by Bob Geary
Good writeup and video on the MyNC/NBC17 website of the rally at the State Capitol yesterday in favor of immigration reform, i.e., not what Arizona is trying to do. For pictures, see The Progressive Pulse.
I got there late but was able to catch up with two of the three N.C. DREAM Team hunger strikers, Viridiana Martinez and Loida Silva. Rosario Lopez wasn't there; she was in Charlotte for a sister rally. That's Rosario in the picture above (she's at left) getting arrested during a protest in Washington, DC last week. We were in touch by email and, briefly, on the phone; she sent the picture via Flickr.
The three, after they ended their hunger strike, were in Washington for seven days as part of a larger immigrants-rights contingent advocating for the DREAM Act. One purpose was to visit with congressional staffers. Another was a series of sit-ins at selected Senate offices and in the Russell and Hart Senate office buildings. As Rosario explained it, the sit-ins were meant to show senators that enactment of the DREAM Act is a cause so important to people that they're willing to risk deportation fighting for it. This is from the note she sent:
I think we are making progress with the DREAM Act, because we are showing our senators that we are willing to risk everything for the DREAM Act and we want them to take risks as well. We want them to pass the DREAM Act as soon as possible. By participating in the sit in we risked deportation and arrest, but we have been waiting for the DREAM Act for ten years and we cannot wait any longer.
Rosario said she participated in brief sit-ins at three offices Senate offices (Sens. Schumer, Feinstein and Menendez — all friendly territory, presumably): after that, a small group went downstairs to the atrium of the Hart building where they sat down in a circle with a banner that read, "Undocumented and Unafraid/DREAM Act Now."
After about an hour, they were warned three times to leave, then arrested and taken to a DC Metro police station, where they were held for about five hours. They were released pending a court date next month.
Viridiana and Loida were not arrested, and both said they were afraid for Rosario and the others who were, because of the possibility that an arrest might trigger deportation proceedings. Rosario was cognizant of the risk, they said, but she decided it was worth it to dramatize their cause. (For more background, see this post from June 20.)
The three returned from Washington still without any commitment from Sen. Kay Hagan, North Carolina's Democratic senator, to support the DREAM Act. Hagan's consistently said that she'll consider such legislation only in the context of comprehensive immigration reform.
Still, all three expressed optimism that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will find a way to press for the DREAM Act and a related bill reforming immigration rules in the agricultural industry. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is reaching out to the immigrant community as he fights for re-election in a state with a large Hispanic population.
Viridiana and Loida said they've been getting invitations to speak at churches and synagogues in the Triangle, and they're up for more. You can contact them — and read much more about them — at the N.C. DREAM Team website.