One of the approximately 34 people who last month surrendered to U.S. authorities at the Texas-Mexico border to protest immigration policies has been deported, officials confirmed Tuesday.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said a judge determined 23-year-old Rocio Hernandez Perez was ineligible for immigration relief. No explanation was provided in the case.
It was a setback for a group of young immigrants, known as the "Dream 30,” who were hoping for every one of their colleagues to be granted asylum in the U.S.
The Dream 30 group is made up of people who had at some point lived in the United States without citizenship but returned to Mexico either because they were deported or because they left voluntarily for various reasons, like going to take care of a loved one.
They attempted to cross back into the U.S. in late September to protest the failure of Congress to pass an immigration reform bill and the high number of deportations under the Obama administration.
The action led some to be detained and some to being released on parole.
Tuesday's was the first deportation since the group was arrested.
On the same day, the group may have received some good news: 12 of the activists were released from detention centers on parole, according to the National Immigrant Youth Alliance.
Nine of the 34 or so, including three parents and four children as well as an unaccompanied minor and the mother of a 4-year-old U.S. citizen with health problems, already had been released. The alliance said eight of the original group remain in detention.
But despite that apparent success, the deportation of Perez weighed heavily on the other activists.
"She is no longer here, and we are heartbroken," Israel Rodriguez, one of the other detainees, said in a phone call from the detention center to The Associated Press.
Since their border crossing, the activists have been embroiled in controversy. Last week, the mothers of some of them went to New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez's Washington, D.C., office to demand a meeting and request a letter in support of their detained children, but they were arrested.
Meanwhile, several detainees have started a hunger strike in the El Paso Processing Center to protest the detention of immigrants across the U.S.
While some of the remaining detainees may be paroled at some point, the activists' dream of asylum may be a long shot.
In 2011, only 1 percent of people granted asylum were from Mexico. And less than .5 percent of Mexican-born immigrants received green cards as asylees or refugees in 2011, compared with 16 percent of all immigrants, according to the Migration Information Source.
Al Jazeera and wire services