DREAM Act hunger strikers to end strike after 40 days

SAN ANTONIO - Hunger strikers from University of Texas in San Antonio, after going up to 40 days without food to show their determination to get the DREAM Act passed, will end their strike and take their first meal at the United Methodist Church here Dec. 22.

Despite their weakened condition, part of the group went to Washington, D.C., Dec. 18 to urge the senators, especially Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison R-TX to swing her support and vote for the DREAM Act, which she previously supported.

Both Texas senators ultimately voted no.

The Senate refused to take up discussion and so, despite passing in the House, the DREAM Act lost its strongest chance of passage in the lame duck Congress. It will likely be less possible to pass in the Republican-controlled new Congress. The Act was considered to be far easier to pass than more complex and expansive immigration reform bills.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, as it is officially known, after a number of modifications, would allow eligibility for citizenship after a ten year wait for youths under age 30 brought to this country as children, who had graduated high school and served two years in the military or completed two years of college. It would have affected 825,000 or more immigrant youth.

The students from UTSA began the hunger strike early in November and support spread to other campuses in Arlington, Houston, Austin and Dallas. They drew support of unions, professors, many in the religious community and the San Antonio Express-News.

Reverend Lorenza Andrade-Smith from the United Methodist Church was arrested at the end of November along with 15 others attempting a sit-in at Sen. Hutchison's San Antonio office. The protest began when Hutchison refused requests to speak with her in person or by phone. Rev. Andrade-Smith then joined the hunger strike. The strike spread as part of a national coalition called United We Dream.

The 16 students and supporters who were arrested at Hutchison's office were threatened with large fines and jail. They claimed that the senator called to have them arrested at her office - something she denied, saying the property owners were the ones who had them arrested.

Carlos Guerra, a well-loved journalist who passed recently, wrote that in researching he found the property to be owned by the City of San Antonio and under control of the City Council and commissioners in the specific districts.

Following the expose of this information, the charges against the 16 arrested were dropped.

Sen. Hutchison refused to speak directly with the Rev. Arturo Chavez with the Mexican American Catholic Church in San Antonio. He said at the time that passage of the DREAM Act was a "moral, ethical imperative.

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