As lawmakers and political candidates stake out their positions, young people in the greater Seattle area are vowing to fight for the immigration program known as DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The Obama era program was a pathway for many children with questionable immigration status who were brought to the U.S. by their parents at a young age. Thousands of young people in Washington may benefit from the program, and now they are concerned with the possibility that the program will be ended by the Trump administration.
President Trump campaigned on reinforcing borders and restricting immigration. Ending DACA would fall within his list of campaign promises and would be completely legal. The president may announced Tuesday that the program will end in six months, which would also put pressure on Congress to pass legislation on comprehensive immigration reform, or at the very least pass legislation that could help the so-called “Dreamers” who’ve benefited from DACA.
Nearly 20 young people gathered late Monday afternoon at the offices of Rep. Pramila Jayapal to share their own personal stories of immigrating to the U.S. and living with uncertain status. Several of them also directly benefited from DACA program.
Graciela Nunez Pargas is sure that DACA changed her life, “DACA opened the doors for me… I just recently graduated from UW and I had a pathway ahead of me, I could see the future.”
Nunez Pargas has worked with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and majored in political science, so she knows the political fight to save DACA may be the only way road they have to preserve the program, “having DACA taken away will put in question whether or not it was worth the fight to get a higher education degree.”
Paul Quinonez is another DACA recipient who sat down for Jayapal’s round table. He said that he became a DACA recipient in 2013 and has renewed every two years since. Quinonez says there is fear over the program ending but also a sense of relief that they may soon know exactly where they stand with the Trump administration.
“I feel prepared. I think it's something that's not completely catching us off guard," Quinonez said. "If President Trump decides to end the DACA program in six months, it gives people like him that much time to pressure congress to come up with a solution."
Quinonez said he also supports efforts by the attorney general of Washington to sue over the elimination for the program.
“It's a long road ahead, but it's good to know we're being supported by a lot of people," Quinonez said.
He also stressed that DACA allowed him to ascend to working in the Washington State legislature.
“DACA has enabled me to live under some semblance of normality,” he said.
Jayapal said the personal stories of young people who’ve benefited from DACA may be one of the most crucial elements to pressuring Congress to vote on the issue. Both Paul Quinonez and Graciela Nunez Pargas said their stories are proof the program helps more than it hurts.
Quinonez said he will fight for the program.
“It's been a great lifeline so we hope to save it and hope to build on it,” he said.
Nunez Pargas says losing the program will impact her personally, and potentially thousands of young people across the state of Washington.
“It definitely puts my future in jeopardy, and it leaves me hopeless at times but I know that this the moment to put the pressure on to congress to act.”
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