UC Irvine graduate arrested after living illegally in US for 20 years

A UC Irvine graduate who has been living in the United States illegally for more than 20 years was arrested in Washington, D.C., with a group of young people demonstrating in favor of a bill that would grant them legal status, it was reported today.

Antonia Rivera, 28, was one of a dozen people taken into custody on Tuesday afternoon after they sat in a circle in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, the Orange County Register reported.

They were arrested by Capitol Police for disorderly conduct, the newspaper reported.

The protesters were among hundreds of students who came to Washington this week to try to convince lawmakers to pass the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow young people brought here illegally by their parents a chance to gain legal status.

Opponents say passing such a bill would reward illegal behavior and that people who came here illegally or who overstayed their visas shouldn't be allowed to remain.

Rivera would benefit from the DREAM Act. She was brought to this country by her parents from Mexico when she was six years old. In 2006, she graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in literary journalism, but she said she was unable to work because she has no documents.

The 12 protesters were wearing graduation caps and gowns. Earlier in the day, several hundred activists had staged a mock graduation ceremony at a nearby church to demonstrate the fact that despite having finished college they could not work in their chosen fields of study.

A Capitol Hill Police spokesperson said she could say whether Rivera and the other protesters – all of whom witnesses said were undocumented – would be turned over to federal immigration officials. The offense for which they were arrested is a misdemeanor, and, typically, people are released the same day.