Congress is now halfway to deadline for DREAM Act legislation

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Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Edilsa Lopez’s work permit runs out today. She managed to get her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals renewal in on time, and now all she has to do is wait a few days for her new permit.

For now, UT alumna Lopez is safe from deportation. But, one day shy of three months since President Donald Trump rescinded DACA, she’s not sure how much longer that safety will last.

“I have been up and down with my emotions,” Lopez said. “I’m always a little bit concerned about what’s going to happen to many of us.”

Congress spent the past few months focused on healthcare reform and a tax bill, but there has been little movement on creating a new DREAM Act, which would provide citizenship to people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The legislature is also halfway to Trump’s March 5 deadline to pass a bill to help the 800,000 DACA recipients
in the country.

“To think about it is completely frustrating because this is our lives,” Lopez said. “The only thing that many of us want is just the opportunity to have a work permit that is never going to end.”

The Hispanic Alliance hosted a DACA Summit on Saturday with speakers including Mayor Steve Adler and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, to discuss the future of DACA recipients and the DREAM Act.

“This (immigration) debate scares me because it is not our country or our state at its best,” Adler said. “It is not
our better self.”

During a panel on the DREAM Act, O’Rourke said with budget negotiations going on to fund the government for the next nine months, it is the perfect time to try and leverage support for the DREAM Act.

“This is the most encouraging place we’ve been at since (former) President Obama announced DACA, and it’s going to happen legislatively,” O’Rourke said. “It’s going to have the power of law, and it’s not up to the whims of whoever happens to be president at the time.”

Tension between members of Congress and the Trump administration has stalled the bill’s progress, such as when congressional Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi canceled a meeting with Trump to discuss avoiding a government shutdown this coming Friday when the budget runs out. The cancellation followed a tweet by Trump targeting Schumer and Pelosi.

“Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working,” Trump said in a tweet. “Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked … I don’t see a deal!”

Even with the strained relations between Democrats and Trump, O’Rourke said he still thinks there is hope because there is bipartisan support to help DACA recipients. O’Rourke said the most important issue is to ensure passage of a “clean” DREAM Act, a bill providing a path to citizenship for DACA recipients without forcing them to relinquish rights traditionally given to legal immigrants, such as the ability to use their legal status to bring over family members.

“There is this thing that resides within the Democratic party at our worst where we try to concede something we don’t believe in in hopes we’re going to get something big that we really care about,” O’Rourke said. “We’ve got to cut that out.”

Government sophomore Vanessa Rodriguez, also a DACA recipient, said she has been saving as much money as possible, not knowing how much longer she will be able to work. Rodriguez also said she has abandoned plans to take a break from working her junior year because she wants to prepare in case she loses her work permit.

“There is that fear from a lot of people that if we don’t get it done this December, it is very unlikely that it will be done by March,” Rodriguez said. “It’s even scarier than finals.”