College and high school students protested outside a campaign office for President Barack Obama Thursday, demanding that he stop the deportation of undocumented youth.
The Charlotte activists joined others around the country in hopes that Obama will sign an executive order ending the deportation of undocumented youth who would be eligible for residency under the Dream Act.
The act, which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, would allow conditional permanent U.S. residence for undocumented youth who serve in the military or attend college. The plan has been introduced several times in Congress without success.
About a dozen Dream activists in Charlotte Thursday said they were protesting there not only because the city will be the site of the Democratic National Convention this summer, but also because of the growing number of Hispanic voters, said Viridiana Martinez, one of the protests organizers and a co-founder of the Raleigh-based N.C. Dream Team.
But as the students chanted and waved signs in the afternoon, the doors at the East Ninth Street location were closed, and no staffers appeared to be inside. Some of the protesters went to another Obama campaign office in Charlotte, which also was closed, they said.
The Democrats are cowards they dont want to show their face, said Martinez, 25, a native of Mexico who came to the U.S. at age 7.
The activists waved signs with messages like Executive Order Now and chanted Undocumented, Unafraid. The group formed during the summer of 2010 during a 13-day hunger strike in Raleigh to draw attention to the Dream Act.
Donning a black cap and gown, Claudia Salazar, 18, a rising high school senior and Chapel Hill resident, said she was inspired by her brothers deportation to reveal her immigration status.
I want to stop being afraid, said Salazar, a native of Mexico who came to the United States at age 6. Our options are limited. ... We hope that Obama listens. We want him to actually take action instead of saying he supports the Dreamt Act and dreamers.
The statewide Dream Team group of young activists includes some U.S.-born allies.
I feel its important that our voices be heard and that President Obama knows we need him. If I dont see change, I wont support him, said Elisa Benitez-Hernandez, 19, a U.S. citizen who supports the movement. She said she has friends and family who are undocumented.
When asked if President Obama would consider signing an executive order ending deportation for Dream-eligible students, Cameron French, Obamas North Carolina press secretary, declined to answer. He also declined comment about why Obamas Charlotte offices were closed.
We deeply respect the commitment and courage of these young people, and completely agree that Dreamers who serve in the military or go to college should become citizens and be allowed to contribute to our country, French said in an email.
We must change the law by passing the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform and that requires that Republicans stop standing in the way.
The National Immigrant Youth Alliance, or NIYA, the umbrella group for organizations like the N.C. Dream Team, has urged its network to carry out acts of civil disobedience in Democratic campaign offices across the country from now until the November elections.
Dream activists began to protest outside an Obama campaign office in Denver last week. As of Thursday evening, activists protested outside Obama campaign offices in Cincinnati; Dearborn, Mich.; and Culver City, and Oakland, Calif., where they occupied those offices, said Domenic Powellof NIYA.
Activists will take actions at additional offices today and will continue to do so until the president issues an executive order to stop DREAMer deportations, according to a statement posted on their website Thursday.
During a coming out rally in Charlotte last September, 10 young undocumented immigrants were among 15 people arrested and charged with impeding traffic and disorderly conduct. Two of those arrested also were charged with violation of the noise ordinance.
There were no police officers at the rallies in Charlotte.
Advocates for stricter enforcement say giving students a path to legalization would only give undocumented immigrants further incentive to break the nations laws and create more competition for legal residents.