A Dreamer calls for a clean DREAM Act

Nayeli Mercado (left) and Bertha Hernandez, both teachers at El Centro de la Raza, hold signs made by the preschoolers in their classes in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in September. (Photo by Venice Buhain.)

I did not spend Thanksgiving weekend playing board games, quizzing family members on popular culture, nor did I enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers. Instead, I went to a three day convening of immigrant-youth state leaders. I strategized on political actions with high school and university students, recent graduates, and young professionals. I was with my undocumented family.

Ever since Sept. 5, the day Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, I have suffered from chronic stress and anxiety. I simply do not know what my future holds or whether I will stay in the United States past my DACA’s expiration date in just over a year, a risk that exposes me to unemployment, financial instability, and deportation.

Every day I am reminded of the vulnerability of my immigration status and I cannot understand how Congress fails to see the urgency of approximately 800,000 young immigrants’ futures. My future is in the hands of Senate Republican leadership that has delayed any legislative action on the DREAM Act. Senate Bill 1615 has not been heard on the Senate Judiciary Committee since it was referred to it on July 20, 2017.

The Pacific Northwest is home to me — a place with a lifetime of milestones. I graduated from Interlake High School in Bellevue and went on to graduate from the University of Washington in Seattle. The only memory of Venezuela are confined to Kindergarten and the early years where my biggest challenges were learning to eat solid foods, crawl and walk. I am incapable of identifying with the complexities of Venezuelan life, yet the Trump administration continues to displace people economically and geographically though their executive orders and directives.

The Attorney General said I am a “job-stealer” and that I jeopardize public safety with insidious intentions to commit crimes. Washington state’s U.S. representatives Dan Newhouse, Jaime Herrera Buetler, Dave Reichert, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers are standing in the way of approximately 17,000 Washington state DACA recipients and our futures. We are your neighbors, co-workers and family members.

A group of young people gather to strategize lobbying efforts for a federal DREAM act. (Photo courtesy Graciela Nunez Pargas)

On Thanksgiving weekend, I gave back to my community by training new youth leaders and preparing for the days ahead to pass a clean DREAM Act. I emphasize the word “clean” because I refuse to place a target on the backs of my parents just so I can get relief. I refuse to allow more money to be allocated for Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). About 3 million undocumented people were forcibly removed from our country over President Obama’s two terms, earning him the infamous “Deporter-in-Chief” label from immigration advocates. This was done without additional funds to ICE and CBP.

I am unable and unwilling to fathom the mass mobilization of immigration enforcement agents and the inevitable break-ups of families.

The America I grew up in believes in the American Dream, we unite with other Americans in times of national tragedies, and we all have opinions about whether we love or hate the New York Yankees.

“Equal Justice for All” and “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” are emblems of our shared principles. The very phrases that caught the interest of ambitious minds of undocumented parents that energized them on the journey to America. We owe the DREAM Act to my community.

I am 22-years old, a DREAMer, and my community forms part of the dynamic social fabric in our country. We are the future and we are #HereToStay.

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