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Police release illegal immigrants after protest at DNC

September 05, 2012|By Brian Bennett
  • One of 10 illegal immigrants blocking an uptown intersection near the site of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., is arrested.
One of 10 illegal immigrants blocking an uptown intersection near the site… (Jeff Willhelm / The Charlotte…)

WASHINGTON – Immigration officials have decided not to detain 10 illegal immigrants who were arrested by police for blocking traffic during a protest near the entrance to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday.

The immigrants were part of a group of more than 35 protesters that has crisscrossed the nation to pressure politicians to create a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Protesters arrived in Charlotte, the final stop of the tour, aboard a green bus painted with the words, “No Papers No Fear Journey for Justice.” The protest had been carefully orchestrated to get the attention of Democrats attending the convention.

PHOTOS: Protests of the DNC

As convention delegates walked past Tuesday evening, the protesters sat down in an intersection near the Time Warner Arena in uptown Charlotte where the convention is being held. Some of the immigrants held banners over their heads that were stenciled with the words “undocumented,” according to video footage posted on YouTube.

Protesters were arrested by officers from the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office and charged with impeding traffic. The department is part of a program that trains local police to report illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

Kitvia Esteva, who was brought unlawfully from Mexico by her family when she was 15, knew she was risking being deported when she joined the protest, but she wanted to draw attention to the number of families that have been separated by the record number of deportations that have been conducted during the Obama administration.

“I believe President Obama needs to answer to us,” said Esteva, 25, during a telephone interview from Charlotte. Esteva, who lives in Los Angeles, said she wants Obama to “be on the side of justice and stop the deportation of people in our community.”

Esteva said she was interviewed by an immigration officer while in jail overnight, but was released with nine other protesters on bond Wednesday morning at 5 a.m.

Brian Hale, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed that ICE “has taken no enforcement action against the Ride for Justice activists.”

PHOTOS: Scenes from the DNC

“ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, recent border-crossers and egregious immigration-law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States,” said Hale in an email statement.

The television actress Rosario Dawson, who has been a public advocate for pro-immigration causes, was on the street during the protest Tuesday.

“For all of you that were arrested, I want to commend your bravery to making sure that your voices,  your stories, your situation is exposed and shown,” said Dawson, shouting into a megaphone as police officers placed protesters into a police van. 

“You should not be afraid even though you are undocumented. Things will change,” she said.

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brian.bennett@latimes.com

Twitter: @ByBrianBennett

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