Last Friday, NV-03 Congressional Candidate Susie Lee (D) and U.S. House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-New York) held an intimate roundtable discussion with Nevada DREAMers and allies at UNLV. DREAMers shared their stories of life in America, and how DACA made their lives easier. Crowley and Lee listened to DREAMers, then promised action on deportation relief and comprehensive immigration reform.
“It’s hard to plan out when you don’t know what’s happening to you.”
– Alicia Contreras, NSC Student Body President
In September, the Trump Administration announced its plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that’s provided deportation relief and work authorization for some 800,000 DREAMers nationally since 2012. That number includes 13,000 DREAMers here in Nevada, DREAMers who have contributed over $600 million to the state’s economy, according to the Center for American Progress.
Alicia Contreras, Nevada State College (NSC) Student Body President and a DACA recipient, expressed her frustration over how Trump’s decision has created much more uncertainty in her life. “[DACA] ends in April 2019. I don’t know what to do at that point,” Contreras lamented. “I want to go to law school. I want to practice civil law. […] It’s hard to plan out when you don’t know what’s happening to you.”
Luis Montañez, also a NSC student, echoed Contreras’ concerns about their future. “I renewed my DACA back in May. […] That lasts until 2019.” Montañez then asked whether Congress will take action so that he and other DREAMers can live their lives and make their plans without fear. “I want to go to law school. Is Congress going to pass anything?”
“The number one message is not to lose hope. Continue to plan for your future.”
– Susie Lee, NV-03 Candidate
Valley High School Principal Ramona Esparza (speaking on her own capacity) explained how Trump’s DACA decision has affected the school. “Parents have come to me, asking, ‘Should we bring our kids to school? Will ICE take them away?'” Esparza continued, “We’ve had very traumatic situations. Parents have been deported.”
After Esparza and several other DREAMers spoke, Susie Lee expressed her solidarity. “The number one message is not to lose hope. Continue to plan for your future.” Lee, a long-time education activist who currently serves as the Board President of Communities in Schools Nevada, encouraged DREAMers not to abandon their dreams for the future, but instead stay active in fighting for that future. “Together, with a voice, we can be agents of change.”
“Each and every of those [White House] demands will be rejected.”
-Rep. Joesph Crowley
In September, President Donald Trump suggested a deal was in the works with Congressional Democratic leaders to provide permanent deportation relief for DREAMers. Less than a month later, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller issued a manifesto demanding a crackdown on children crossing the border, U.S.-Mexico border wall construction, and new restrictions on legal immigration in exchange for some sort of legislative DACA extension.
At the UNLV roundtable on Friday, Rep. Crowley promised DREAMers and community allies that he and his Democratic colleagues refuse to accept any proposal from the White House that includes any of these anti-immigrant “sweeteners”. “We do know in the manifesto sent by Stephen Miller highlighting where the White House stands on DACA. […] Each and every of those demands will be rejected.”
“Have the courage to make sure DACA is handled before a spending bill is passed.”
– Susie Lee, NV-03 Candidate
On Friday, Crowley expressed hope that House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisconsin) recent signals on DACA will result in a fair resolution. He also promised that Democrats will use the December debt ceiling and budget deadline as leverage to ensure Republican leaders follow through on their promises to deliver on DACA.
Susie Lee agreed. “Have the courage to make sure DACA is handled before a spending bill is passed.” She also urged larger long-term reform with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “We have to pass the DREAM Act. We need to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
After the program, Lee reiterated her demand to us as she expressed hope that Congress will at least extend DACA by the end of the year. According to Lee, “The majority of Americans understand the injustice of this decision, and know this must be resolved.”