Nine undocumented immigrants who purposely crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and are currently held in an immigration detention center may soon be able to petition for asylum before an judge, the Department of Homeland Security officials said on Monday. The undocumented youths will not be subject to immediate removal because their petitions for asylum are based on a credible fear of persecution if they are forced to return to Mexico.
The group consists of so-called DREAMer undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as youths by their parents. Immigrant activists have also referred to them as the ‘DREAM 9′ team. Last month, three members purposely left the United States to attempt a border crossing from Mexico. They wanted to test the Obama administration’s commitment to deporting criminal immigrants instead of non-criminal families.
When the ‘Dream 9′ crossed the U.S. border at the Nogales Port of Entry last month, they were all detained by Border Patrol law enforcement officials. Their applications for humanitarian parole were denied and they were taken to the Eloy Detention Center. Some of them went on hunger strikes to protest the devastating conditions at Eloy. Their case gained national attention, with thirty-five members of Congress sending two separate letters asking for their release.
The DREAMers will now be scheduled for a hearing, and could be released on parole with a notice to appear in court in the meantime. Until a court makes a decision on their asylum case, the ‘Dream 9′ could also be held in detention. But it could take years for their cases to be heard by an immigration judge.
Even now that the undocumented youths may be able to stay in the United States as asylees, it is unclear whether there will be broader administrative implications for future undocumented immigrants who cross the border in such a manner. Advocates argue that many of the people that Obama has deported are similarly low-priority immigrants.
After 17 days at the Eloy Immigration Detention Center, the ‘Dream 9′ were released on Wednesday afternoon. All nine undocumented youths have pending asylum petitions.