Student Protests against Immigration Policies

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Last week, students stages two protests against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration policies. Organizers of the protests are hoping the students motivate people to take action when it comes to immigration issues in their communities. Carmen Cornejo, from “Cadena”, a DREAM Act advocacy group, discusses the protests.

Jose Cardenas: Good evening, and I'm Jose Cardenas. Students supporting the dream act continue to protest Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio and his continued crackdown on undocumented immigrants. Also, a regional news service covering stories focusing on both sides of the U.S. and Mexico border. And a clean-up program helping Latino neighborhoods across valley. All this coming up next on "Horizonte."

Jose Cardenas: Last week students staged two protests against Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration policies. Organizers of the protests are hoping the students motivate people to take action when it comes to immigration issues in their communities. Here with me to talk about the student protests is Carmen Cornejo with Cadena, a dream act advocacy group. You've been here to talk about dream act issues, your organization is a well-established Arizona group, but your organization wasn't involved in these protests.

Carmen Cornejo: No, we weren't involved, at the Arizona dream act coalition, which is a local professional and student organization in this protest.

Jose Cardenas: So who was involved? Who organized it?

Carmen Cornejo: It was an organization called dream activists that is an online organization with members in different parts of the country. And in the past they have been organizing very good events, especially motivating the undocumented students and coming out from the shadows and demonstrate they are not afraid and showing their status to the world, because they think the fear is one of the tools that is preventing them to their reach their full potential and to fight for the passage of the legislation known as the dream act.

Jose Cardenas: While you share that goal, which is passage of the dream act, your group was critical of this particular protest.

Carmen Cornejo: Well, it was -- yes an organization of older persons, basically teachers, professionals that have been advocating for the students and the young professionals. And definitely we had a lot of problems, that group organized an event that was so open to the public, so confrontational, and then used some of the members of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition when this issue never was never discussed in any meetings with Arizona Act Coalition, never was brought to the leadership that has been elected with the dream act, so we had a lot of problems with the protest.

Jose Cardenas: You said dream activist is an online activity, online group. Where are they physically based? Particularly the person who organized this.

Carmen Cornejo: They're not physically based in any place. One of the organizers for this civil disobedience event is in Michigan. There's other members in California, there's members also in Florida. But basically those people online organize events and they go from state to state.

Jose Cardenas: You know these people but they didn't bother to contact and you talk about the things your group, which knows Arizona, and knows the landscape here. Could have given them information.

Carmen Cornejo: Yes. Actually, I've been talking -- the person who organized this event in Arizona is Mohammed, who was also the one who got arrested in Tucson. I think two years ago for the protesting the office of senator John McCain. In the past we have been having very good relationships, actually came to my house for lunch, and I knew he was coming, and we were supposed to meet for lunch. But he purposely hid his purposes for being here in Arizona, and organized a civil disobedience event without our input.

Jose Cardenas: What are Cadena's specific criticisms of the protests?

Carmen Cornejo: I think it was done behind the backs of the main organization we have been working with, protecting the students for so many years. Also it was very disappointed to us that some of the persons who were recruited for these protests, civil disobedience, not protests, were minors and high school students. And I think the other -- the other students, the young adults, they can do the protests if they want or the civil disobedience, but inviting minors to participate is out of line.

Jose Cardenas: And so your group isn't critical of protests as such, because you've been involved in them. It was the civil disobedience aspect?

Carmen Cornejo: I think civil disobedience is a tool, and we have seen -- we've seen it used in the past in the civil rights movement. However, it's something very delicate that needs to be done very properly with a purpose, a goal that is attainable, very specific, and also taking care in consideration. Respecting the youth of the persons involved, especially and the minor issues that cross boundaries to us.

Jose Cardenas: Last question, what's going to happen going forward? Have you mended relationships with this other group? Is there going to be continuing controversy about how to go about achieving this mutual goal?

Carmen Cornejo: At this point we are supporting the students who did the protest. We are trying to get them back involved with the Arizona dream coalition. The group that organized the protest, Muhammad and maybe other persons more, they left the state. We wish to participate and communicate with them. They have another vision of how things should be done, but we're working for the same goal, which is the passage of the dream act. So definitely we're looking for talking to them. However, we want to focus here in Arizona in the things that are very productive and the Arizona Dream Act Coalition has been very successful, which is civil engagement, inviting people to participate civically in the life of the state, and informing the students about their limited allegation of options have been profiled in research papers, even in Germany, or in Washington. So we want to rather focus into things we believe that are more productive and also knowing the environment that we work in move forward.

Jose Cardenas: Thanks for joining us on "Horizonte." We look forward to talking to you again in the future.

Carmen Cornejo: Thank you, Jose.

Carmen Cornejo:Cadena, DREAM Act advocacy group;

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