Hunger strikers want Hagan to sign onto immigration bill

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As of Saturday, June 19, three women are on their fifth day of a hunger strike in downtown Raleigh. They want to pressure Senator Kay Hagan to co-sponsor an immigration reform bill currently up for debate in Washington D.C.

Viridiana Martinez, 23, Rosario Lopez, 25, and Loida Silva, 22, all live in central North Carolina. They are all undocumented immigrants who came as children to the United States with their parents during the 1990’s.

The trio want Hagan to sign onto the DREAM Act, also know as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which creates a 6-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants under 35 as long as they go to college or the military, get good grades and stay out of trouble.

Viridiana Martinez, Rosario Lopez and Loida Silva on the fifth day of their hunger strike.

In a written statement, Hagan said the DREAM Act “should be considered in the context of comprehensive immigration reform,” but did not say directly whether or not she supports the legislation.

The three young women have a small encampment at the corner of Wilmington and Lane streets, and have a permit to stay there until July 1. But they say the hunger strike is “indefinite.” In the meantime, they’re surviving by drinking Gatorade, Pedialite and water.

They have three tents, a canopy, a portable toilet and signs in a small park on the intersection in the midst of state government office buildings and across the street from the state legislature.

Volunteers and supporters take turns spending time at the site and greeting passersby 24 hours a day.

Hunger striker Viridiana Martinez, talking during the midday heat on Saturday, said the first two days were bad, but they’re feeling better. “I was throwing up and getting chills,” she said, “But things got better on the third day.”

Rosario Lopez, who came as a 13-year old from Mexico City in 1998, echoed Martinez’s sentiment. She said the first two days were the worst, “but I don’t feel hungry that much now.” She said she is starting to feel weak and gets tired easily. All three said they have been sleeping more.

“We’re willing to do anything for a change,” Lopez, who has an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said. “We’re not allowed to contribute to our community,” she added.

“We’re also not acknowledged,” Martinez said.

“We were brought here, this is our home, and we’re not leaving without a fight—a fair and peaceful fight,” Martinez, who came to North Carolina when she was 7 from Monterrey, Mexico, said.

Striker Loida Silva, who has lived in North Carolina for 9 years, spoke with Senator Hagan Friday while the senator was leaving an event in Chapel Hill.

Silva said she didn’t think Hagan understood the issues. But, Silva said, “We believe in her. We believe she will be able to put aside politics and we believe she will do the right thing.”

On Hagan’s part, she released a statement recently on immigration reform: “I believe the DREAM Act should be considered in the context of comprehensive immigration reform. I strongly believe that the United States must take the necessary steps to fix the way we handle illegal immigration, and I am committed to achieving practical, bipartisan, comprehensive reform that will protect taxpayers and address the problem of illegal immigration at its core.”

Loida Silva, 22, came to North Carolina from Peru 9 years ago.

The three said that they are not very worried about making their undocumented immigration status public. In fact, it’s an important part of their statement.

Martinez said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers “could easily start targeting us or our families.”

“We’re not criminals,” Lopez said, “And if they come and take us it will expose the broken immigration system.”

Lopez, who gave birth to a daughter before she finished high school, said, “If you really put your heart into, you can accomplish anything in the United States. I was told I couldn’t graduate high school and I did. I was told I couldn’t graduate college and I did.”

Martinez said she wants their effort “to tell the story of undocumented youth.” She continued, “Our living conditions are unbearable and our futures are uncertain. What are we going to do, wait for someone to do something for us?”

Lopez said they had gone to Washington, DC, lobbied, made phone calls and written letters to Hagan. “We’re putting so much at risk telling people we’re undocumented, but we want to speak out and tell people who we are.”

“God has given us this courage,” Martinez added.

As the hot Raleigh day wore on, Martinez looked at her cell phone and saw a Facebook post from her friend. She read it out loud: “He’s cooking carne asada this afternoon!” eliciting groans and laughs from her two fellow strikers.

15 thoughts on “Hunger strikers want Hagan to sign onto immigration bill

  1. I keep my finger crossed for you. I also believe that DREAM act will be passed together with comprehensive immigration reform in congress soon. So many lives are being ruined, so much potential is waisted because the immigration system is broken. So many mix-status families are being separated…..It is very sad that politics is more important in this country than people….

  2. That girl in the glasses is a cutie. I’d go on a hunger strike to get her number!!!!

  3. That doesn’t sound like a true hunger strike to me. Anyway I don’t think they should come to our country illegally and demand we change our laws and demand we give them things. I vote and I am watching Hagan very closely.

  4. I think education should be a right for everybody regarless of immigration status, I believe what this young ladies are doing is not only for the immigrants but for all american citizens that are tired of the goverment not doing things the right way. I also vote and still waiting for a change.

  5. Their parents broke our laws but place no blame of them for the girls situation. Now the girls are old enough and educated enough to know they too are breaking our laws yet they feel a path to citizenship should be granted. If they truly wanted to be citizens they should do like those immigrants that did so legally instead of demanding a bill passed and until it is they won’t eat. Why didn’t the parents enter this country legally so that these girls would have opportunities like the Dream Act? Our federal government is a joke for it should be enforcing the law in these matters. Were these girls and their families getting any government assistance while going to school up until high school? Personally I feel them being here is a crime if enforced making them ineligible for the Dream Act.

  6. Ken David,

    A) Undocumented immigrants can’t receive government assistance. You have to have proof of citizenship to get food stamps or any other form of government assistance–ask any social worker.

