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Students receive diverted sentences following protest in governor's office

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On June 14, five undocumented immigrant students received diverted sentences for criminal trespass charges stemming from an incident in May.

Omar Gama and four other students were arrested on May 9 during a protest at the Indiana Statehouse when they refused to leave Gov. Mitch Daniels' office. Wearing caps and gowns, the students joined arms and sat in a circle, waiting to ask the governor to veto two immigration bills enacted by the 2011 Legislature — House Enrolled Act 1402 and Senate Enrolled Act 590. Daniels signed both, and the new laws will take effect July 1.

Marco Moreno, a Lewis & Kappes attorney representing the students, said the court ordered each student to complete 24 hours of community service within the next two weeks, and if they fulfill that requirement, the cases will be dismissed. Moreno said the order should be manageable for the students who already participate in community service.

Gama, a 20-year-old undocumented immigrant who has lived in the United States since age 11, will begin his junior year this fall at Indiana University, where he is president of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs Undergraduate Student Association. As a result of changes made by HEA 1402 – now Public Law 209 – if he were to attend full-time, his annual tuition would increase nearly threefold.

Increasingly, Gama and other undocumented immigrant students have been making their presence known in an effort to draw attention to the federal DREAM Act, which if passed by Congress, could allow them to become citizens by attending college or serving in the military.

“As a group and as a movement, we’ve seen young people working towards DREAM for 10 years now,” said Kathy Souchet-Mourda, a board member with the Latino/a Youth Collective.

Having waited half their lives for an opportunity to become citizens, they are putting themselves at great risk, she said, in order to make a stand.

“These are young people who are coming out of the shadows,” she said. They are students who have grown up, she explained, afraid of what might happen to them as undocumented immigrants. But now, “They’re owning that status – being proud of who they are – as students, as young people, as contributors to their society,” Souchet-Mourda said.
 

IL rehearing "Students push for immigration reform" IL May 25-June 7, 2011

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