Hunger-strike students on the road to DC

A group of DREAM Act hunger strikers that MPR’s Sasha Aslanian wrote about earlier is driving cross country today to Washington, D.C., to make tomorrow's Senate vote on debate on the DREAM Act.

(You can see their video and a link here.)

Now in its seventh day of fasting, the group of students -- Latinos from Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Augsburg College and one recent Roosevelt High School graduate -- left late this morning in a van.

You may recall that the DREAM Act bill would give children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship if they graduate from high school and complete two years of college or military service. Critics, on the other hand, say it’s a form of amnesty for law-breakers.

I just spoke to David, one of the students, by cell phone. (He declined to give his last name.) He said he and the others are about 40 minutes from the Illinois border.

He said the lack of food has really caught up with them. Some are dizzy, tired, thirsty -- with stomach pains and the occasional bout of nausea. (One Normandale Community College student was going to join them, he said, but became ill and had to stay home.) They've apparently been checked regularly by a nurse and doctor, however, and have been doing OK.

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To pass the time, they read, speculate on the bill's chances for passage, or just sleep. Sleep, David said, means they won't have to drink as much, so they'll cut down on bathroom stops and thus save time.

He told me:

The effects have advanced a bit. But we’re full of strength and spirit to meet other hunger strikers there. We’re OK. We’re headed over there with the hope they’ll finally pass it after 10 years.

They'll have to get a move on if they hope to make it to DC by late morning. According to Google map standards, the trip takes about 20 hours.

Lisa Sass Zaragoza of the University of Minnesota Chicano Studies Department, who's acting privately as a spokeswoman for the group, said:

They're very optimistic. When they left, they had a lot of excitement and adrenaline. It was heartwarming.

The group should return Monday, she said, where they'll report back. Media reports say the Senate could take a final vote as soon as Sunday.