Last Friday immigrant rights activists successfully won a one-year stay on the deportation of Marlen Moreno-Peralta, a 28-year-old Tucson, Arizona, mother and aspiring pre-school teacher. "Thanks to everyone from my heart," Moreno told supporters at a press conference. "And thanks to Janet Napolitano for the good decision she made."
In recent years Dreamers, as DREAM Act activists are often called, have been able to successfully halt deportation proceedings of a string of DREAM Act-eligible young people. The appeals are quick and unified–all sectors of the immigrant rights movement turn out their support–but it’s all about timing. A person is identified by ICE as deportable, but before they can be shuttled out of the country, activists go public with the person’s name, photo, case number and personal story. Activists urge supporters to contact John Morton, the head of ICE, Janet Napolitano, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, and the person’s congressional representatives. It works.
Juan Escalante, a DREAM Act activist, told the New York Times about their impressive track record: "We have not had a single student whose case we handled who has been deported."
The New York Times‘ Julia Preston attributes this to the Obama administration’s mercy–a directive to grant deportation stays for students on a case-by-case basis–rather than to the organizing efforts of the Dreamers. According to ICE director John Morton, the official focus these days is on hardened criminals, drug traffickers, and other undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions.
However, deportations overall from the Obama administration are on the rise, and many people with no prior arrests are being swept up in the dragnet. For every public win, many more are being lost in the system, including other DREAM Act-eligible young people. Last Friday’s win was more a credit to aggressive organizing and mobilization than the Obama administration sensibilities.
Indeed, since Moreno-Peralta was arrested in 2008 with nine other people from a Panda Express she worked at in Tucson, seven of them have already been deported. Just three remain in the country today.