Diego Ibanez might have spent the evening of Nov. 28 celebrating his mother’s birthday, if circumstances had been different. But as it was, he was taken into custody by immigration officers for refusing to leave the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch. He wanted the senator to offer a public statement supporting the DREAM act.
Ibanez, a UVU student and writer for the UVU Review, participated in what he described as a “pray-in,” along with Agustin Diaz, also a student and writer for this paper; Breana Reichert, a UVU student and Jessica Zelaya, a BYU student. Their goal was to stay in the offices of senators Bennett and Hatch until they each issued a statement. Eventually Bennett did so, while Hatch did not.
“All I wanted was the public statement. He promised me. He’s going to remember the UVU students,” Ibanez said, referring to a promise he says Hatch made to support the DREAM act after a speaking engagement on campus earlier in the year.
After several hours of waiting, praying and, in the case of Ibanez, meditating, the activists were asked to leave. When they declined, they were presented with the choice of leaving with a citation and a fine, or being taken into custody if they chose to stay.
“This was one of those times where you think about your life,” Ibanez said.
The U.S. Marshals in the room were curious as to why he would stay.
“They were saying I was doing this for no reason, [that] it was a waste of time,” he said. But Ibanez decided to keep waiting and meditating.
He was then arrested and taken away in a Homeland Security van, according to Diaz and Ibanez, and held in the Salt Lake County jail, and later, in a U.S. Marshals holding cell.
While in the county jail, Ibanez came across several undocumented immigrants.
“It opened up my eyes. Inside, when I met undocumented inmates who had children, it really, really, really … I don’t want them to go what I was going though,” he said.
When asked what else he wanted to convey about the incident and his support for the DREAM Act, Ibanez emphasized that “this is not a race thing at all. It is a human thing … I think that is the biggest misconception.”
He also expressed his gratitude for being a citizen. Eventually, he was charged with felony disorderly conduct, which later was reduced to a misdemeanor, and released the next day.
Despite the disruption to his mother’s birthday, according to Ibanez, she told him that his actions were “the best birthday present ever.”
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act
- Certain undocumented students who entered the country before the age of 16 would be provided with conditional permanent residency for six years from the time of their applications.
- They must have graduated from U.S. high schools and have been undocumented for at least five years prior to the enactment of the bill.
- During this time, the students must have completed a college degree, been enrolled in a degree program for two years, or served in a branch of the military for two years.
- After the six years of conditional permanent residency, the students can then apply for legal permanent residency. This would allow them to then apply for U.S. citizenship.