Universities, Business Leaders, and Dreamers Themselves Press for Swift Action in Congress
Dreamers and their allies are making the case for why Congress needs to pass the Dream Act ASAP. Below, we lift up examples from just the past day, including the launch of a new, high-profile Dream Act coalition, a Georgetown University-sponsored forum featuring universities from across the region, and activities taking place in Massachusetts, California, Mississippi, and Ohio. Again, we see that support for Dreamers is overwhelming across ideologies and geographies.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, Leon Panetta, Madeleine Albright, Univision CEO Randy Falco, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Harvard President Drew Faust are among the founders of the Dream Coalition, urging Congress to protect immigrants who came here as children.
Why it matters: Speaker Ryan has said he wants to protect “Dreamers,” who face uncertainty under the Trump administration. But Congress tends to spin its wheels, and this formidable roster could help prod action.
Brenda Medrano-Frías arrived from Bolivia when she was 3. Cristina Velasquez left Venezuela at age 6, and Luis Gonzalez crossed over from Mexico at age 8. All three are now pursuing a bachelor’s degree at schools in the Washington region.
They also are among the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants whose future is in limbo as Congress debates offering them a reprieve after President Trump’s decision to end an Obama-era initiative that shielded certain undocumented immigrants from deportation if they arrived as children.
…“I am insanely worried,” Medrano-Frías said. “I’ve been here since I was 3. This is all that I know, as far back as I can remember. This is it.” Now 19, Medrano-Frías is a second-year student at the Woodbridge campus of Northern Virginia Community College and serves as a student liaison with the college’s leadership. She hopes to transfer to Georgetown to study government and philosophy. Eventually, she wants to be an immigration lawyer. “It’s a passion,” she said. “I’ve lived through it myself.” DACA protection enables her to have a work permit and qualify for in-state tuition.
…That’s what Cristina Velasquez craves. A senior in Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, the 23-year-old plans to graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in international politics. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, she flew with her mother to Madison, Wis., in 2000 and eventually settled in the Miami area.
… “The fact that my life is in the hands of Congress is difficult,” she said. She urged lawmakers: “Act now.”
Also participating in the forum hosted by Georgetown were leaders of George Mason University; Montgomery College; and Northern Virginia (NOVA) Community College, highlighting the contributions of 2,000 undocumented students enrolled in their institutions.
Congressman Joe Kennedy and other young House members want “Dreamers” to know they’re listening and trying hard to help, so they met with several of them over lunch on Monday.
Dreams have come true for Daishi Miguel Tanaka, a junior at Harvard University.
…And though he is undocumented, he has never felt anything but American since his first day of school at age 6. “I saw kids of all shapes and sizes and all colors putting their hands over their hearts under a flag and that’s when I knew that this country was for me,” he said.
But since the Trump administration announced the end of DACA more than a month ago, the program that allows temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors, being a “Dreamer” has turned into a nightmare where deportation is a daily fear.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in my future, I don’t know if I can’t focus on my studies,” Tanaka said.
Working as an aide to a county supervisor, Mario Lopez launched an internship program for undocumented youth. Jose Salazar Mendoza as an intern for the San Jose city manager organized a first-of-its-kind support group at San Jose State. And Lucila Ortiz, as a San Jose council aide, began a citizenship drive for City Hall employees and their families.
All three were brought to this country illegally as children but found temporary deportation protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And Lopez, Ortiz and Mendoza all answered the call to public service and have worked in various sectors of local government.
Now the fate of the Obama-era program hangs in the balance with President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the protections and give Congress six months to find a legislative solution But amid the uncertainty over their future, the trio of Dreamers — as DACA recipients are often called — said they chose to work in government to give back to their communities and influence positive change.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has been a major life changer for me. I came to the United States from Mexico City when I was 11 years old.
…Ever since President Obama’s executive order establishing DACA went into effect and I applied for it and it was granted to me, my life has changed so much. I was able to get a driver’s license and sign up for Social Security. And, for the first time, I didn’t have to be frightened whenever someone asked to see my ID or a driver’s license.
DACA has made it possible for me to go to college, even though the state of Mississippi makes me pay double the tuition of what a U.S. citizen student pays to attend our local community college. Nonetheless, I am willing to do whatever it takes to get where I want to be. I am also a mother of two U.S.-born children, and I want to give them the best life I can. Going to school and working without the feeling of being pursued is a big relief. I want to become an immigration lawyer one day, and I’m not going to stop until I reach my goal.
My mother, a hard-working immigrant, taught me the importance of working hard at whatever we do, and that is one thing she made sure we learned. We work extra hard for what we want in life and, as immigrants, life is harder than most people think.
… All I want is to feel safe and give my family a better life than the one I have. That is all that we as immigrants to the United States look for: to make a better life. I don’t want to again feel pursued, don’t want to be fearful every time I see a police car nearby. I want to feel secure and safe.”
In Ohio: Northeast Ohio NPR affiliate WKSU, “Dreamer Advocates Plan to Petition Congressman Dave Joyce This Week for a ‘Clean Dream Act’”:
Activists plan to deliver petitions this week to the Painesville office of Congressman Dave Joyce as part of a national effort to keep so-called Dreamers in the United States
Jean Church will be delivering the petitions to Congressman Joyce. She says it’s an issue of fairness as well as economics.
“They were brought here as children, and they’ve already established a life here. They work just like you and I. And they pay their taxes like you and I and they want to stay. This is the life they know.”