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August 15, 2017

The Hill: On the Five year anniversary of DACA, let’s put those in the program on a path to citizenship


Five years ago this morning, Fernando Navarrete came out of the shadows.

Before, he lived in constant fear of deportation to Mexico, a country he left at age 6 and barely remembered.

Then came Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program to suspend the deportation of people brought here before age 16. Young men and women known as Dreamers from across the country did what Navarrete did on that summer 2012 day and applied for DACA as soon as the federal government began accepting applications.

I’m a daughter of immigrants from Mexico. These issues hit home for me—my family, like many Latino families, has Dreamers in it. Five years ago on the first day of DACA, it easily could have been me applying to get a deferral and a work permit. The line separating me and Dreamers is pretty thin. Today, as a member of Congress, I worry for all the Dreamers, for their futures and their aspirations. Each has a story. Navarrete graduated from Cal State Dominguez Hills, landed a job at a start-up and has mentored high school students.

Nearly 800,000 people have benefited from DACA. Today we’re commemorating that first day of freedom. Rallies across the nation will remind the Trump administration that Dreamers aren’t going anywhere. They won’t let the pre-dawn immigration raids scare them. They won’t let scapegoating or insults drive them back. They are here to stay.

DACA has let Dreamers plan their future and contribute to their families and communities. In turn, our nation has benefited.

Take Roque Pech, who came to this country at the age of 3. He lives in Wilmington, where he was raised by Mexican parents.

Pech is a teacher. I was honored to invite him to Washington, D.C. to attend Trump’s January address to a joint session of Congress. I thought it was important for Trump to see the face of one of the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who continue to make our country better.

Pech spent two years teaching math in public schools. He coached middle school football, and spent time after school tutoring kids falling behind on their classwork.

Today he works at a non-profit teaching other teachers how to integrate technology into the classroom. He volunteers Saturdays to help South Los Angeles high school kids get ready for college. He sits on the Wilmington Neighborhood Council. He is the essence of the engaged and active community leader that America needs. He doesn’t deserve to live under a daily threat of exile. No Dreamer does.

In America, we believe that individuals write their own destiny, and we provide people the tools to become their best selves.

That’s why I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of legislation that would protect the immigration status of Dreamers. The American Hope Act would put Dreamers living in the United States as of December 2016 on a path to citizenship. It isn’t an “amnesty” bill—each application would continue to be scrutinized for criminal history, public safety or national security threats.

The American Hope Act is the tool Dreamers need and deserve to continue being productive, positive members of society.

If you agree, make your voice heard, whether you’re a Dreamer, know a Dreamer, or simply think Dreamers should be allowed to build their lives in peace.

Nanette Diaz Barragán is proud to represent California’s 44th District, which includes the communities of Carson, Compton, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate, Walnut Park, Watts, Willowbrook and Wilmington