They have lived in limbo since last November when President Donald J. Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shielded about 800,000 undocumented youth from deportation.
They took to the streets en masse and jammed into the halls of Congress to lobby for a “clean” Dream Act that can allow them to continue studying and/or working in the only country they have known since many of them were infants.
They have been arrested.
They pressured Democratic lawmakers to withhold support last month for a tax cut bill or a spending bill if it did not include legislation that addressed their situation.
Their cause has gotten the support of Alyssa Milano, América Ferrera, Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears, among others, in their quest to gain legal residency and a path to U.S. citizenship.
They hijacked a press conference in San Francisco held by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
They have labeled Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia; and, Congressman Jim Costa, D-Fresno, as part of the “Deportation Caucus” for supporting the December legislation that lacked a “clean” Dream Act.
How successful those tactics are will be seen over the next few weeks as Trump and Congressional Republicans hammer out legislation that is acceptable to enough Democrats to get a bill on the president’s desk.
Trump, who told Dreamers they had nothing to worry about, has insisted that any legislation include funds for a wall on the U.S.-México border and an end to “chain migration.”
Congress needs to pass a bill by Jan. 19 so that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has time to process applications before tens of thousands of Dreamers are severely impacted, according to three former Department of Homeland Security officials.
Already, DACA recipients have lost their status.
Valley Dreamers – who number 61,000 from San Joaquín to Tulare counties – aren’t sitting back just yet, according to DACA recipient América Hernández.
“On our end, a group of us local Dreamers and advocates will continue hosting phone banks to call constituents and remind them how their representatives are voting and urge them to call their offices and ask them to stand with us.,” Hernández said.
The group held a phone back on Monday. Most of those calls were directed at Congressman Devin Nunes, R-Visalia.
“We have done hundreds of calls to Nunes’ constituents and have gotten overwhelming support, we want everyone to keep reminding him and others that the passage of the Dream Act is an urgent priority in the Central Valley and elsewhere.”
Hernández was one of the 150 Dreamers from 25 states who were invited by the bipartisan organization FWD.us to advocate for Dreamers.
On a Facebook post dated Dec. 21, Hernández shared “299 DAYS LEFT UNTIL I LOSE STATUS... We are closer than ever to getting a permanent solution for Dreamers!”
In her post, Hernández said that even though Republicans chose not to act on the Dream Act being added to the spending bill, their fight was not over and urged people to keep calling their representatives and ask them to act now before it is too late for thousands of Dreamers.
Local Dreamers and their supporters haven’t shown much worry about Costa’s vote.
“It is unacceptable that we have to resort to funding the government for weeks at a time because we cannot sit down together – Democrats and Republicans – and negotiate a real budget bill. One of our key responsibilities as members of Congress is to keep the government open, which is why I voted for the spending bill today,” Costa said in an statement of voting yes.
“Yet another equally-important responsibility is providing the stability and certainty the government needs to operate well and Americans need to invest and plan for their futures, and Congress has failed to fulfill this responsibility in 2017. We must do better,” Costa said. “When Congress returns to Washington in January, I will continue to advocate for the bipartisan, stable policy solutions and the good governance Americans need and deserve.”
Costa was not immediately available for additional comment.
When asked how she felt about Costa’s recent vote, Hernández said, “Mr. Costa has advocated for Dreamers and even before the vote (he) asked for a Clean Dream Act to be put for a vote before the end of the year to his peers in Congress.”
Hernández said Costa supports Dreamers.
“I understand why he made the decision to vote on the spending bill, but we will need him to take a stronger stand on our behalf this upcoming vote. Dreamers cannot afford to not have something in place anymore.”
“Hundreds of people are losing status, work, housing and have started being detained. People’s lives, their families lives and their employer’s businesses are at risk,” Hernández added.
In his statement, Costa didn’t make any mention of the Dream Act but said that “Today’s vote is a continuation of the dysfunction in Washington, and it further illustrates the damage that results from partisan politics and irresponsible leadership.”
Samuel Molina, state director for Mi Familia Vota, an organization that has supported the Dreamers’ movement, said the pressure will be kept on “all Republican and moderate Democrats until a compromise is made on immigration reform.”
“Although we are disappointed in Rep. Costa’s vote for the continuing resolution, we hope that this time he does the right thing and does not cross party lines to support the deportation of our youth,” said Molina. “It is important that both Democrats and Republicans reach an agreement before Jan. 19, because every day that passes approximately 122 DACA recipients lose their work permits, over 14,000 have already had their work permits expire.”
With the start of the new year, Hernández posted on social media that “This year will require a lot of heart and soul to get the Dream Act passed, lets get it done” using the hashtags #dreamactnow #january19thdeadline #newyearsamegoal#undocuwarriors #18daystogo and the hands praying emoji.
“The American people, including Republicans, strongly support legislation that protects Dreamers,” Molina said. “We need a bi-partisan solution that does not include money for a border wall, that does not increase ICE presence in our communities, but one that empowers and treats our community with the dignity and respect we deserve.”