Seven Undocumented Youth Protest, Risk Deportation in Georgia

Tuesday seven undocumented youth were arrested in an act of civil disobedience in Atlanta during a protest. The students oppose a change proposed by the Georgia Board of Regents who want to ban on undocumented students from the state’s top five public colleges and universities. All seven students are currently in jail and are scheduled to appear in court today [April 7]. They all risk of deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Georgia voters recently voted down a ban of undocumented students in all colleges and universities in the state, but the regents, who have governing authority of public colleges, approved a measure banning undocumented students from the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Georgia College & State University, and the Medical College of Georgia that will go into effect in the fall.

The protest targeted the administration of Georgia State, demanding that the university “refuse the ban” and continue to allow undocumented immigrants — who already pay out-of-state tuition in Georgia — to enroll there.

The seven students outed themselves as undocumented then entered the Georgia State admissions office to deliver a letter demanding the university not follow the Board of Regent’s directive. After a march through campus to the state capitol, the seven students sat down to block traffic around a large banner that read, “We Will No Longer Remain in the Shadows.”



A number of civil rights movement veterans supported the undocumented students’ cause, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who compared the students’ actions to his own record of civil disobedience against Jim Crow in the South. “I got arrested … 40 times. I was beaten, left bloody, but I didn’t give up. And you must not give up.”  

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Georgia Board of Regents spokesperson John Millsaps, who said that the point of the legislation was to ensure that qualified Georgia residents would not lose access to the state’s public universities due to enrollment of undocumented students.

Georgina Perez, who was one of the eight who came out as undocumented, called this argument out in a statement posted on Tuesday.

“This policy, like many other enacted and proposed laws, have nothing to do with the rule of law. Rather, it is clear they are about hate, racism, and the creation of second class of citizens, which is morally wrong and politically influenced,” she said in the statement.

Perez, like the other undocumented students who were arrested, posted an emotional video on YouTube explaining why she was willing to be arrested. In the clip, she calls her parents’ decision to immigrate to the United States without documents “heroic.”



(Stories from the other six undocumented students can be found on The Dream Is Coming’s YouTube page.)

Undocumented youth have not spent much time nursing their wounds from the failure of the DREAM Act in the Senate last year. “Coming Out of the Shadows” rallies, in which DREAMers proclaim their undocumented status to the world, have spread under the banner of “undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic.” So many have come out as undocumented that Southern California Public Radio reporter Leslie Berestein Rojas recently posed the question of whether coming out as undocumented is the new coming out as gay or lesbian.

DREAMers say they are fighting for the right to exist in this country, but they aren’t doing just that. These undocumented students are nothing if not smart activists: In staging dramatic civil disobedience actions in states like Georgia that have enacted anti-immigrant measures, they are taking a page from the playbook of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and bringing their fight for equality to states where denials of basic human dignity are starkest.

Georgia, with its ban on undocumented students, is such a place. South Carolina and Colorado have also enacted bans on all undocumented students, and they should expect to see similar actions in the future. Undocumented students have proven that they aren’t afraid of whatever consequences they could face, including deportation, as a result of agitating for legalization.

Gina Perez, the one of the DREAMers who was arrested in Tuesday’s action, summed it up in her video message.

“We’re not going to be silent, we’re not going to be in the shadows, we’re not going to let this happen any longer,” she says. “We’re going to step up and fight for our community.”

UPDATE: In a statement released early Thursday morning, immigrant youth organizers indicated that all seven students were released Wednesday. In a joint statement, the students said, “As soon as we got here they came in, asked us personal questions like where we were born and our birthdays. We were honest with them, we told them we were undocumented.” ICE chose not to involve itself in the case, despite the students’ openness about their undocumented status.

ICE’s decision not to pursue deportation or other measures against the students seems to confirm what many undocumented organizers have claimed for some time: that it is actually safer for young people to come out of the shadows, proclaim their lack of legal status openly, and join with local and national organizing for immigration reform. Deportations under the Obama adminsitration are at higher levels than under President Bush, but immigration authorities seem to hesitate to deport people who are plugged into immigrant organizing, undoubtedly fearing the significant public pressure organizers have shown they are capable of mobilizing.


This post was originally published by Campus Progress.


