By Wendy Widom

Chicago — A Whitney Young alumna and vocal advocate for undocumented immigrants filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a federal agency after her request to be allowed to stay in the United States was denied.

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Nadia Sol Ireri Unzueta Carrasco sought to renew her status under DACA, which stands for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. She’s now suing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“I’m filing this lawsuit today because, like myself, there are hundreds of undocumented people who have participated in acts of civil disobedience to protect their communities,” said Unzueta Carrasco, 29. “I do not want them to be targeted for their acts of political expression.”

Unzueta Carrasco came to Chicago from Mexico when she was six years old. In addition to attending Whitney Young Magnet High School, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in gender and women studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Attorney Charles Roth, who is representing Unzueta Carrasco pro bono, says her application was denied because the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a component of Homeland Security, deemed her past acts of civil disobedience a threat to public safety.

Among the seven criteria listed on the Department of Homeland Security website, immigrants may request consideration of deferred action if they “have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.”

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In an email from DHS, which was posted online, Unzueta Carrasco’s application was denied because of prior arrests. “Ms. Unzueta was arrested on May 29, 2013, after her initial DACA grant, which was March 20, 2013. She was charged with civil disobedience, resisting arrest, obstruction of traffic, and reckless conduct.”

DHS includes three other acts of civil disobedience by Unzueta Carrasco in the correspondence. Unzueta Carrasco was not convicted in any of these cases.

More than 500 professors from around the country have signed an online letter calling for the renewal of Unzueta Carrasco’s DACA status. “It is ironic that one of the very same youth that pressed for DACA is being denied a renewal,” says UIC Professor Amalia Pallares.

Unzueta Carrasco says her case is one example of the struggle for, as she refers to it, “the recognition of the rights of all beings to organize, to love, to learn, to work and live with dignity.”

In 2014, approximately 8.2 percent of students in Illinois had at least one undocumented parent.

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“Even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants – in every state, of every race and nationality – will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans,” the president said.