Time is of the essence for the 59,000 or so Dreamers that reside in the Inland Empire.
Through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, young immigrants like Ingris Aparicio and Beatriz Bayona received the opportunity to attend college and work for a living wage.
But the Trump Administration’s announcement of DACA’s rescinding means their window of opportunity is dwindling quickly. In the midst of uncertainty, immigrant rights advocates are pressuring federal legislators to provide a permanent solution for Dreamers.
“If nothing is done to save this, it will put myself and my parents at the risk of deportation,” said Bayona, a student at Cal State San Bernardino. “What will my sisters do if they don’t have us there with them? We don’t want to see our family get separated, along with others who are deeply affected by this.”
The Inland Empire Dream Act Council, facilitated by the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective, wants the Democratic leadership to be more bold in their demands. Members of the Council include students from local colleges, educators, labor unions, and immigrant rights advocates.
“It’s time once and for all that we get a clean Dream Act passed,” IEIYC Chairwoman Saira Murillo said. “Immigrants in this country deserve a permanent pathway to citizenship. Our lives and stability should not be bargaining chips.”
Congressional leaders for months now have deliberated on how to provide legal protections to the 700,000 young immigrants who entered the country illegally. Whereas the Republican leadership in both houses said they’ll support a bill that includes strict immigration enforcement measures, most Democrats are pushing for a clean Dream Act that avoids stringent immigration enforcement.
Thousands of young undocumented immigrants scrambled to renew their DACA status after President Trump announced he would rescind the program on September 5. Dreamers whose permits expires by March 5, 2018 had a month to renew their work authorization for another two years.
The Dream Act Council travelled to Washington D.C. earlier this month to meet with Representatives Pete Aguilar (D-San Bernardino), Mark Takano (D-Riverside), and Norma Torres (D-Pomona). They also met with Senator Kamala Harris’ staff. According to Council representatives, they’ve yet to receive “hard commitments” from local Democrats.
“We’ll see on Dec. 22 to see if Democrats are truly supportive of young immigrants,” said Murillo. “Their vote on this spending bill will demonstrate if they truly stand behind the immigrant rights movement.”
Hopes to pass the Dream Act before the end of the year lies with the GOP spending bill. Several Democrats have confirmed they will not lend support to the bill unless the Dream Act is included. Others, most notably Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), are hoping to avoid a government shutdown by negotiating a deal with the GOP leadership to include the Dream Act in the spending bill.
By refusing to take action, Congress is risking allowing hundreds of thousands of young people to live in fear, Aguilar said in a press statement on Monday.
“Dreamers have earned their place here in the only country they’ve ever known as home, but by dismantling DACA, the president has put their futures at risk,” Aguilar said. “Passing the Dream Act would simply codify what we already know to be true: that Dreamers are Americans. GOP leadership must allow us to vote on a clean Dream Act immediately, because these thousands of young people cannot wait any longer.”
The Council has also held rallies at the offices of Republicans Paul Cook and Ken Calvert to convince them to support Dream Act efforts. Both Cook and Calvert have expressed they would support helping Dreamers, only if border security is part of a legislative package.
“Any effort to enact legal residency for DACA recipients must also include strong border security measures,” Calvert wrote in an op-ed published by the Press Enterprise in September. “If it fails to do that, we will find ourselves in a similar situation years down the road and another group of young people will find themselves in legal limbo.”
Meanwhile, Aparicio, who will be graduating from UC Riverside next June, said she will continue to advocate for a legal pathway for all immigrants.
“We’re fighting for something greater than ourselves,” said Aparicio. “This is a benefit that will help many across the U.S. We’re here to give our community a voice.”
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