In 2013, nine young undocumented activists walked from Mexico up to border officials in the United States and demanded to be let in and granted asylum. They were wearing their graduation caps and gowns – a uniform that had become the unofficial symbol of the Dreamer movement.
They walked arm in arm, flanked by reporters and cameras. If their plan failed, they risked never being able to return to the United States, the country where they grew up, ever again.
All nine were Dreamers – meaning they were brought to the U.S. without papers as children, and grew up considering it their home. Some didn’t find out they were undocumented until they were in their later teens, and were applying to college or a job without a Social Security number.
Six of the Dream 9 had previously left the U.S. because their situation became too difficult, and now they wanted to come back. The other three were members of an activist group called the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, thought of by some as the most radical of the Dreamer groups. They flew into Mexico just to participate.
The Dream 9 took activism around youth immigration farther than it had ever been taken before. What they were doing was not only risky but difficult. The U.S. Department of Justice – the agency that grants asylum in immigration courts – only approved one percent of nearly 9,000 asylum requests from Mexico last year.
In the wake of their action, the Dream 9 shook up the immigration debate and divided the immigrant rights movement. In our hour long-special, we tell their story.