–5:01 EST Update: All nine of the activists have now established credible fear, a step toward an asylum hearing. Supporters are now hoping the Dream 9 will be eligible for parole, which would allow them to return to the United States until their asylum hearing dates.
Seven of the Dream 9 reached a critical milestone late Monday, when it was learned that they had established a credible fear that their return to Mexico would result in harm or death. According to Dream 9 attorney Margo Cowan, Adriana Diaz, Ceferino Santiago, Claudia Amaro, Luis Leon, Lulu Martinez, Maria Peniche and Mario Felix can now move forward on their asylum hearing. The seven can now apply to be placed on temporary release while they prepare for their hearing. But for now, all nine remain in detention; Martinez and Peniche remain in solitary confinement at Eloy Detention Center, where they’ve been for more than a week.
The news about the seven is remarkable because this step of the process has been completed quickly–the Dream 9 crossed the southern border into the U.S. just two weeks ago. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there’s an estimated 45-day wait for an initial hearing and a six-month time frame to complete the process from start to finish. But it’s not unheard of for detainees who have already fled torture, persecution and even the murder of their loved ones in their countries of origin to wait years in detention before being granted asylum and finally released.
A group of people gathered outside of the Eloy Detention Center last night, soon after it was confirmed that the seven had established credible fear. Among them was Elvia Amaro, who’s in Arizona from North Carolina. Her daughter, 37-year-old Claudia Amaro, was one of the first to be confirmed to have moved forward in her asylum process. Her mother prayed outside of the detention center, giving thanks.
As of 11:30 am EST, authorities have not commented on the applications of Lizbeth Mateo and Marco Saavedra. That doesn’t mean they’ve been denied; applications are decided on a case-by-case basis, and theirs are still being processed. It’s expected that there will be an update about Mateo and Saavedra on Tuesday. In the meanwhile, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, which is now working with the families of other detainees held at Eloy, is asking supporters to demand the immediate release of the Dream 9.