Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

Seven Undocumented Students Arrested in Georgia

Guest Blogger • Apr 07, 2011

After joining together in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience, seven young activists were arrested Tuesday in Atlanta.

Upon arrest, Dayanna Rebolledo, David Ramirez, Andrea Rosales, Viridiana Martinez, Jose Rico Benavides, Georgina Perez, and Maria Marroquin openly declared themselves as “undocumented and unafraid” as they blocked an intersection near Georgia State University, calling upon the school’s president to refuse to participate in the ban against undocumented students enrolling in Georgia’s top universities.

Each of the protesters, all of who claimed that their actions are in defense of equal opportunity to higher education, are a part of the Dream is Coming Project, a group that supports state bills that would allow undocumented immigrants access to American universities and colleges. As a response to the DREAM act being shot down in Georgia last year, these protesters traveled from many states – Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and North Carolina – where similar bills are being considered.

With state legislators such as Tim Bearden (R-District 68) constantly proposing and pushing anti-immigrant bills, Georgia has developed into a frontline of sorts. To understand Bearden’s background is in some ways to understand Georgia’s heated political climate, for example:

  • Bearden is a staunch neo-Confederate who, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is “a proud member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), a group that calls the Civil War the ‘Second American Revolution’ and whose ranks are shot through with extremists”;
  • He “has pushed several anti-immigrant bills in the Georgia Legislature,” and he is one of a dozen legislators who claim membership in State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI);
  • SLLI is a coalition of anti-immigrant state-elected officials who act as the legislative arm of the John Taton Network, a web of controversial anti-immigrant organizations orchestrated by infamous white nationalist John Tanton.

In states across America politicians like Bearden are seeking to spark and then stoke sentiments among their constituents that exclude and, ultimately, instill fear and displacement in the minds of undocumented immigrants.

When asked about her decision to self-identify as undocumented, Georgina Perez said, “I am tired of living in fear; I am tired of being constantly told I cannot do something just because of my status. I was brought to this country over 18 years ago, when I was just three. I am a proud Georgian, I want to contribute to this nation and I will not let anyone tell me how to live my life.”

She went on to add, “I am no longer afraid.”

Not only do such bans on education drop social and economic costs onto those they’re designed to exclude, they also come with a significant emotional price. One of the protestors, Jose Rico, underscored this notion:

“51,000 undocumented youth had their dreams torn apart when our senators voted against the DREAM Act. They are trying to criminalize our existence.”

In response to their arrests, a petition asking the leaders of our nations’ academic community to refuse to comply with any bans on education is circulating. In alignment with the protestors and in opposition to the likes of Bearden and SLLI, the petition underscores education as a core foundation of American values, and all who reside here should have equal access. To view the petition, click here.

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