Photo: courtesy of pamhule via flickr
written by Micah Uetricht, a writer for Campus Progress.


Stefan Dwornik
Stefan Dwornik6 years ago

We can't even afford to feed all Americans- 1/6th go to bed hungry, or wake up hungry, getting buy on food with little nutritional qualities. I'm sorry these young men where arrested, but I am not sorry that they, and hopefully all illegal aliens will either leave the U.S. (THEY ARE ILLEGAL, WHILE THOSE WHO FOLLOW THE LAW WAIT), or be deported. We can no longer run from one country to something better, because it's getting bad everywhere. It is time to go home and support your nation(s), your families, your countrymen- humanity needs to pull together and support one another; we can no longer run away from the problems that mankind has brought on itself.

Samantha L.
Samantha L.6 years ago

I'm sorry, am I reading this correctly???? "undocumented students." How are they possibly allowed not only in this country, but in our school system?
Every time I open up to read the insanity of what the states are doing; ILLEGALLY, I want to strangle them. You MUST be a citizen to live in this country; PLAIN & SIMPLE. You are not allowed gratification of any kind & must be, until you apply for citizenship, DEPORTED.

Carolyn Mah
Carolyn M6 years ago

Ah but John, that's not what they said. They said that currently being born in the US doesn't make you a citizen. I showed them where they were mistaken.

I suspect that it's not going to be all that long (my lifetime) before people are going to start wetbacking themselves OUT of this country. I'd rather see us improve before that happens, but judging from what I'm hearing on the news and in comments such as the ones here, I don't think I should hold my breath.

john hall
john hall6 years ago

Carolyn M.
That's why the 14th amendment needs to be changed if you come to this country and your illigal your newborn should be the same .

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

Legal, illegal, documented, undocumented...we are still members of the planet and can't figure out how to coexist.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Marina Brennan
Marina Brennan6 years ago

I looked at the messages of "undocumented" youth. I don't feel sorry for them. I know people who came to the US on student visas, and none of them bitched about paying too much money to schools or not being able to work outside campuses. They just accepted it and got on with their programs. i also know people who chose not to go to US universities and went to get post-grads in Europe, as european education is cheaper than American.
I don't understand "undocumented youth" with a sense of entitlement to education and services. Foreign born people get student visas and pay big bucks to get American education. They don't have an option to swim across Atlantic to live here for a few years and complain about how their rights are being violated. Besides, top universities are competitive by nature, and there's nothing wrong with putting people with proper papers first.
Also, how can you live in this country until you are 22 and not have a SS number? I couldn't even get a cell phone when I just came over, and had to wait for SS administration to issue a card. But to live here all your life and not have one?! Seems impossible to me.

Jean M.
Jean M.6 years ago

This is the victim game, as usual. If you want to live here and be a participant, please acquaint yourself with the rule of law, the enforcement of which is WHY you want to live here. College kids, grow up! This is not the best of all possible worlds, and it never will be. You will figure it out later....

Martha Martin
Martha Johnston6 years ago

Oh, there are so many people on here I agree with. If you are here illegally you have two choices apply to be here legally or go the H*** home. I am sick of MY tax dollars going to people who are not here legally. I am on board with Arizona and Georgia and I think that Alabama is trying to head the same way, I is about time! I am sorry what ever country you come from sucks and you want a better life but so do the people who are here legally or born and bred American. Half of my lineage is originally from America...before it was America and the other half came here legally in the 1800's along with 100's of 1,000's of 100,000's of other people. My ancestors did it then so can they now. Once they are here legally I hope they achieve all they desire but until then, sorry but they need to go back home. My comments are not meant to be mean spirited just honest truth and a Legal Voting opinion.

Cherry M.
Cherry M6 years ago

"Tuesday seven undocumented youth were arrested in an act of civil disobedience in Atlanta during a protest. The students oppose a change proposed by the Georgia Board of Regents who want to ban on undocumented students from the state's top five public colleges and universities."

These kids are here illegally and they have the b**** to DEMAND anything at all from this country. Well.......I was born an AMERICAN and I DEMAND they get their a$$e$ back where they belong! If they have so many good ideas why the he** don't they use those ideas to fix their own country?

I stand with Arizona and Georgia!