In the next three weeks, Democrats and Republicans must figure out how to save nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrant youths from being deported. If the two parties cannot reach an agreement by the March 5th deadline, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be over — indefinitely.
Speaking to immigrant advocates about the pressure they’re feeling, you cannot help but hear the exhaustion in their voices. But these individuals have an unwavering determination to make sure Americans from coast to coast know that immigrants are valuable members of society and that they’re #HereToStay.
“We need to ensure that Democrats and Republicans are thinking about the economic value that DREAMers bring to the United States,” Abigail Zapote, National Vice President for Young Adult at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), tells Brit + Co. “They should be talking about the different professions these DREAMers bring to local economies and local communities. Those are the people they should be putting a face to as opposed to saying ‘we’ll just vote on any bill.'”
If there’s no bipartisan agreement on DACA, there is no Plan B. President Donald Trump has already said he will not extend the deadline for a decision. Even further, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly said last week that the president doesn’t have the authority to extend the Obama-era protection. As the ticking deadline inches closer, DREAMers and immigrant advocates will be fighting every single day to make sure a Clean Dream Act is passed.
On September 5, Trump announced that he would end the program that allows undocumented people the right to live and work in the US, and added that lawmakers had six months to revise the plan in order to make the legalities of the program be more realistic and stable. However, what we’ve seen since then is unraveling of protections for all undocumented people, including just DREAMers, who continue to be deported every day.
Advocates have been aggressively demanding that lawmakers pass the Clean Dream Act either by calling senators or staging protests at their offices in Washington D.C. The importance of the Clean Dream Act is essentially a path to citizenship that would protect 800,000 undocumented youth who were brought to the US by their parents and were protected under the DACA program, in addition to millions more young people who didn’t originally sign up for DACA.
While Democrats are typically DACA’s main advocates on Capitol Hill, the party’s concessions to avert a government shutdown have fallen at the expense of DREAMers — and DREAMers, in turn, have been disappointed.
“It’s completely disrespectful to these communities whom they say they are protecting,” Zapote said. “There needs to be a whole lot more done because right now they’re just talking points. These legislators need to understand that these people are losing protections every day.”
In an op-ed for CNN, Greisa Martinez Rosas, a DREAMer and the Advocacy Director of United We Dream, wrote how lawmakers continue to use them as pawns as if their lives weren’t at stake.
“Our lives — and the moral compass of this country — are in real danger and yet Congress is playing games with both,” Rosas writes. “We are tired of speeches, tweets, and promises that are not followed by solutions. This is especially true for Democrats and moderate Republicans who say that they support us when the cameras are rolling but repeatedly cave to Trump’s bullying.”
As senators begin to debate the issue of DACA, the next several days will be pivotal to their fight. Organizers from United We Dream, LULAC, Mijente, and more, continue to work together through WeAreHereToStay.org through various forms of social awareness movements for the protection of undocumented people.
Jasmine L. Tyler, US advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said it’s also important to remember — as the issue is debated on the Senate floor — that people shouldn’t lose sight at the reality that is at stake.
“No one should get distracted by the avalanche of proposals we’re likely to hear in the coming days,” Tyler said in a released statement. “The Senate should pass a Clean Dream Act and begin the process of providing broader protection from deportation and separation to deeply rooted immigrants and their families.”
Organizers tell Brit + Co the most important thing people must do is call their local senators and demand they pass the Clean Dream Act. They should also research local organizations in their hometown because the fight is going on in every state in the country.
(Photos via Getty Images)