Back in March, I met a young mother named Yuriana Aguilar who works as a biomedical researcher, studying how the heart’s electrical system functions.
Yuriana considers Fresno, California, home. When she was just five years old, her parents moved there from Mexico. None of them had papers. Yuriana is an undocumented immigrant, and it is only because of a program President Obama set up in 2012, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that she was able to pursue her education and earn a PhD.
The DACA program allowed young immigrants who were brought here by their parents as children to stay in our country without fear of deportation, granting them work permits and allowing them to obtain driver’s licenses.
When Yuriana heard about DACA for the first time, she was so relieved, she cried. And then, she went back to her research, doing everything she can to improve the condition and the lives of the people in our country.
On September 5 of this year, the Trump Administration cruelly, arbitrarily ended DACA. Since then, more than 12,000 young people have lost DACA status. That’s more than 100 people every single day. These young people’s lives are now in limbo. Without DACA, their only options are to live here without papers and in fear of deportation, or to leave the only country they’ve ever known. They have no path to citizenship. They can’t leave the country and get in line to immigrate here. There is no line. And for this Administration, that’s the point.
The decision to rescind DACA is part of a much broader attempt to target immigrants. This Administration has ignited anti-immigrant sentiment, characterizing immigrants as rapists, murderers, and people who are going to steal your jobs. That could not be further from the truth. DACA does not protect criminals from deportation, and approval and renewal are only granted to recipients if, among other things, they have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or multiple misdemeanors.
The truth is, when we’re talking about DACA recipients, Yuriana is the rule, not the exception. I know because I meet these young people every day. More than 75% of DACA recipients are employed. They serve in our military, they go to our colleges and universities, and they work in Fortune 100 companies. In fact, if DACA recipients were deported, it is estimated that the United States economy as a whole would lose $460 billion over a decade. These are exceptional people making important contributions to our country.
Congress has the ability to fix this. There is bipartisan legislation right now in the House and the Senate that gives these young people a permanent path to citizenship. It’s called the DREAM Act, and we must pass it—now.
Every single day that we don’t pass the DREAM Act, is another day these young people have to live in fear—despite the fact that they have done everything right. Yuriana’s fear is that she and her husband could one day both get picked up and taken from their home, and their young daughter who is an American citizen would be left alone, with no one to take care of her.
With the holidays upon us, it’s my wish that each of my colleagues in the House and the Senate take time to truly see these young people. Not through a lens of partisanship or politics, not through a lens that is ideological, but to just see them based on who they are. These young people cannot wait a minute longer. Congress must pass the DREAM Act now.