RALEIGH — Citing safety reasons, three young women who are in the country illegally announced this evening they're ending the hunger strike they started in downtown Raleigh two weeks ago.
The women had started the hunger strike on June 14 in an attempt to convince U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan to back a bill that could make them legal residents. But they said they're ending the strike because of the heat that caused one woman to be hospitalized and the safety threat from a known sexual predator who they said had contacted them.
"Our hunger strike is over but the fight continues," said Viridiana Martinez, 23, one of the other hunger strikers, at a rally this evening that drew more than 70 supporters.
The woman have been conducting their hunger strike on state land near the N.C. State Archives, and set up tents. They have subsisted on water, Pedialtye and Gatorade in the blistering heat.
One of the hunger strikers, Loida Silva, 22, took ill Sunday night.
The three are all illegal immigrants who have lived from North Carolina since childhood and graduated from North Carolina high schools, but faced barriers going on to college. All three women, who are part of the N.C. Dream Team, a group formed this spring that is pushing for the passage of the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act).
They say they're angry and frustrated at the barriers in U.S. immigration laws that leave them with slim chances of going to college or getting jobs other than under-the-table work.
They had hoped to persuade Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat, to back federal legislation that would offer a path of legal residency to children living in the country illegally, but who have graduated high school and planning to go on to college or joining the military.
Critics of the DREAM Act, which largely has Democratic support in the Senate, say the legislation would encourage more illegal immigration and reward bad behavior by extending residency to illegal immigrants.
Hagan said last week she would not be a co-sponsor of the bill..
Also on Monday, the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, applauded the hunger strikers efforts and called on Hagan to support the DREAM Act.
Despite not getting Hagan's support, organizers of the strike cited how they've been able to generate so much media coverage on the DREAM Act over the past two weeks.
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