DENVER – Two activists began a hunger strike inside a Colorado campaign office for President Barack Obama on Thursday to demand that he stop what they say are deportations of illegal immigrant youths who would be eligible for the DREAM Act that is stalled in Congress.
Obama campaign staff members were using a back door to access the Denver field office as the protesters occupied a couch. The office was closed to the public.
Veronica Gomez, 24, of Antioch, Calif., and Javier Hernandez, 23, of Denver, vowed to stay put to demand that Obama sign an executive order barring federal authorities from deporting youth who could be eligible for DREAM Act inclusion.
The DREAM Act – Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors – would allow conditional permanent U.S. residence for undocumented young people who attend college or serve in the military. The act has failed several times.
Gomez and Hernandez are illegal immigrants who graduated from college.
“We’re not playing games,” said Hernandez, a native of Mexico. Other activists planned similar protests at Obama campaign offices across the country, he said.
In a written statement, the Obama campaign said it agrees that “DREAMers” who serve in the military or go to college should become citizens.
However, it said passing the DREAM Act in Congress “requires that Republicans stop standing in the way.”
Gomez and other illegal immigrant protesters were walking from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to protest deportations of youth and advocate for the DREAM Act. They decided to occupy the Denver office because Colorado is considered a presidential swing state, said protester Jonatan Martinez, 25.
Police said no action would be taken unless they get a complaint. The campaign said it planned no immediate action.
Issues surrounding illegal immigration and the children of illegal immigrants are sensitive in Colorado. One issue is tuition for illegal-immigrant students who are coming of age. In April, state lawmakers rejected a measure to join 12 other states that allow illegal-immigrant students to pay in-state or subsidized tuition at state colleges, rather than out-of-state tuition.
On Thursday, board members at Metropolitan State College of Denver decided to offer illegal-immigrant students a lower tuition rate that is half the out-of-state tuition rate. College president Stephen Jordan said the new rate would affect about 300 students this fall.