• December 9th, 2021
  • Thursday, 08:26:18 AM

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We Cannot Wait Until March


Editor’s Note: Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) delivered a speech on the House floor on Dec. 13, calling for a vote on the DREAM Act (HR 3440), which would allow immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to apply for permanent legal status.

 

Every day, 122 people with DACA lose their protection from deportation. They lose their government-issued identification that allowed them to stay in this country and work legally.

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that the President ended in September and which will completely expire in March, but let’s be clear – people do not have until March. People are already losing their DACA coverage on a daily basis.

So when reporters and politicians say that Congress can stall until March to enact the DREAM Act, they are flat wrong.

We cannot wait until March. The DREAM Act and the protections of the DACA program are not light switches we can turn on and off.  Every day we delay passage of the DREAM Act, another 122 DACA recipients lose their status.  They go from being documented to being undocumented, and their worlds are turned upside down.  And it is not just their lives, but also the lives of American citizens who love them, who employ them, who rely on them.

Democrats must be clear that we value the contributions of these young people and will not allow their stories to be ignored.
And Republicans—even the brave ones who have said they are for solving the plight of the DACA kids—must do more than write a letter or whisper quietly in the halls that they hope something happens.

Young DREAMers came forward and reported to the Department of Homeland Security and paid their own money for a criminal background check by the FBI.  In fact, many of them have successfully submitted their paperwork and biometrics three times.  They paid all of this processing—the paperwork, the background checks, the fingerprints—with their own money.

By definition they arrived in the United States as children, and by definition, they all arrived at least 10 years ago because to be eligible for DACA, you had to have been in the country a full year and a half before President Obama took office.

And there are 800,000 of them.  800,000 young Americans who have been playing by the rules, doing everything their government asked them to do, and who have been living productive lives in communities in every state for years.

As of today, more than 12,000 have lost their DACA status.

Let me tell you about just a few of them.

Mayron owns three businesses.  He lives in Washington State and has lived in the U.S. since he was 11 years old.  His DACA expires on December 22, the day that the CR is set to expire and the day we are all supposed to return to our families for the Christmas holiday and New Year’s.

He submitted his DACA renewal well before the application deadline that was arbitrarily set in October.  But he made a mistake.  His check was for $465, not $495, and so he will be deportable as of December 22.  His entire life is in the United States, and yet, if Republicans and the President have their way, he will be sent to Honduras. And his three businesses?  Who knows what will happen to them.

Another DACA recipient named Saul is from California and thanks to the security and stability provided by DACA, he has pursued a career in education.

I was a teacher and I know that the monetary rewards are few, but the rewards for your soul are many – and the rewards to our society of having dedicated teachers are priceless.

But without DACA and without the DREAM Act, Saul has no future in teaching and we may squander the passion he would bring to a classroom.  His DACA expires on December 29 and this is anything but a Merry Christmas for him as Congress drags its feet.

And finally, there is Brittany in New York.  She is a child care provider who works with infant twins – one of whom has a severe health condition. Her employers are now scrambling because Brittany’s DACA expired last Thursday and she has no clear legal path forward. The family said “we are devastated at the thought that she may not be able to work in this country and know we won’t find another care giver who is as reliable, nurturing, and unshakable as Brittany.”

Most Americans don’t understand why taking legal status away from a childcare provider who is employed and cherished by her employers will create law and order.  How does creating more undocumented immigrants help?  It does not make America great.  It does not strengthen security or the economy.  I don’t even think it benefits the Republican Party politically to send this young American woman away.

But it is up to Republicans and Democrats to stand up for Brittany, Saul, and Mayron.

Democrats must be clear that we value the contributions of these young people and will not allow their stories to be ignored.

And Republicans—even the brave ones who have said they are for solving the plight of the DACA kids—must do more than write a letter or whisper quietly in the halls that they hope something happens.

It is up to us, right now. And I am not leaving and I am not shutting up until we do.

 

Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez is a Member of the House Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

 

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