October 08, 2010


Undocumented KC student found guilty of unlawful entry from July 20 Washington sit-ins
by Melissa Cowan

Myrna Orozco, 20, arrived in the United States with her parents from Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, when she was four years old.

She’s double majoring in political science and nonprofit leadership studies at Rockhurst University; she wants to be a lawyer. As an undocumented student, she did everything she could to avoid getting in trouble.

But after she found the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow her to stay in the United States, go to school and eventually become a citizen, she knew “there was no future for (her) without the DREAM Act” — and she’d have to fight for it.

After participating in a sit in on July 20 in Washington to push the Act, Orozco and 21 other undocumented students were arrested and held overnight in jail. Thirteen of the students had their cases dismissed without having to go to trial. These 13 were arrested outside of the offices and therefore had a lesser charge against them.

Orozco was one of the eight who stayed in the Senators’ offices until they were arrested. Orozco and three other girls sat in U.S. Sen. John McCain's office. McCain, from Arizona, was a sponsor of the DREAM Act but 15 minutes before the vote in 2007, McCain walked out.

“For me, it was to hold him accountable for the promises he already made,” Orozco said. “Just because it’s election season doesn’t mean you get to play around with my future.”

On October 1, the eight students, charged with unlawful entry, defended themselves in front of a judge. Orozco gave the opening statement and made all of the motions and objections.

“We went in there knowing the consequences of everything,” she said. “We knew that it was going to be very difficult to prove that we were not guilty since we did have three warnings and we refused to get up.”

They were found guilty and are now on unsupervised probation for one year, plus they had to pay a $50 fine; they could have faced harsher punishment: up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or even deportation.

Because Orozco now has a record, she may not be eligible under the DREAM Act, if passed, which states good moral character (or being a law-abiding citizen) as one of the qualifications.

“That’s something I’ve been thinking about – that definitely scares me,” she said. “But for me, it has moved beyond just me… it’s moved to everyone (undocumented) that graduates from high school and can’t move on; I know that even if I lose this fight for myself, I’m winning it for them. If my actions, including getting arrested, lead up to the passage of DREAM Act, and those students are able to go on and fulfill their dreams, then another one of my dreams has been fulfilled.”

Though she was found guilty, Orozco said the trial was inspiring and strengthening for her.

“The Prosecutor for the United States of America called us American,” for lobbying senators for change, she said. “There are few words to describe such an experience.”

She will not be participating in any other actions that could violate her probation, which would cause a minimum of five days in jail. But she says she does not regret her decision and will still help organize events.

“My fight does not stop,” she said.

The DREAM Act, first introduced in 2001, allows undocumented students who entered the country with their parents before the age of 16 and have lived in the United States for at least five years to remain in the United States and eventually become permanent residents or citizens, therefore providing access to more financial aid and the ability to actually use a college degree for employment in the United States.

If passed, the students would be granted Conditional Permanent Residency for 6 years, during which time they would need to have a high school diploma or GED, complete two years of college or military service and have good moral character (or be a law-abiding citizen). After an additional five years, students could become permanent residents.

Melissa Cowan can be contacted at  mrcgfd@mail.umkc.edu.
Her previous article on KC Latino students pushing of passage of the Dream Act can be found at www.kcactive.com/news/newsfeat/090310_undocumentedstudents/index.html.