A crowd of 35 people gathered outside Frist Campus Center Monday evening to protest the deportation of German Perez, a Trenton-area construction worker and native of El Salvador charged with illegally residing in the United States.
The demonstrators, carrying signs like “Call ICE!” with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s phone number, and “Every Human Deserves Respect,” also marched through the 100-level of Frist and collected over 120 signatures for a petition by the rally’s end.
Chanting “Free German Perez!” repeatedly, many of the attendees were members of the Princeton DREAM Team, an immigration advocacy group that sponsored the event.
Characterizing Perez as a “father of five with a newborn,” Christina Chica ’15, the keynote speaker, criticized the Obama administration for an immigration system “that has deported 2 million people.”
Since Perez has resided in the United States for eight years, he is no longer eligible to make a claim for asylum, which must be made within one year of arrival.
"What we're trying to get accomplished right now is not necessarily asylum but to get a delay in the case," Dream Team member Logan Coleman ’15said, adding that they are trying to lobby members of Congress to delay Perez's deportation.
According to Coleman, when Perez was first caught after crossing the border illegally, he was given a court date in California, his intended destination. "But plans changed, the only place he had to go was New Jersey. He had no [knowledge of] English, he was very scared and he was not able to maintain that court date. He didn't know who to call beyond that," Coleman explained.
"Only criminal offenders who are undocumented should be prioritized, it completely goes against [ICE's] mandate," Coleman added.
The ICE has three broad priority areasof immigration enforcement: immigrants who pose a danger to national security, recently arrived illegal entrants, and immigrants who do not leave the country after receiving an order of removal. Perez falls in the latter category, which corresponds to ICE's lowest priority of deportation.
Deportation cases, unless appealed, are not part of the public record.
Among the group’s claims is that Perez has a “credible fear” of having gang violence inflicted against him if he returns to El Salvador. Chica said Perez had recollected previous incidents of violence against his nephew and sister.
"Violence in El Salvador is very indiscriminate," Coleman explained. "The general population is targeted. Anyone in certain gang-run towns is being targeted. It's especially bad if you're a man, especially bad if you have young boys, like he has, who have been threatened."
The Immigration and Nationality Act, however, requires “a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
It is unclear if Perez meets this standard. A call to ICE was not immediately returned.
“I would say that the turnout for the event was very good," John Parvin ’16, co-chair of the advocacy committee, said.
Chica cited the “last-minute nature” of allegedly accelerated deportation proceedings as a reason for the importance of the event.
She stated that all signatures from the petition would be uploaded to dreamactivist.org and that the DREAM Team would also be attempting to gain more signatures in support of Perez via Facebook.