Immigrant rights advocates from Alabama and around the country headed to Washington, D.C. Tuesday to urge the U.S. Senate to come up with a way to preserve anti-deportation protections from the Obama-era DACA program. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protects immigrants brought illegally as children to the U.S. so they can work or go to school. The Trump administration has said it will end DACA.
Fernanda Herrera-Vera calls herself “DACA-mented.” He father crossed the Mexican border illegally when she was two. She flew in with her mom months later on visas long since expired. DACA protects her from deportation, at least for now.
“I have 366 days left on my permit,” she says. “I graduated from college in May, and I’m in limbo right now. I could take a job, but I won’t be able to sign on for more than a year.”
The Samford University graduate says her problems are small next to those of people with mortgages and children. Tuesday morning she waited at the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice office in Irondale, ready to board a van to Washington, D.C. with about two dozen other Alabama immigrant advocates. Herrera-Vera plans to march to send a message to the Senate on Wednesday: protect DACA recipients from deportation, and fix a system where millions of people are undocumented.
“It’s people from all different walks of life and different ideologies that are coming together for this common purpose,” she says, “getting the DREAM Act passed, and beyond that, getting some reform” for the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S.
Most of the “Dreamer Riders” in the two-van caravan don’t have DACA status themselves. There are family members and supporters traveling too. Alma Juarez has two children who are DACA recipients, often called “Dreamers.” She speaks though an ACIJ interpreter:
“DACA has been the way that we have been able to provide them some benefits like the right to study, the right to work, a driver’s license. We have to support and make our voices heard for our children.”
Some Senate Democrats have said they’ll shut down the government rather than let DACA recipients risk deportation. Senate Democratic leaders say they’re planning to meet at the White House on Thursday to try for a deal to pass the DREAM Act, which would allow DACA recipients to stay in the country. Republicans want stiffer border security measures, but some GOP members in the House are urging Speaker Paul Ryan to take action to protect DACA recipients before the end of the year.