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Opinion

Op-Ed: Dreamers are still here and we’re still waiting for a fix

MariaCarolina Gomez
A Dreamer rallies outside the Edward Royal Federal Building in Los Angeles.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

To be a young professional and a “Dreamer” in this political climate, as I am, means not having the luxury of a five-year plan. Instead, an expiration date looms over all life decisions. Should I pursue certain career opportunities, or go home because I don’t know how much time I’ll have with my family? Can I commit to buying a car or a house if I don’t know how long I will be here?

For those of us enrolled in DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that keeps immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from being targets for deportation — the ground no longer feels solid beneath our feet. Despite that, more than 95% of us have jobs or are in school. Half have purchased a vehicle and 12% bought a house. About 6% started a business. We trusted our lives and livelihoods to the government.

We did our part. Now it’s time for Congress to do its part.

I recognize that Dreamers are not the only group the broken U.S. immigration system has failed. The Trump administration has sowed chaos in all immigrant communities. Congress meanwhile has largely stayed on the sidelines even though only it can enact lasting solutions to any or all of these problems.

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Dreamers grew up in this country, and we believe in American values as much as anyone.

Dreamers have written, called, lobbied, protested and risked our safety to share our stories publicly and stay relevant on Capitol Hill. We have done this for ourselves, but also on behalf of immigrant groups even less protected than we are. Yet it does not seem to be enough to get our political representatives to fulfill their promises.

Since the rescission of DACA last September, there have been hundreds of votes in the House of Representatives, yet only two addressed the fate of Dreamers. Both bills — which included harmful cuts to legal immigration and offered no viable path to citizenship for Dreamers — failed overwhelmingly last month. The House Republican leadership put these bills forward aware of their shortcomings, yet refused to make any compromises or cooperate with their colleagues across the aisle. They now continue to refuse to accept their responsibility to legislate.

Polls show that 86% of Americans support a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers. So one has to question whether our elected officials are fulfilling their duty in a representative government. If the current Congress is unable to work together, I hope that 86% of Americans vote for candidates who are capable of passing immigration reform in November.

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Dreamers have been on a roller coaster for 10 months. We have come close to a solution, and then some new political crisis diverts public attention. Falling out of the headlines also means falling off the congressional agenda. Despite countless promises from legislators, we are constantly put off.

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There is plenty of legislative middle ground where a majority would agree on ways to secure the border, protect Dreamers and ensure that immigration continues to bring prosperity to this country. Dreamers — not just the 800,000 DACA recipients, but some 3 million or more immigrants brought here as children — are living from court case to court case. Our futures hang on whatever some judge or elected official says next. It is all consuming and exhausting.

Dreamers grew up in this country, and we believe in American values as much as anyone. Indeed, we often feel we have to prove ourselves worthy of the American Dream. We believe in hard work and have not taken the opportunities DACA has given us for granted. We believe in the rule of law, too. We had no choice in our immigration status and want to work toward a solution that will allow us to follow the law. We believe in democracy and the right that people have to engage in the legislative system to create change. Finally, we believe in America as a beacon of hope, where for centuries there has been room for immigrants to come and contribute to this nation’s success.

It’s time for Congress to show us that it stands for these values as well.

Sayra Lozano, a DACA recipient and immigration rights advocate, holds a master’s in business administration from Southeastern University.

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