Rising College sophomore Sheila Quintana and two others were arrested on Wednesday, June 28 at around 1:40 p.m. due to a coordinated act of civil disobedience during a DreamActivist Pennsylvania protest.
While protesting at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Norristown, Pa., Quintana — a Daily Pennsylvanian contributing writer — came out as an undocumented immigrant along with Erika Guadalupe Nuñez, a student at Bryn Mawr College, and Jose Luna, a cook and server in Norristown, before the three were arrested.
They were charged with failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official order — a misdemeanor of the second degree — and obstructing highways and other public passages, a misdemeanor of the third degree.
On Sunday, July 1, Quintana and Guadalupe Nuñez were released from jail. Luna, who had been released on Friday, led a DreamActivist PA vigil at Montgomery County Correctional Facility that evening in support of their release.
The demonstration last week was a protest against Montgomery County Correctional Facility’s decision to contract with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in order to provide them with 60 beds, through which ICE could keep detained undocumented immigrants.
Approximately 40 protesters arrived near the entrance of the correctional facility around 11:30 a.m., congregating around the sidewalk as they held banners, chanted and shared their stories as undocumented immigrants. At around 1:00 p.m. the protesters blocked Eagleville Road and marched in circles around Quintana, Guadalupe Nuñez and Luna as they chanted in support of the individuals who had just made their immigrant status public.
After about an hour of protesting on the street, the police issued a warning to move out of the street or face arrest. After three warnings, Quintana, Guadalupe Nuñez and Luna remained on the road while the other demonstrators cleared onto the sidewalk. At this point, the police circled the three remaining individuals and arrested them.
“The police came in and very professionally and calmly arrested the three individuals and the protest ended shortly after this,” said Frank Custer, communications director for the Montgomery County Office of Communications.
Quintana and her peers refused to provide any biographical information to the police. The three were provided with preliminary arraignments before Magisterial District Judge Cathleen Kelly Rebar of Collegeville for Tuesday, July 3, at 10:00 a.m. Bail was set at $3,000 in cash per person.
Today at 7 p.m., around 20 demonstrators held a vigil outside of the Montgomery County Correctional Facility demanding the immediate release of Quintana, Guadalupe Nuñez and Luna.
“It’s a real risk that she’s taking. I am very proud of Sheila, it’s huge enough for me when someone comes out publicly. Doing it with civil disobedience is the ultimate coming out experience. She took that step and I’m very proud of her,” said rising Wharton junior Tania Chairez, who was arrested in March after blocking traffic in front of the ICE Philadelphia office. Chairez first came out as an undocumented immigrant in a Daily Pennsylvanian guest column called “Undocumented and unapologetic.”
Quintana, Guadalupe Nuñez and Luna are risking being deported as they have revealed to the police that they are undocumented.
“It’s a cop’s job to take that information and fill out a form and fax it over to ICE. So ICE most likely has that information by now, and they could potentially go in there and interview them about their immigration status,” Chairez said. “They’ll try to convince them to self-deport, or they may just put a detainer on them and pick them up later.”
She added that even if Quintana did go into deportation proceedings, DreamActivist PA would launch a public campaign for her, showcasing to the community that she is a good student and not a public threat.
According to a July 3 press release from DreamActivist PA, the participants were released from jail without ICE detainers.
This article has been updated to reflect that the students have been released from jail, and to properly identify Erika Guadalupe as Erika Guadalupe Nuñez.