    B) The reason folks aren’t coming here legally is because our immigration system has become severely restricted (from a plain numbers perspective) in the past few decades. Imagine that the entry way to our country (Ellis Island, etc.) was once like the entry way to the RBC Center–lots of gates for folks to come in through, just present your ticket (i.e. minimal documentation from your home country), go through the metal detectors (health screenings) and you’re in. This is likely how most of our families came to the U.S. Then imagine what would happen if we locked up all but a few gates at the RBC Center. We essentially did that in the 1970’s and 1980’s by severely slashing the number of people/year allowed to come live or work here. Now imagine that, instead of a sporting event, the RBC Center contains something you can’t find at home but is absolutely necessary for your family to eat and your kids to get an education (i.e. a job with a decent wage). How quickly would you be jumping that gate?

    I wish folks would really think through the human aspects of the problem instead of jumping to erroneous conclusions and parroting misinformation.

  7. to all your lazy ICE Management agents. Send your troops. you have the location and even pics from this article and you know how long they will be there! You have just been handed 3 illegal aliens on a silver platter. Do your jobs and arrest these women and their families. Start the deportation/removal process. let the courts figure it out.

    Rep Kagan please do not give into these law breakers. if you do it will be a slap in the face to every Border Patrol, CBP officer, ICE agent who has put his/her life on the lie to protect this wonderful county. If you fold and agree to this DREAM Act you are basically telling these Agent and Officers to go F—- Yourself because I don’t back you or the laws of the land.

    As for the 3 women on hunger strike. when you turned 18 you could have and should have done the right thing and aknowledged you illegal status and returned to your home country.

  8. It sadness me to read comments of educated people telling these three girls to go back to their countries, when they were brought here when they were children. If you study more the history behind of why their parents and grandparents migrated to this country people will see that our own foreign polices and agreements cornered these people to come here in the first place. Now, all these girls want is a chance to give back the basic education we have given them already (including their parents). I have read the bill and is not a free pass to citizenship,the DREAM Act has specific qualifications including: the youth must have entered the country BEFORE the age of 16, must have and maintain a good moral character, MUST HAVE GRADUATED form US high school, and pursue either at least two years of higher education or two years in the military with good standing. ONLY then they will become eligible for the new law, then they will receive a SIX year of permanent residency, which is like a green card. After the six years, then they MAY apply for citizenship. Again, they really have to earn the right to be here, and I as a citizen of this wonderful country, believe that we have a responsibility to these children, who are paying for the mistakes of our forefathers. I support you all!

  9. Betty, Ken David and Fed, it’s clear that much more education is needed, just as these brave girls are doing – the general public, all of you included, have been completely duped by those who are now using immigration harrassment as a cloak for the true underlying issue, which is racism. If any of you are not American Indians or Mexicans, you are very recent (in the thousands of years of history of this nation) descendants of immigrants yourselves, and your ancestors likely did not arrive “legally” either. The current government was began only scant centuries ago by white, European, Protestant immigrants who took over this land in not very nice ways from its original Indian and Mexican inhabitants, and certainly did not come here “legally.”

    Every wave of immigrants – Asian, Irish, Catholic, Polish, etc. – have been threatened by those already here. Interestingly, EVERY one of the last many recent administrations of our current government, Republican and Democratic alike, has recognized the contributions of undocumented immigrants to our work force, our tax base, and through BILLIONS of contributions into our Social Security system that has helped keep it afloat. If any of you currently collect Social Security, you need to shake the hand of an undocumented immigrant. It was not until President Obama was elected that this recent hatred against Latin American immigrants began.

    Are you all aware that the U.S. has wasted billions of dollars, billions, on a fence that (a) will never be finished; (b) is not even working; (c) is being sold off piece by piece for scrap metal; and (d) has decimated populations of rare species of animals to the dismay of scientists worldwide? The fence is an emotional bandaid, serving only to appease the minds of those that are afraid that other individuals unlike themselves, who may not be white, may actually participate in governing our nation – and a colossal waste of our tax money.

    On the “legality” issue, virtually everyone I know commits crimes on a daily basis; embezzling, violating traffic law, downloading materials without permission, using non-prescription drugs, stealing, committing adultry, exchanging porn, cheating on taxes, disability or unemployment. Many law enforcement officials are themselves acting illegally by committing actions outside the law in their own personal vendettas against minorities; many are under investigation by the federal government, and have and will cost us taxpayers large amounts of tax money to defend lawsuits they have drawn. For any of us to judge others whose crime is simply being in a place they are not supposed to be in order to find better lives for themselves is the epitome of hypocrisy. I am a white citizen, and I am saddened for folks who fear and feel threatened by others unlike themselves.

    And a personal note to Betty Armstrong. I personally challenge you to a hunger strike to bring attention to your stance against immigration reform. I will outlast you to support it. Considering your comment that you “do not believe what these girls is doing is a hunger strike,” you seem confident that you could easily survive on only water, gatorade and pedialyte for several days. Put your money where your mouth is. Please answer me publicy here, and we can arrange to meet and make arrangements.

  10. Comments using blatant hate speech will be removed. Raleigh Public Record allows comments to be made anonymously, but reserves the right to remove any comments involving hate speech or threats of violence. We at the Record believe in having this space open for a lively debate. Please respect this space and keep your comments thoughtful.

    Thank you,

    The editor

  11. Would you let unidentified sneak into your house? I know I would….heck lets just give up the borders and let the world enjoy our bounty. We do not deserve it!