Major Push for Dream Act by 150 Dreamers

Major Push for Dream Act by 150 Dreamers

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FRESNO, Calif. -- Almost two decades ago, América Yareli Hernández was working as a waitress, cleaning toilets and living in constant fear as an undocumented resident.

Last week (Oct. 3-5), Hernández rubbed shoulders with some of the nation’s most powerful lawmakers – Sen. Kamala Harris, House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Ilinois Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez and others – in an effort to convince them to pass the Dream Act so that she can finally leave those days behind.

Since getting DACA, Hernández, a professional with a bachelors degree from Fresno State University in Chicano and Latin American Studies with a minor in English and Spanish, has been able to get professional jobs.

The Fresno resident was one of about 150 Dreamers from 25 states who descended on Washington, D.C. to meet with Congressional members, share their stories and highlight the need for the Dream Act after President Donald J. Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“I was the only one from the Central Valley,” said Hernández, who was invited by the bipartisan organization FWD.us to advocate for Dreamers, share her story and represent the San Joaquín Valley, where 61,000 DACA recipients live from San Joaquín to Tulare counties.

The visit coincided with the deadline for qualified DACA recipients to submit their applications for renewal.

FWD.us promotes policies to keep the United States competitive in a global economy, starting with commonsense immigration reform and criminal justice reform.

“I got here Tuesday night. Yesterday (Oct. 4) was the main day that we get congressional visits. And today (Oct. 5) we had a couple of meetings also.”

Over the span of two days, the Dreamers participated in more than 100 meetings with members of Congress and their staff.

The Dreamers were teachers, engineers, medical workers, scientists and university students.

Hernández was part of a California delegation that met Harris and Republican Congressmen Devin Nunes of Tulare and David Valadao of Hanford.

“I think everybody was very welcoming for the most part and it seems like a very positive thing,” Hernández said of the meetings with the California representatives.

“They all seem like, even the ones that were kind of on the fence about whether they were going to oppose the Dream Act. They did say that they still support Dreamers but there were a couple that were hesitant about whether they would support the Dream Act.”

The Dream Act would implement a permanent legislative solution for DACA recipients, including a pathway to citizenship for those young individuals who came to the United States as children.

Hernández said Nunes and Congressman Paul Cook, R-Apple Valley, weren’t clear on their Dream Act support.

For Hernández, who has been under the protection of DACA since October 2012, the trip to Washington, D.C was not her first as a Dream Act advocate. She did the same in 2004.

“It was amazing. It was a great experience to get to share our stories and to get some feedback that we were able to get,” said Hernández during a telephone interview as she waited at the airport for her return trip.

“I think one of the most important things we got back was from Valadao. He was able to tell us that he was working hard to try to get other Republicans on board and the challenges he has experienced from a group of Dreamers that have been protesting even him, who is the co-sponsor of the Dream Act.”

Hernández said Valadao advised them to continue to “share our stories, voice our opinions and concerns, but to do it in a more civil manner to where they can have a chance to see what he sees and be supportive of the Dreamers. ….. People that we would need to get on board.”

In a statement, FWD.us president Todd Schulte said Congress needs to act now and pass urgent the Dream Act, or the nation will be responsible for forcing 800,000 individuals out of their jobs, subjecting them to immediate deportation, and using the very information they gave to the government in good faith to find, arrest and deport them.

“These DACA recipients – who, on average, came to this country at the age of 6 and are now 26 years old – face an uncertain future, and live with the fear of being ripped out of their jobs and community,” he said.

“Congress must hear the voices of these incredible individuals and urgently take action to ensure they can continue to live, work, and contribute to the only country most have ever known,” said Schulte. “The time of reckoning has arrived; every individual must ask what they will do to fight for a Dream Act, and every member of Congress owes the American people a vote.”

Last month, the Trump Administration rescinded the DACA program on Sept. 5, which has protected 800,000 DACA recipients who could face deportation if Congress does not pass a permanent legislative solution.

DACA will be phased out over the next 2½ years, unless Congress acts on a DACA renewal or replacement.