An undocumented Chicago woman and activist plans to sue a federal immigration agency Wednesday, alleging her deferred action renewal application was unjustly denied because of her past participation in civil disobedience actions.
Nadia Sol Ireri Unzueta Carrasco, 29, came to the United States from Mexico City at the age of six and has lived in Chicago ever since.
She is an organizer with the Chicago-based Organized Communities Against Deportations and has engaged in numerous protests over U.S. immigration policy.
In March 2013, Unzueta Carrasco, who graduated from Whitney Young High School and the University of Illinois at Chicago, was granted a two-year protection against deportation under the 2012 federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Her application to renew her DACA status was denied in August 2015.
In denying Unzueta Carrasco’s DACA renewal, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cited “public safety concerns” with her case, pointing to her participation in civil disobedience actions between 2009 and 2013. The denial makes note of Unzueta Carrasco being arrested and charged with “civil disobedience, resisting arrest, obstruction of traffic and reckless conduct” in May 2013, shortly after she received DACA status.
Unzueta Carrasco, who maintains she was never convicted on the charges she faced for civil disobedience, said the arrest in question involved a May 2013 anti-deportation protest outside a fundraiser President Barack Obama was attending in downtown Chicago.
“We wanted to bring the number of deportations that his administration had carried out to his attention, but also to the attention of the general public,” she said of the protest, which involved blocking traffic on Michigan Avenue with a banner that read, “400,000: Not1More Deportation.”
Unzueta Carrasco’s attorney, Mony Ruiz-Velasco with the Melrose Park-based P.A.S.O. – West Suburban Action Project, said her client’s past “actions do not meet the definition of a public safety concern under the law.”
She called the DACA renewal denial “an erroneous decision, both legally and as a matter of discretion.”
“Even though we’ve exhausted every other possibility of raising this within the agency, they have not re-reviewed (her case) to the point of overturning their denial,” Ruiz-Velasco said. “We believe she deserves deferred action.”
P.A.S.O. – West Suburban Action Project and the National Immigrant Justice Center are helping Unzueta Carrasco bring the lawsuit against USCIS in an effort to overturn her DACA rejection.
“Hopefully, not only will she be granted DACA, as she should have been from the beginning, but obviously, also, we want this to be made clear within the administration — that it is not acceptable for activists to be denied deferred action because of their activism,” Ruiz-Velasco said.
“The very actions she’s been taking over the years is exactly what got us DACA to begin with,” Ruiz-Velasco added. “Because if it hadn’t been for the actions taken by youth earlier in 2010 and 2011, the administration would not have been pushed to issue this directive regarding deferred action for youth in 2012.”
USCIS declined to comment for this story, citing its policy against discussing pending litigation or individual cases.
Unzueta Carrasco, who has not received a deportation notice, plans to formally announce the filing of her lawsuit at a press conference Wednesday morning with her attorneys and supporters outside USCIS’ Chicago office, 101 W. Congress Parkway.
“I want to make sure what’s happening to me doesn’t happen to anyone else, and that USCIS and President Obama’s administration (are) held accountable for these things,” she said. “Civil disobedience and actions like the ones I’ve done are a form of free speech, and we want to make sure that we’re defending people’s rights to organize and to fight for the rights of their communities.”