LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three immigrant activists who were brought to the United States illegally as children have traveled to Mexico and plan to challenge American immigration laws by showing up at a border crossing and demanding to be allowed to back in.
Under U.S. law, all three have been living in the country illegally even though they grew up in America. The three, members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, want to draw attention to the law and the huge jump in deportations carried out under the Obama administration, and to reaffirm their attachment to the country where they were raised.
“I know you’re going to think that I’m crazy for doing this, for leaving the U.S., for coming to Mexico but, to be honest, I think it is crazier that I had to wait 15 years to see my family,” Lizbeth Mateo, one of the activists, said in a video posted on the Alliance’s Facebook page.
Mateo told The Associated Press that she was happy to visit her family there but hoped to return to the country before August to study law at Santa Clara University.
Mateo traveled to Oaxaca a week ago, while the two other unidentified activists — one who has applied for a government program that lets young immigrants live in the U.S. on renewable two-year stays — went to Mexico on Wednesday, said Domenic Powell, one of the Alliance’s founders.
Powell declined to say where they will attempt to re-enter the country, but said it would occur Monday. He said the organization doesn’t want to divulge information because it wants to see how agents from Customs and Border Protection react when they encounter the three.
The activists will meet up with other young people who were deported or left the U.S. voluntarily and will submit applications to legally enter the country, said Prerna Lal, an Alliance member.
Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Deportations have exploded in recent years, topping 400,000 in 2012, more than double the number seven years earlier. U.S. lawmakers are debating an overhaul to the country’s immigration system that could include a fix for immigrants who were brought in illegally as children. Many have grown up in America and have no recollection of life in another country, but they have no legal status in the U.S.
“Whether immigration reform happens or not, they should be here in the U.S. because they live here and this is their home,” said Powell, whose group in the past has organized sit-ins in politicians’ offices over the administration’s immigration policies.