On Tuesday, April 5th, 2011, seven undocumented students risked prison and deportation to protest recent laws passed to ban undocumented students from attending college. The students engaged in non-violent civil disobedience and sat defiantly in the middle of Courtland Street in downtown Atlanta. As dozens of police arrived on the scene and approached the seated students with handcuffs, the students and their supporters chanted “Education, Not Deportation!”
Starting this fall, undocumented students cannot attend Georgia State University, the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Medical College of Georgia, or Georgia College and State University. Coincidentally, these are the same southern universities which banned African Americans from attending college more than fifty years ago. The seven students are a part of a national movement seeking to pass the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act). The DREAM Act was first introduced to Congress in 2001, but has yet to pass successfully into law. The DREAM Act would apply to persons who (1) enter the country before the age of sixteen, (2) graduate high school or obtain a GED, (3) have good moral character, and (4) have at least five years of continuous presence in the US.
Before their act of civil disobedience, the students shared their stories. Georgina Perez, 21, shared that she has been in the US since she was three years old. “I am doing this for my friends who are in the same situation and also for my mother who did everything she could to give me a better life and to have an education. We are being denied an education and criminalized for wanting an education!” Perez was the first to be arrested.
David Ramirez, who arrived in the US when he was one year old, declared: “If you are undocumented, don’t be afraid to defend your dignity. If you are an ally, don’t be afraid to be an advocate. We need to come out of the shadows and show the State of Georgia we are not afraid.”
The video, Estudiantes Arrestados Durante Protesta en Atlanta (Students Arrested During Protest in Atlanta) produced by Mundo Hispanico, documents the testimonies and arrests of these students. Dayanna Rebolledo, in the moments before she was taken to the Atlanta City jail, speaking in Spanish, said: “They can’t make us feel like we are criminals or that we are anything less than human beings.”