An undocumented immigrant activist sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Wednesday, alleging that she was denied a work permit and protection from deportation because she participated in protests against the federal government.
Nadia Sol Ireri Unzueta Carrasco, who filed the complaint in federal court in Illinois, had previously been granted the allowances under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2013.
But in the years since, she has been arrested for either obstructing traffic or staging a sit-in, twice. Unzueta, a Mexico City native who moved to Chicago when she was 6, is a graduate of University of Illinois at Chicago.
When the 29-year-old she reapplied for deferred action last year, Unzueta was denied because she had been charged in 2013 with civil disobedience, resisting arrest, obstruction of traffic, and reckless conduct, according to a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The agency said the charges "raised public safety concerns."
On May 29, 2013, Unzueta was arrested after she and others sat in front of a Chicago Hilton hotel where President Obama was attending a fundraiser to protest thousands of deportations under his administration.
Unzueta maintains that USCIS' decision to deny her renewal on the basis of public safety concerns infers she's being punished for exercising her political beliefs.
“The only thing that changed between the first deferred action was the civil disobedience I participated in in 2013,” Unzueta said. “This is unjust and I want to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
DHS declined to comment on the lawsuit.
“As a matter of policy we don't comment on pending litigation. Furthermore, due to privacy constraints, we cannot comment on individual cases of applications,” DHS spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said in an email.
In order to be eligible for DACA, an applicant must not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors. Among other requirements, they must also not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Unzueta said she was never convicted of any of the crimes USCIS cited.
USCIS also mentioned a 2009 arrest that Unzueta said wasn’t an actual arrest, but a trespassing citation for being at a park after hours with friends to see the sunrise.
“When I read the response from USCIS I thought, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t let you do that,'" Unzueta told BuzzFeed News. “This is about (USCIS) thinking that civil disobedience is something people shouldn’t participate in, however, I believe taking action and civil disobedience is a form of political expression.”