experienced an attack during her second day in detention.

      6) One of the Dream 9 lost ten percent of her weight in five days.

      When I saw Lizbeth Mateo Saturday, she looked very thin. She was placed in solitary confinement with five others who started a hunger strike (all six have now been released into the general population). She lasted five days, until finally drinking some orange juice in order to prepare for her credible fear interview. Mateo told me that she's already prone to anemia, so the weight loss creates a serious health risk. During her five-day hunger strike, she lost 11 pounds—which is ten percent of her entire body weight.

      7) ‘There is no fear where there is perfect love,' explained.

      During the Ustream lives feed from the Dream 9 crossing into the US, Marco Saavedra was heard quoting 1 John, saying "There is no fear where there is perfect love." Saavedra explained to me that he chose that quote because John was the only one of the 12 Apostles to ever be exiled. He added that he himself felt like he was in exile during his recent visit to Mexico—and remains in exile while he's in detention, because it's a form of banishment.

      8) The Dream 9 Moms.

      You already know about Natalia Saavedra—who's busy these days lobbying politicians for her son's release. But other mothers at it, too. When I visited Luis Leon on Saturday, he explained that his mom quit her factory job in order to fight for Luis's return to his family in Marion, North Carolina. All of the Dream 9 have fathers, brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles, and cousins fighting for them. But many say their mothers have been especially inspiring.

      9) The Dream 9 have a ton of support.

      Aside from vigils outside of the Eloy Detention Center, Dream 9 supporters are writing letters to the detainees, participating in daylong hunger strikes, and are holding other events aimed at bringing them home. And the momentum is growing. More than 30 lawmakers have signed on to a letter penned by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Ca.) asking President Obama to use his discretion to allow the Dream 9 to return home. Rep. Luis Gutierreztook to the House floor, asking for the same. Ad-hoc groups, 19 major unions and Human Rights Watch are all demanding the Dream 9 be released. The National Immigrant Youth Alliance, which organized the border crossing and maintains constant contact with the Dream 9, is asking supporters to sign their petition.


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