On Wednesday, immigrant rights activists gathered outside the Lloyd George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas to demand a clean DREAM Act and extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for refugees in need. They spoke out as Congress nears a critical end-of-year deadlines for the federal budget and immigration reform.

What’s (not) happening in Congress?

Late last week, Senate Republican leaders promised Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) some sort of legislation to provide some kind of protection for DACA recipients in exchange for his vote for the Trump Tax Plan. Flake accepted the offer, even as the White House was beginning to back away from this promise.
Last Saturday Nevada’s own Senator Dean Heller (R) voiced support for this vague promise of a DACA fix, but would not specifically endorse a clean DREAM Act (with no anti-immigrant riders attached) when pressed by DREAMer activists at the LIBRE Forum. With Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) recently signing a discharge petition to force a House floor vote on the DREAM Act, and with all four of Nevada’s Democrats in Congress already on board, Heller is the only one left in the Nevada delegation who has not endorsed the 2017 DREAM Act.

“DREAMers should not be used as bargaining chips. […] The American Dream is only the American Dream when our families are here with us.”
– America Ruiz, Las Vegas

Photo by Andrew Davey

For UNLV student and DREAMer activist America Ruiz, “DREAMers should not be used as bargaining chips.” Instead of passing “poison pills”, such as funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall and/or ICE raids in immigrant communities, Ruiz wants Congress to focus on legislation that actually protects DREAMers and keeps families together. “We don’t want to be used to target our communities. The American Dream is only the American Dream when our families are here with us.”

Ruiz stressed that the ongoing uncertainty is hurting immigrant families and the larger community. “Every single day it’s not passed, it affects people. 122 people […] are losing their [DACA] permits every single day.” Ruiz continued, “Ending the program would not just ruin our families, but also ruin our economy.”

“A clean DREAM Act is the only solution to make sure that these young adults have a chance in America.”
– Karl Catarata, ACDC Nevada

For Karl Catarata at ACDC Nevada, the DREAM Act, TPS (or temporary protected status for certain refugees), and overall comprehensive immigration reform should be a top priority. “We need a permanent resolution, a permanent solution, to immigration reform in the United States,” Catarata said.

Though the vast majority of DACA recipients originally came to the U.S. from Mexico, some 200,000 DACA-mented residents came here from countries around the world. Catarata has been encouraged by Nevada’s other Members of Congress endorsing a clean DREAM Act, but he’d also like to see Heller do his part to make this dream a reality. For Catarata, “A clean DREAM Act is the only solution to make sure that these young adults have a chance in America.”

Congress pushes back budget deadline, leaves DREAMers in limbo

HAPPENING NOW: Immigrant rights activists are rallying outside the Las Vegas federal courthouse to demand Congress pass a clean DREAM Act and TPS extension by the end of the year.

Posted by Nevada Forward on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

With Congress nearing its deadline to pass a budget and raise the debt ceiling, DREAMer activists and progressive allies are demanding a clean DREAM Act be passed alongside any new budget agreement. Though Republican leaders need Democratic votes to keep the federal government open and fully funded, they’ve yet to commit to fixing this DACA dilemma that President Donald Trump created in September, when he decided to end the DACA program that’s provided deportation relief to 800,000+ DREAMers across the nation.
On Thursday, the House voted 235-193 to pass a two week extension of government funding to fend off the immediate threat of government shutdown. Reps. Mark Amodei and Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) voted in favor, while Reps. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) and Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) voted against. Hours later the Senate voted 81-14 to pass the two week extension, with Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Dean Heller (R) both voting in favor.
Even as Congress provides itself with this temporary reprieve from the impending budget deadline, DREAMers and their families continue to live with uncertainty. For Nevada DREAMers like Ruiz, they’re counting on Heller and his colleagues to provide some certainty so they can resume their lives and pursue their dreams.