"They are running into the mouth of the wolf."
A young woman who grasps the desperation and gravity of Yahaira Carrillo's protest offered that assessment. Succumbing to the call of civil disobedience can mean deportation to a country that might be your birthplace but hasn't been considered home for years.
Carrillo, a Rockhurst University student, offered herself up for that kind of sacrifice Monday when protesting in the Tucson offices of Sen. John McCain.
Interviewed by phone Wednesday, Carrillo remained solidly focused. "It's not really about me." Her group of protesters, she said, "really faced our fears. We took hold of our power and owned our power."
Carrillo, a Ruskin graduate, hoped to gain McCain's support for the DREAM Act, which Congress has dawdled on passing for nine years. It would allow students, brought illegally to the U.S. as children, to attend public colleges and gain a path to legality.
"Everybody is ready to follow, but everybody is too scared to lead," Carrillo accurately says of Congress.
The other young woman and Carrillo once traveled to Washington together, part of a group of undocumented students calling for the legislation.
Carrillo and others tried petitions, visits with politicians, rallies. Now comes this week's maneuver that so horrifies her concerned friend.
The protesters see themselves as modern day civil rights warriors. The "action" as they refer to it — camping out in McCain's office and being arrested for trespassing — was timed to the anniversary of the Brown vs. Topeka decision.
McCain once supported the DREAM Act. Now he's a poster child candidate for those cowering in fear of firebrand opponents who preach getting tough on immigration.
The protesters initially thought they'd be held in a detention center, better for the symbolism of oppression. But Arizona deported 81,000 people last year, far too busy to aid such a plan. Carrillo and two others were released Tuesday with orders to appear before immigration judges.
It's a ridiculously high price to pay. And probably without the outcome desired — passage before Congress turns to the Supreme Court nominee and the November elections.
Years ago I naively thought the DREAM Act would pass with relative ease. It is one issue of immigration that makes sense to all but the most idiotically vehement. The students grew up as "American" as their peers. They exemplify the work ethic and determination lauded by those who scream "illegal" the loudest.
But congressional leaders are spineless.
So we watch these brave, and perhaps a bit foolhardy, young people — some of the country's most promising students — possibly sacrificing their futures by running at the jaws of those who couldn't care less.