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Last week, in an act of high-stakes protest, nine young undocumented immigrants with a lot to lose delivered themselves into the hands of US immigration authorities at the US-Mexican border.

The five men and four women, who have since been locked up in the Eloy Detention Center in southern Arizona, call themselves the Dream 9, for the DREAM Act, the federal bill that would provide a path to legal status for young people brought into the United States without authorization, as some of them were. They knew full well that by leaving the US and demanding to be let back in, at a border post in Nogales, they risked being shut out from the only lives they've ever known, in America.

But they went ahead anyway, seeing an opportunity to highlight the millions of people detained and deported from the country in recent years and to demand comprehensive and humane immigration reform.

The action of the Dream 9 brings into sharp focus a number of human rights concerns. They are being detained as they ask for humanitarian parole and asylum, some in solitary confinement. In Costly and Unfair, Human Rights Watch has reported on the numerous flaws in US immigration detention policy, including the unnecessary detention of asylum seekers. Immigration detention, a civil and non-punitive form of detention, if absolutely necessary, should at least be humane. All too often, it is not.

And beyond their detention, the Dream 9 are challenging the idea that their right to be reunited with their families should be extinguished with one step across the border. The immigration bill that recently passed in the Senate with strong bipartisan support recognized this as well: it allows for some immigrants with strong ties to the US to apply for provisional legal status even after they’ve been deported – a provision that does not appear to have the same support in the House.

The US government should release the Dream 9 from detention. The Dreamers, alongside all the other deported immigrants with similarly strong ties to the US, deserve an immigration system that respects their right to come home.

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