Young immigrants ask Reichert to back federal DREAM act

Karen Fierro (foreground), of the Washington Dream Act Coalition, addresses people at a press conference organized Tuesday in Auburn to urge Congressman Dave Reichert to back a DREAM act. (Photo courtesy SEIU)

Young immigrants in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program were in Auburn Tuesday to urge Republican Congressman Dave Reichert to back federal legislation that would give them a path to permanent resident status.

In Reichert’s district, there are about 1,900 people enrolled in the DACA program, which shields qualifying young undocumented immigrants from deportation and gives them work permits.

“If the 1,900 DACA recipients in Reichert’s district were deported,” said Monserrat Padilla, Network Coordinator of Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network. “Over $121 million will be lost annually.”

The issue is far more than just dollar signs and income tax payments to Padilla.

Padilla, a 25-year-old undocumented immigrant, arrived in the U.S. when she was two years old. Her DACA status timed out after President Donald Trump’s administration announced the end of the program. For Padilla, and thousands of other dreamers, the future is uncertain.

“We are trusting on this government to find a solution in the long-term,” Padilla said. “That solution must come now.”

Padilla joined others, including Service Employees International Union Local 6, Washington Dream Coalition, and OneAmerica, at a press conference in Auburn Tuesday to call for Reichert to back a clean federal DREAM act.

A clean DREAM Act — which stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors — would give a path to permanent residency and citizenship to people who were children when they immigrated without documentation. Supporters say the bill would be “clean” if it omits other issues such as border security, which would drag conversations out longer.

A Dream Act bill that grants permanent resident status to several groups, including people who were brought to the United States as children, is currently in Congress.

In the House, it is sponsored by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Democrat in California. Six Washington Congressional representatives have signed on, including Rick Larsen, Denny Heck, Adam Smith, Pramila Jayapal, Derek Kilmer and Suzan DelBene. In the Senate, the bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and neither Washington senator is listed as having cosponsored the bill.

The groups say that Reichert has a history of supporting immigrant communities. Padilla says that is because Reichert knows the social and economic importance of immigrants.

In a prepared statement released on Thursday, Reichert agreed that lawmakers should help those enrolled in DACA.

“As the end of the year approaches, the need for a legislative solution to the DACA program has become increasingly urgent,” Reichert said. “DACA recipients were brought here by no fault of their own and see America as their country and their home. These children have contributed so much to our communities and I believe punishing them for a crime they did not commit is not in the American DNA. It is incumbent on us to make sure they have every opportunity to live the American Dream. Congress must act immediately.”

Reichert is not signed onto Royball-Allard’s bill, but he has signed onto a bill called the BRIDGE Act —Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy  — which would extend protection from deportation for three years to several groups, including DACA recipients.

Trump announced through Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he would sunset the DACA program. New applications are no longer being accepted. People already in the program will be protected until their enrollment expires.

Trump had campaigned for president as a hardliner on immigration policy and has tried to order travel bans from certain countries. But he has expressed contradictory views on the DACA program.

Little over a week after his administration repealed DACA, Trump Tweeted: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!”

The New York Times reported in September that Trump would give Congress a six-month time frame to find a legislative fix to protect DACA recipients.

Karen Fierro, an undocumented immigrant and member of Washington Dream Act Coalition, is studying to become a lawyer.

“We need legislative relief that will not make us or our families vulnerable to deportation,” Fierro said. “It is up to our representatives in congress like Congressman Reichert to cosponsor a clean Dream Act and hold his party accountable.”

Currently, nearly 1,000 DACA recipients are losing their status per day.

“It is time that we urge members of Congress to act,” Padilla said. “We will continue demanding this everyday to show them the families and the lives that this issue is impacting.”