New life for Dream 9 activist who defied federal gov't

Tucson, Arizona, Dec 27 (EFE).- The life of Maria Peniche, a Mexican immigrant who joined the group known as the Dream 9, has changed radically since she courageously crossed the border into Mexico, then asked the federal government to let her "return home" to the United States.

Close to six months have passed since Peniche, 22, was released from Arizona's Eloy Detention Center, where she was held for more than two weeks.

"My goal is to work on matters of international relations, maybe in the United Nations," she told Efe by telephone from Massachusetts, where she studies political science at a university.

Though she has a temporary permit to remain in the United States while her petition for political asylum is being processed, she cannot work, for which reason she started a Web page where she can tell her story and ask for donations to pay for the expenses related to her studies.

She said her decision to join the Dream 9 "changed my life."

"If I hadn't taken the decision to return and deal with immigration, I don't know if I'd be alive right now," Peniche said during the telephone interview.

Several of the Dream 9 left the country of their own free will and some were deported before President Barack Obama announced the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants a renewable two-year reprieve from deportation.

The Dream 9 won national attention on July 22 when, holding hands and wearing their high school graduation robes, the showed up at the Port of Entry in Nogales, Arizona, asking to be allowed to reenter the U.S.

The students were like the thousands of "dreamers" who came to the United States as children, who grew up and studied here, but who have seen their plans for the future cut short because they had no Social Security number that would allow them to continue with their studies through university.

"I wouldn't change the experiences I've had for anything. We learn the importance of having the support of the family and the community," Peniche said.