Local dreamers hope congress can pass 'Clean Dream Act' before end of year
Rallies are taking place across the country to protect 'dreamers,' undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. One of those gatherings was in our region, Wednesday night.
This comes three months after President Donald Trump announced his plan to end DACA, an Obama-era immigration policy.
DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It started in 2012 and protects an estimated 800,000 people from deportation.
Right now, congress is debating a new Clean Dream Act, which would give young illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
Many dreamers have no memory of coming to America.
"I came to the U.S. when I was a year and a half," Karla Jimenez said.
"I was a year old," Randy Huerta said. "I've lived in Tennessee my whole life."
But since then, their future has been uncertain.
"We were kind of in limbo," Jimenez said. "Basically we didn't know what our future would look like."
Jimenez recently graduated from Tennessee College of Applied Technology and plans to be a nurse. Huerta is taking classes at Milligan College and Northeast State Community College. He is pursuing an engineering degree.
While DACA allowed young illegal immigrants to go to school and work in the U.S., it did not grant them the status they desperately needed.
"DACA was able to help us greatly, but a pathway to citizenship would be a permanent solution," Jimenez said.
"That's what's holding a lot of dreamers back because they're not able to live to their full potential," Huerta added.
And that's what the new Clean Dream Act would fix.
"This is an issue we can solve and I'm heartened to see the discussion reaching a boil," Virginia senator Tim Kaine said on the senate floor. "I'm heartened to see bipartisan support for these dreamers."
It's a promising stride for thousands across the country who don't want to see their dreams come to an end.
"We are always engaged in the community," ETSU professor and ally of dreamers, Mildred Maisonet said. "We care for our families and that's the foundation of what this country is all about."
Congress has until March to take action. But many dreamers said that may be too late because their DACA applications expire at the end of the year.