‘We will not stop fighting for what is right for our country’

We joined DREAMers and fellow advocates on Capitol Hill to condemn the attempts to block a Dream law.

UnidosUS joined DREAmers and advocates on January 19, 2018 for a Capitol Hill press conference condemning lawmakers for blocking a vote on Dream Act legislation. Photo: UnidosUS | Dreamers

UnidosUS joined DREAmers and advocates on Capitol Hill on January 19, 2018 to call out congressional leaders for not pursuing a Dream bill. Photo: UnidosUS

By Stephanie Presch, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

As a possible government shutdown looms, advocates from a coalition of 45 Latino rights organizations arrived on Capitol Hill on Friday to demand relief for the nearly 800,000 young people left in limbo after President Trump ended DACA.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Hispanic Federation, and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) also brought 150 DREAMers with them from California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, DC.

While congressional leaders fail to arrive at a solution for these young people, 122 become deportable each day.

That isn’t just 122 dreams deferred each day, 122 people who suddenly can’t keep their jobs, can’t afford their education, have to put off buying a home, or simply can no longer provide for their families.

That’s 122 people who suddenly are thrust into the unknown, forced to live in fear of being deported back to a country where they not only may know no one at all, but be in very real danger.

THE RIGHT THING TO DO

Clarissa Martinez de Castro, Deputy Vice President of the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at UnidosUS, condemned inaction on the part of members of Congress who represent states where large numbers of DREAMers and their friends and families live.

“From states like Texas and California, we have members like Cornyn and McCarthy, who should be playing a leadership role in providing relief for DREAMers,” she said, “Yet, they are not leading. They are not even getting out of the way of their own colleagues who produced a bipartisan bill. They are actually aggressively trying to kill a deal, even if they force a government shutdown.”

Even though 83% of Americans believe that there should be relief for DREAMers, Congress has still failed to act. As Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro pointed out, “This is not a matter of convincing the American people what the right thing to do is. The American people know what the right thing to do is.”

Hector Sanchez Barba, the chair of the NHLA, explained to the audience that DREAMers stand to contribute more than $460 billion to the United States’s GDP within the next 10 years.

But more importantly, he spoke to the moral need to provide DREAMers with the relief that they need to live their lives. “We know that they are courageous and embrace our democratic values,” he said. “Thank you for making us a better nation and better democracy.”

“THEIR OFFICES IGNORED US”

Monica, who is undocumented but could potentially receive relief under a new DREAM Act, was invited to take the stage. She took a moment to explain her story, “I was born in Ecuador, but I made my life here. I’m the first one in my family to get a college education.”

She described feeling happy and enthusiastic as she came to Washington with other undocumented youth to meet with congressional representatives. And she talked about how they found more closed doors than open ones.

“Their offices ignored us,” Monica told the audience of the congressional representatives that she had tried to meet with.

However, as she explained to the audience, this has done nothing to dampen her resolve. Instead, she spoke of the need of the entire undocumented population to come together.

“They can ignore 50 people or they can ignore 250 people—they’re not going to ignore all of us.”

“THERE’S TIMES WHEN MY HEART FEELS HEAVY”

Another DREAMer, Joseph Trujillo, President of Texas A&M’s LULAC chapter, admitted that even as he arrived in DC for the press conference, he didn’t know how to feel. “There’s times when my heart feels heavy, and I don’t know where to go next.”

But he emphasized that the DREAMers who arrived in town to represent their states on Capitol Hill are extremely determined to get relief for themselves and peace of mind for their families.

“We’ve traveled hundreds and hundreds of miles,” he said, “and I’m not afraid to do it again.”

Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation, condemned the inaction on the part of the Republican-controlled government to move on DREAMer relief, and was especially forceful about how he viewed debate over relief in the on-going budget negotiations.

“They have decided to horsetrade the lives of 800,000 of our children,” he told the audience. But he emphasized that for most Americans, helping DREAMers is an ‘issue of great moral clarity.’

“We need to remind our congressional members that we stand together,” he said. “We will not stop fighting for what is right for our country.”

“WE WILL MAKE YOU PROUD”

Abi Zapote, National Vice President for Young Adults at LULAC, who accompanied the DREAMers who came to Capitol Hill to speak with their representatives, told the audience that even if members of Congress refused to speak to them that none of them would be deterred from continuing to push for a DREAM Act.

“We are the taxpayers, even though we are undocumented. We are still paying the salaries of all of the staff members, so this just gives us a lot more motivation to come back and make sure that we are going to win,” Zapote said.

Martinez de Castro also commended the determination of the DREAMers. “I am recharged by standing shoulder to shoulder with DREAMers who are fighting not only today, and not only for themselves, but who will continue the fight after DREAM is done, to ensure we have a nation that is closer and closer to its ideals and values.”

For his part, Trujillo directly addressed congressional representatives who will have to vote on DREAMer relief.

“You will not regret that vote. We will make you proud,” Trujillo said.

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