WASHINGTON – Two years after an Obama-era executive order offering protection for immigrants brought to the US illegally as children was rescinded, court battles and politics have kept the future and fate of 700,000 so-called Dreamers in question.
Now, a group of lawmakers believes DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) could be the answer to ending the government shutdown and addressing border security.
“It’s gotta be wall plus something else,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters. He doubled down on that offer Sunday in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
According to Graham, that “something else” could include legal work permits for Dreamers.
He’s not alone. Rev. Sammy Rodriguez, a member of the president’s evangelical council, declared, “The time is now, fund the wall and give us DACA!”
That’s a tough pill for conservatives who say it’s too close to amnesty and Democrats who offered a similar deal last year the White House ultimately rejected.
Graham reminded his colleagues across the aisle that this is something they said they wanted – to help DACA recipients.
“The DACA population came here on average at the age of six. If you told them to go back home, they’d go to the house they were raised in,” Graham said.
Claudette Monroy, an immigrant who came to the US as a teen on a tourist visa, echoed that sentiment.
“Where could I go? I don’t even know,” said Monroy, who calls the nation’s capital home.
“My dad passed away; my mom started working and trying to provide for my family. I ended up having to drop out of school in 5th grade to be able to stay home with my little sister,” she told CBN News.
Her road to opportunity hit a wall when she learned the reality of her legal status years later.
Then President Obama opened a door for people like her to legally live and work here – a move critics view as controversial and a gross example of unconstitutional overreach.
Nevertheless, Monroy took advantage of the opportunity and paid the nearly $500 fee. She has paid that fee and renewed her permit every two years ever since.
“I had this amazing thing for a few years of my life and then it can just be taken away,” Monroy lamented.
Throughout the years, many have asked her why she didn’t pursue citizenship.
“Sadly, if people look into immigration, there is not a path to citizenship,” she explained.
According to Matthew Soerens of World Relief, the road from immigrant to citizen is a bit more complex for Dreamers.
“To become a citizen of the United States, you first have to become a lawful permanent resident, which means you have a Green Card,” Soerens told CBN News.
“There are particular ways to apply for a green card: through a family sponsor, through an employer sponsor, if you are very highly educated, if you are granted refugee status having fled persecution,” he continued.
“Most people who we now consider Dreamers never fit into one of those categories,” he explained.
Monroy knows she’s a success story, an illegal immigrant with a college degree and job she loves. She credits Christians for helping her along the way.
“I’ve been hearing a lot about in the news or in social media, people talk about the people and the families, especially the mothers that try to come into the US right now have low literacy levels and don’t have skills,” she began.
“For me, I think that what made the difference was the people that came around me, the Christian families,” she recalled.
They were Christian families that helped her apply to college and find scholarships for undocumented immigrants. She eventually became a Christian herself.
Monroy says she still believes both sides will come around.
“I go on prayer walks around our city, prayer walks around the capitol and the White House. Sometimes I feel like I can’t do anything, but God can,” she said.
So far, Democrats have shown little interest in including DACA in shutdown negotiations.
President Donald Trump tweeted, “Democrats are saying that DACA is not worth it and don’t want to include in talks. Many Hispanics will be coming over to the Republican side, watch!”
However, the back and forth between the White House’s official position on DACA and the wall has been unclear.
Last week, Vice President Mike Pence announced to reporters DACA would not be on the negotiating table until the Supreme Court weighs in. “We feel confident the Supreme Court will find DACA to have been unconstitutional,” said Pence.
The president has repeated the same statement in recent weeks.