Local DACA advocates urge Congress to pass Dream Act this month

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and their supporters are sending a strong message to Congress: pass the Dream Act this month.

Nearly 800,000 recipients, including almost 8,000 Wisconsinites, are waiting to see if they will be able to continue living and working in the United States without fear of deportation.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin was in Washington D.C. on Wednesday for a Day of Action rally with thousands of advocates lobbying for the Dream Act.

“We believe that families should stick together and hard work should be rewarded. That is why we need to create a common sense immigration process and a road map to citizenship,” said Gloria Reyes, deputy mayor for public safety, civil rights and community services.

An estimated 1.7 million undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S as children would qualify for the Dream Act. It would give those eligible a path to citizenship without putting their undocumented parents at risk.

“Right now, about 122 people are losing their status every day, people like me,” said Erica Rosales.

Rosales, a graduate student at UW-Milwaukee and an employee at UW-Madison, was raised in Madison from age 12. She is sharing her story and doing everything she can to get the Dream Act passed.

“In order to get where I’m at, if it wasn’t for DACA, I wouldn’t be here,” Rosales said.

In September, the Trump Administration ended the Obama-era program, giving Congress six months to agree on a replacement.

On Tuesday, more than 30 Republicans in Congress sent a co-signed letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, urging him to allow a vote on a permanent solution for Dreamers by the end of the year.

Some representatives have suggested they won’t support spending bills without a deal for young immigrants.

“I have not been able to put my full focus in the classroom because I’m thinking, what if this is the last time that I’ll be here,” said local DACA student Alondra Quechol.

Each day a solution is not passed, Dreamers remain unsure of their future.

The Center for American Progress estimates losing DACA workers would result in a more than $427 million annual GDP loss in Wisconsin.

“Policies protecting innocent immigrants from mass detention and deportation by federal immigration agents keeps our communities safe and stable,” Reyes said.

Local supporters said the timeline is short and this month is pivotal.

“Call your local representative, call Speaker Paul Ryan and let them know passage of a clean Dream Act is now essential, that the future of the state is now up to him, that we are watching. Immigrants are the fastest growing community and we are here to stay,” said Karen Menendez Coller, executive director of Centro Hispano.