Update: Undocumented immigrant activists call off hunger strike, sit-in
Update, 11:33 a.m. June 8: For more than sixty hours now, Javier Hernandez and Veronica Gomez have occupied downtown Denver's Obama For America headquarters to push the President to sign an executive order prohibiting the deportation of undocumented youth. They have not eaten during that time, and while they say they are healthy, they admit to feeling noticeably weaker. Two days ago, a nurse visited them to check their health, and Hernandez says she will return tonight.
In the meantime, tensions are rising inside the building, where the two activists protest and sleep behind locked doors while employees continue their campaign work. When Hernandez asked an employee to remove his blanket from the building's back room yesterday, he says he faced "the biggest confrontation we've had yet. We needed our blankets, and he said, 'Well, I'll think about it.' It's been a long three days for everybody, but he almost slammed a door in my face. Everyone's getting a little annoyed, but we're not going to leave."
Hernandez says the two parties try not to interact and remain separate during the day. Yesterday, he received notice that the campaign staff has no intention of asking police to remove the protesters from the building and will continue to respect their protest. (Westword has been unable to reach the campaign to confirm.) So far, police have responded only once; in that case, they watched over the protesters' supporters outside the building.
Over the weekend, Gomez and Hernandez will continue making phone calls to political figures from their cell phones inside the office, and they are currently helping to organize similar protests in other states. "We're not leaving anytime soon," Hernandez insists.
The office has yet to re-open to the public. Occupy Denver's direct action working group released a statement expressing solidarity with the protesters and the Campaign For the American Dream.
Look below to see our previous coverage.
Original post, 12:58 p.m. June 7: Since 5 p.m. Tuesday, 23-year-old Javier Hernandez and 24-year-old Veronica Gomez have sat, sipped and slept inside Denver's Obama For America campaign headquarters to make a point. They have not, however, eaten. In solidarity with the Campaign for an American Dream, they are staging a sit-in and hunger strike to call for President Barack Obama to draft an executive order that would halt the deportation of undocumented young immigrants -- like themselves.
Under the DREAM Act, which is supported by Obama, many young immigrants would be able to gain conditional residency in the United States, which neither Gomez nor Hernandez have. Before entering the building Tuesday night and refusing to leave, they discussed the realities of their protest: Both say they could possibly be deported, and both are prepared for arrest.
"Our community is living in fear of deportation," Hernandez says. "Most people I know can tell you about someone around them who was deported, and that's not okay. We're not asking (Obama) if he stands for Latino immigration, because we know he does; we're asking him to stand up for youth like us."
Gomez and Hernandez were born in Mexico and have lived in the United States the overwhelming majority of their lives: Hernandez's family moved to California on a visa when he was four, and Gomez's did so three days before her fourth birthday. Both visas expired. Both families stayed. Both protesters eventually found themselves in Colorado.They are the demographic they're working to protect, Gomez says, and "we are Americans, even without the paperwork."
Kelsey Whipple Gomez and Hernandez watch their supporters from inside the Obama For America headquarters.
Last night, Westword checked in with the two activists from outside the campaign's downtown headquarters, where they watched their supporters through a glass window. On Tuesday, the Campaign for an American Dream staged a rally at 5 p.m., after which Hernandez and Gomez stayed inside. At 11 p.m., they say Obama organizers noticed their presence and made preparations but have not called the police yet as of this writing.
Kelsey Whipple Supporters rally outside the building.
"They're making a point of being nice," Gomez says, and she appreciates it, "but it's like Obama ignored us, so we came to him directly through his organizers, and then they ignored us. They won't be able to for long."
Click through for additional photos, information.