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In Search of Heroes in Congress to Pass DREAM Act

by Voto Latino | 3.27.18

Originally published in The Hill

By Diane Guerrero, Opinion Contributor — 09/12/17

I grew up in Boston, where I was surrounded by the richness of American history. On its cobblestoned streets stand monuments and historic structures that tell stories of leaders who had the courage to defend freedom as they founded our nation. They are our heroes.

Today, we are desperately in need of new political heroes.

We have a president who preaches the “rule of law” but pardons former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, who was voted out of office and then convicted in federal court related to charges of violating the U.S. Constitution by racially profiling Latinos like me.

Next, President Trump performed perhaps the cruelest act I have ever seen committed by an American president by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which included almost 800,000 participants. Unless Congress stops him, Trump and the anti-immigrant politicians and base he represents will be ending the American lives of young adults who are contributing to our country.

It is up to all of us to stop this political madness. We need to dedicate ourselves, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month, to rising up and demanding an end to cruelty to show that we deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

For years, the so-called Dreamers have been my heroes. When I was afraid to speak out on behalf of immigrants’ rights — for my parents, in particular — they gave me courage. I saw their growing political strength through public protests that put them at risk of deportation, and I thought: They are undocumented and unafraid. I am a U.S. citizen, and I must no longer be afraid.

As the citizen daughter of Colombian immigrants, our family lived the double life of embracing our American existence in Boston while hiding the fact that my parents and older brother did not have legal status. After failed attempts to rectify their status, my father used what little savings he had to make monthly payments to a lawyer who was helping us — but the lawyer scammed us. I will never forget going with my father to visit the attorney, only to find an empty office and the nameplate gone, along with our money. It was heartbreaking and, unfortunately, all too common.

During my freshman year in high school, my family was deported. When politicians talk about immigration, they focus on the politics more than the affected families. I assure you, the impact is great. The family unit comes to an end when it is separated, and the financial, emotional and scholastic lives of children are shaken.

As my acting career took off, I avoided interviews out of fear of being asked about my family background in the midst of the hateful political climate. With inspiration from Dreamers, I found my voice on behalf of immigrants’ rights and Latino civic engagement.

When it comes to Congress, I do not pretend to be an expert. But here is what I know.

First, destroying the lives of DACA recipients is 800,000 times what happened to me but worse. My family was torn apart because of Congress’s failures to update the immigration system in a just and fair way. Not the Trump way of building border walls, funding a massive deportation force and reducing the legal visas, but in a way that speaks to the reality of our diverse nation that benefits greatly from the presence of immigrants. Ending DACA would cost us $460.3 billion in lost economic growth over the next decade.

Second, I am a voter — and an outspoken one — and like all voters, I want Congress to do its job. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act needs to be passed by the House and Senate now. Not next month, and certainly not next year. Voters, including the overwhelming majority who do not want Dreamers deported, are tired of childish threats about government shutdowns and reading tweets divorced from reality.

Pass the DREAM Act on its own, without any additional baggage like a border wall that will be an ugly monument to Trump’s anti-immigrant legacy. Pass the DREAM Act with the urgency you are applying to fund hurricane recovery and relief. Remember that hurricanes are acts of God, but ending DACA is a political disaster that only Congress can fix.

Third, we are watching. During Hispanic Heritage Month, I will be part of a campaign called RISE: Register to vote. Ignite community involvement. Strive to grow our political power. Engage by becoming citizens and mobilizing others to get involved. We are ready to hold you accountable, now and next year, when you stand for reelection.

This is your chance to rise with us and show that you are on our side, the side that seeks morally right legislative solutions. Show that you have the courage exemplified by our founding fathers.

Diane Guerrero is an actor and author of her memoir, “In The Country We Love,” and partners with Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Mi Familia Vota and New American Leaders Project. The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Voto Latino

Written by Voto Latino

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  • Maddie

    To The People of America: Please call your representatives and LIKE & SHARE if you are with me! If we really want to Make America Great #MAGA how about thinking about UNITY? I NEED YOU to take 3 minutes to make your voice heard PLEASE CALL THE NUMBER IN PURPLE BELOW. (1-877-764-1010) All you need to say is “Hi, my name is ———— and I DEMAND a clean Dream Act before the end of the year. Thank you for listening to my call.” This is about so much more than my job as a Spanish Teacher and my degree in Spanish/Latin American studies. This is about the America your children are growing up/will grow up in. This is about the US Economy. This is about innocent children/refugees being stripped of their families and sent to detention centers which are borderline CONCENTRATION CAMPS. Immigrants and #DREAMERS in the USA have and will continue to stimulate our economy. Many of them fleeing extreme poverty, gangs and drugs. (NOT bringing it with them.) They are doing the jobs many of my peers are “too good” or “too educated” or in my opinion too self righteous to do. They are tending to your landscaping, your roof, plowing the snow out of your roads, taking care of your children, cleaning our offices and houses, business owners putting those deliciously sizzling Fajitas on your plate, they are translators negotiating foreign business and so much more. And did you forget? They are buying groceries, paying the internet and television companies, buying gifts for their loved ones all while paying the same tax that you do. What’s the difference? What’s more? They’ve been contributing to Medicare, Social Security and more all the while knowing that none of that tax will benefit them personally. And let’s face it, the USA, while I am blessed and patriotic about most colors of our flag, let us not forget our nations true history. The red in our flag stands from blood shed. Let us not forget OUR soil was first The Aztecs, Mexicas (No, that is not a typo- said Me-she-Kuh), Lakota, Dakota, Cheyanne and many more cultures and peoples that are (devastatingly) being forgotten and left behind. Their peoples were rapped, massacres and victims of genocide and appropriation. I could go on, but do I need to? WAKE UP AMERICA! White people (myself) your family are Immigrants! We are a land of immigrants with a complicated, tragic history. Still, we have the potential to work together and make our country see and appreciate all of the BEAUTIFUL, DIVERSE COLORS AND STORIES OF OUR SKIN. Let’s work to be the UNITED states of America. Our #Dreamers are within these United States. DIVERSITY IS HERE TO STAY. OUR DREAMERS ARE #HERETOSTAY. HOW TO #MAGA MAKE AMERICA GREAT? Love, understanding multiple perspectives and history, and a #CLEANDREAMACTNOW.