Mass leaders push for DACA legislation

President Trump demands border wall in return

Karen Morales | 1/10/2018, 10:47 a.m.
As the year-end budget deadline for the U.S. federal government approaches, Sen. Ed Markey held a press conference last Wednesday ...
Eduardo Samaniego, DACA advocate, speaks at press conference with Ed Markey. Banner photo

As the year-end budget deadline for the U.S. federal government approaches, Sen. Ed Markey held a press conference last Wednesday to demand that Congress include a “clean DREAM act” in next year’s budget by Jan. 19 to prevent a government shutdown.

Immigration advocates have coined the term, “clean DREAM act” to refer to legislation that would create a pathway to U.S. citizenship without using young immigrants as a bargaining chip to pass new, harmful immigration policies.

“We’re going to turn up the heat with Republicans in the coming weeks to pass a clean DREAM act that protects our young immigrants from cruel and needless deportation,” said Markey.

“For five years, the DACA program has created security, opportunity, safety and dignity for nearly 8,000 people in Massachusetts. Now, they are needlessly in jeopardy because Trump coldheartedly repealed DACA,” he added, referring to President Trump’s decision last September.

The president, speaking over the weekend from Camp David after a meeting with Republican leaders, did say he wants to work with Democrats to come up with a permanent solution for the DACA program.

But, he said he would only accept a solution if it included the following caveats: $18 billion in the budget to build a Mexico border wall, $8 billion for U.S. Customs and Border personnel and training and $5 billion for new border technology.

“We all want DACA to happen, but we also want great security for our country,” he said. “So we have to get rid of the lottery system. We have to get rid of chain migration. We have to have the wall.”

Trump has said in the past that he thinks Mexico should pay for the border wall, but these new billion-dollar requests would be funded by American taxpayers.

“We will not trade our DREAMers for a border wall. Period,” said Markey last week.

Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, also spoke at the press conference.

“We are very disappointed that Congress failed us again,” she said.

“In Massachusetts, we had 8,000 DACA recipients and as of September, the number went down to 6,000 recipients,” she said, citing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data. “So we can see the impact of people losing their status or too afraid to re-apply.”

Eduardo Samaniego, a student at Hampshire College who described himself as “undocumented and unafraid” shared his story at the press event.

He came to the U.S. on a travel visa when he was 16 years old from San Lorenzo, Mexico and stayed with his uncle. After his uncle was deported, Samaniego was taken in by a pastor in Georgia who took care of him as he went through high school.

With a near-perfect GPA, Samaniego dreamed of going to the University of Georgia but when it came time to fill out his application, he realized he was undocumented.

“I led in my graduating class as a study body president, but as I was on stage, I knew I was not going to college, like my other classmates,” he said. “I fell into a deep and dark depression. I felt like I did not matter. Like my work in church and school did not matter.”

After finding purpose in advocacy work for immigration reform, Samaniego received a private scholarship to Hampshire College, but his future remains unknown.

“The majority of voters support a clean DREAM act, so I want to tell Congress to listen to your voters,” he told the Banner.

“We realize the urgency of this issue and understand what happens on January 19th for these young people and have elevated this to the top of our priorities,” said Markey. “We should not go back on our word when we told these young people to come out of the shadows.”