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Two undocumented protesters arrested in Dream 9 sit-in

By Mark Price
msprice@charlotteobserver.com

A growing national controversy surrounding nine Latino youths who “self-deported” and want back into the country reached a new level Monday, when two supporters of the so-called Dream 9 were arrested in the Charlotte office of Rep. Mel Watt.

It marks the first time arrests have been reported in connection with the ongoing rallies supporting the Dream 9 around the country, organizers said.

Maria Alejo, 21, of Raleigh and Marco Cervantes, 19, of Chapel Hill were charged with second-degree trespassing for refusing to leave Watt’s office after it closed. Both told the Observer they are undocumented youths who were raised in North Carolina.

The two were part of a protest group of about 30 people who sought the Democrat’s support in lobbying for the release of the nine youths, who are now held in Arizona for attempting to enter the country without documentation.

Among the 30 protesters was Norma Lopez of Marion, whose son, Luis Gustavo Leon Lopez, 20, is one of the nine detainees. He was raised in North Carolina but left for Mexico in August 2011 out of frustration with North Carolina’s policy of not allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition.

Luis Lopez attempted to return in June 2012 but was turned away. On July 22, he and six other undocumented youths seeking to return home presented themselves at the Nogales Port of Entry and were taken into custody.

They have since been joined by three other youths who “self-deported” in order to bring attention to Luis Lopez’s plight. Luis Lopez was being held at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona.

Watt’s district does not include Marion, but Norma Lopez says she is attempting to recruit as many congressional leaders as possible to lobby on her son’s behalf. Watt’s staff told the group that he was unavailable Monday.

The event was organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, an undocumented youth-led network of grassroots organizations and campus-based student groups.

NIYA officials say 42 member of Congress, including other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, have called on President Barack Obama and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release the Dream 9.

On Tuesday, NIYA officials reported the nine youths were arguing that they should be given asylum in the United States, based on a “credible fear” of harm in Mexico.

Federal officials have apparently agreed that seven of the nine youths may have a legitmate case. Status of the other two youths was unclear, NIYA officials said.

Under the “credible fear” argument, persons seeking asylum in the United States are given an opportunity to explain their fear of prosecution, torture or harm if returned to his or her country. In some cases, the “credible fear” argument can expedite granting of asylum.

Price: 704-358-5245
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