Dream 9 Immigration Activists Freed From Detention
A group of young immigration reform activists known as the "Dream Nine" has been released from federal custody after spearheading a campaign against mass deportation.
The five men and four women emerged late on Wednesday from the Eloy detention centre in Arizona, where they were held for two weeks after entering the US from Mexico.
They were let out on parole and allowed to return home pending an immigration judge's decision on their asylum claim, a ruling that could take years.
"I am good, very excited. It's a big surprise," Maria Peniche, 22, one of the nine activists, told the Associated Press. "This opens a path for other Dreamers in Mexico," she said, using the term for young undocumented people who hope to qualify for citizenship under theDream act.
A crowd of supporters gave a hero's welcome, cheering, crying and declaring victory, when the group emerged from a bus at Tuscon. The nine held a banner saying: "We're home."
Their incarceration spawned the Twitter hashtag #BringThemHome and a Facebook page by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance.
The nine were brought to the US illegally as children and in theory would qualify for a path to citizenship.
However they objected to the exclusion of their parents from citizenship and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of undocumented people during Barack Obama's administration, a sharp increase from the Bush era.
To pressure Congress for change they made a risky protest: some crossed into Mexico – in some cases for the first time since childhood – and notified authorities about their attempted re-entry at the Nogales border point on 22 July. Six others who had returned to Mexico earlier joined them for the crossing. All were arrested, some wearing university gowns and mortar boards.
The case presented an awkward dilemma for the Obama administration, which has chided Republicans for blocking immigration reform. Earlier this week the department of homeland security provisionally approved asylum requests on grounds the nine had "credible fear" of persecution if sent back to Mexico.