Local college students rallied in a national “coming out week” leading to arrests.
DREAM Act supporters brought their chant, “Out of the shadows, into the streets,” to life when two student activists, Tania Chairez and Jessica Hyejin Lee, were arrested on March 14.
The Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, would allow undocumented citizens brought here as children to have the ability to gain legal citizenship. Although the bill was struck down by the Senate in December 2010, proponents continue to push for its passage.
The demonstration started off with a “Coming Out of the Shadows” rally in Love Park, where undocumented students declared themselves as so and told their personal stories to the crowd. The rally was a part of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance Week of action and was organized by DreamActivist Pennsylvania. Juntos and FUERZA, two local organizations, also participated.
Members of Occupy Temple participated in the rally and march.
After personal stories were told, the crowd marched to Philadelphia’s Immigration and Custom Enforcement field office on 1600 Callowhill St.
Once at the ICE building, Chairez, a University of Pennsylvania sophomore, and Lee, a Brynn Mawr junior, delivered a letter to demand the release of Miguel Orellana, a DREAM Act eligible youth, and a father of two young children, who has been detained by ICE for eight months.
Chairez, Lee and Cesar Marroquin, another potential DREAM Act beneficiary, sat on the street in front of the building refusing to move until they could speak to someone from ICE.
Protesters not sitting on the street held signs and chanted, while others linked arms in front of traffic. Employees from within the ICE building could be seen observing the crowd through windows and glass doors.
Erika Almiron, the executive director of Juntos, led chants and handed out information on a day of action in Harrisburg being organized for May 7 by Juntos.
“[Juntos] is organizing a bus, a mobilization, to Harrisburg to address these [anti-immigrant] bills that have come into our state,” Almiron said. “We’re here to tell people they need to join with us. Not as allies but because it affects them as much as it affects us.”
Fernanda Marroquin, one of the organizers of the rally, could be seen speaking to police and relaying messages to the activists sitting on the street.
“I walked up to them and I kind of told them the situation, what was happening [and] what was going to happen if they remained there,” Fernanda Marroquin said. “They’re very determined and they’re very determined to stay because they know that as undocumented youth we need to come out and we need to fight back against all of this hatred everywhere especially ICE scaring people and it’s not fair for people to live in the shadows.”
After approximately an hour of demonstration, Chairez and Lee stayed sitting in the street and, after multiple warnings, were arrested. The protesters on the sidewalk cheered for Chairez and Lee as they were handcuffed and chanted “shame” at the police officers as the arrest continued.
The demonstration quickly ended after the arrest and Fernanda Marroquin expressed her gratitude for the support from those in attendance. As protestors left, they left their signs weaved into the fence across the street from the ICE building.
Chairez and Lee were released from Philadelphia Police Headquarters the following afternoon with the possibility of being charged for disorderly conduct and obstruction of highways.
Luis Fernando Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.