I STAND WITH DREAMERS, PENSACOLA
Three very courageous young ladies, all brought to the United States through harrowing, life-threatening journeys at very young ages up to 13-years old told their stories. Claudia, Sandra, and Jessica expressed how much the fear of being deported places their families under day-to-day stress. Without driver's licenses, their parents cannot risk driving to the store for groceries.
While they may be undocumented, those in DACA status are not criminals. In fact, in order to be covered by DACA, every Dreamer passed extensive criminal background checks. And, as long as they do not commit a crime, they will not be a priority for deportation for the Department of Homeland Security.
And, while they may be undocumented, two immigrant men, one covered by DACA, gave their lives for this country they love, trying to rescue victims of Hurricane Harvey.
But, the young immigrants also told stories that are quintessentially American immigrant stories. Being undocumented, their parents found whatever work they could, most likely repairing homes and infrastructure wrecked by Hurricane Ivan more than a decade ago when Escambia and Santa Rosa counties were devastated and locals were in need of salvage work and home repairs. Ever since, they have lived in the shadows ever fearful of deportation.
As children, the three young ladies from three different families told of working hard in school, studying, and while in college working to put themselves through college. Claudia, now married to an American and applying for citizenship, came to America when she was 13 not knowing a word of English. Now, 28, she is a college graduate.
While working, they pay federal, state and local taxes, but they receive no social welfare benefits. They cannot purchase health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act. They paid for their own schooling because they were not eligible for scholarships. All America has ever expected of its immigrants is to work hard and contribute to society. The Dreamers, and there are nearly 800,000 of them, are either proudly serving in the military, attending college, or working. For all intents and purposes, they are Americans except for their certificate of citizenship.
Jessica, Claudia, and Sandra openly expressed how much they love the only country they have ever known. Sandra, who came here as an infant from Mexico, knows nothing of Mexico. Jessica knows nothing of Mexico. Their entire lives are focused on making a better lives for their families and their eventual children. They want to be good citizens, raise solid families, pay their taxes, and vote.
According to the New York Times, here is what we know:
"Those who have DACA status can keep it until it expires. Beneficiaries whose status expires before March 5, 2018 can renew their two-year deportation protection and work permit by Oct. 5. There are approximately 200,000 people in this group, the last to benefit from the program, which will fully expire in 2020.
Unless Congress acts in their favor, DACA recipients will begin to lose protection March 6, 2018. They will no longer be eligible for lawful employment and they will be deportable. However, recipients who renew their status before March 6 can continue to work for the length of their renewal, which may be up to two years."
Claudia, Sandra, and Jessica, and nearly 800,000 Dreamers are now in legal limbo.
But, we can change their legal limbo. We can call our Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Representative Matt Gaetz and tell them we want the U.S. Congress to fix this problem.
Senator Rubio's phone number in DC is (202) 224-3041. His office number in Florida is (407) 254-2573.
Senator Nelson's phone number in DC is (202) 224-5274. His office number in Florida is (561) 514-0189.
Representative Matt Gaetz's phone number in DC is (202) 225-4136. His office number in Pensacola is (850) 479-1183.
As Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, stated, in part, in his press release on DACA:
"At the heart of this issue are young people who came to this country through no fault of their own, and for many of them it’s the only country they know. Their status is one of many immigration issues, such as border security and interior enforcement, which Congress has failed to adequately address over the years. It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country."
The struggle continues.