PHOENIX (AP) — Eight young protesters who were detained at a U.S. border crossing while protesting immigration policies are seeking asylum.
All were born in Mexico but were brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children. They wore graduation caps and gowns to show they are productive members of society. They had left the U.S. to try and re-enter from Mexico.
The group is drawing attention to the huge jump in deportations carried out under the Obama administration, and reaffirming their attachment to the country where they were raised.
Attorney Margo Cowan said Tuesday that U.S. immigration officers turned down her clients' request for "humanitarian parole" that would temporarily allow them to come into the country, so she is now seeking asylum.
Cowan said she would seek her clients' release from an immigration detention center while the application is pending.
"They certainly can't be considered a flight risk because they asked the U.S. to admit them," Cowan said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined to comment on the detentions, citing privacy laws.
Lenni B. Benson, a New York Law School professor who specializes in immigration, said people applying for asylum need to establish a fear of persecution based on race, religion, national origin or political opinions if they were to return to the country where they were born or the country where they last lived.
People who have been granted asylum can apply to become permanent legal residents in the U.S., Benson said.
Benson said she believes government lawyers would likely try to undercut the group's arguments for asylum by pointing out that they voluntarily returned to Mexico.
"They have been out of Mexico their whole lives," Cowan said. "They have no idea what Mexico is like today for them, and now they know."