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Tell your Senators to make DACA permanent!

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By Joyce Anderson, JONAH

(*Much of following narrative is borrowed from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Immigration Advocacy. Perhaps your faith community has similar resources.)

The future of thousands of young adults has been impacted by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program made in June 2020. However, legislation is needed to ensure lasting protection for these undocumented young people who arrived in the U.S. as children.

The House passed the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, H.R.6, on June 4th of 2019, but the bill has languished in the Senate. This is why we ask that you turn your attention now to your Senators, and urge them to stand in support of young adult immigrants by supporting legislative protection for DACA recipients generally and the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, H.R.6, specifically.

photo courtesy of Wikipedia – people holding signs “Defend DACA Defent Dreamers”

Background The Dream and Promise Act of 2019, H.R. 6, would provide conditional permanent resident status and a roadmap to lawful permanent resident status and, eventually, U.S. citizenship for immigrant youth who entered the U.S. before age 18, have four or more years of residency, and graduated from high school (or the equivalent). The bill also would provide an opportunity for people who currently have or who may be eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and have three or more years of residence in the U.S. to apply for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status and, eventually, U.S. citizenship. Data indicates that the young people protected by this bill contribute yearly $42 billion U.S. dollars to the country’s GDP, they pay $5.7 billion in federal taxes, and during this pandemic, more than 27,000 DACA recipients have been in the frontlines working as healthcare workers. They are veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes and communities.

********* ACTION ********

WE NEED YOU TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Advancing House action that passed its version of the Dream and Promise Act, we ask you to stand in solidarity with immigrants and their families by sending a message to your Senators. Request this by personalizing the letter below with your understanding and faith-based convictions, asking that they support H.R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act of 2019.

Calling is always more impactful, but below are scripts for both calling and email.

FIND YOUR SENATOR HERE: https://legis.wisconsin.gov

Phone Call talking points:

Hello, my name is ________. I am a member of [name your congregation and/or an affiliate of Gamaliel, JONAH.  I am a registered voter in Senator Johnson/Baldwin’s District.

I care about DACA and strongly support  the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (HJR6 that passed the House on June 4th of 2019)

— I  believe no matter where someone came from or how they arrived, their life is of value and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect — free to live without fear of being separated from their loved ones or displaced from their home.

–I urge  SenatorJohnson/Baldwin to :

1.  Support and pass H.R.6, “Dream and Promise Act of 2019, without the addition of more detention, deportation, and border militarization plans; and

2.  Continue to work towards larger legislative reform of our immigration laws that stand by the sanctity of family unity and community wholeness in this country.

Email talking points:

I write to express my strong support for the “Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6)” that passed the House on June 4th of 2019. 

Like many other people of faith, I believe no matter where someone came from or how they arrived, their life is of value and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect — free to live without fear of being separated from their loved ones or displaced from their home.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program that has benefited nearly 800,000 young people by ensuring that recipients will not be deported at any time to a country they do not know and be separated from their families. 

I urge you to:

1.         Support and pass H.R.6, “Dream and Promise Act of 2019, without the addition of more detention, deportation, and border militarization plans.; and

2.         Continue to work towards larger legislative reform of our immigration laws that stand by the sanctity of family unity and community wholeness in this country.

PERSONALIZE your email or phone call: 

Local Relevance:

— There are young people in our community, who have grown up with our children, who would like to apply for DACA; however, despite the Supreme Court Ruling, Homeland Security is not currently processing new applicants.  There is uncertainty that the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 could clear up.

— We know from young DACA recipients in the Chippewa Valley, that DACA has been life changing for them and their families.   Here is a story of one neighbor:

One of the things Luis loves about the Latino community in Eau Claire is the strong social network that enabled him to quickly find a new job. In 2009, started working for a local construction company. It was hard, physical work, and the pay was low. It wasn’t his dream job—he’d dreamed of going to school to become a social worker or defense attorney—but Luis is “hungry,” always looking for new opportunities. In three years he moved from an entry-level laborer to a manager of a team of seven. Then, in 2012, something happened that changed the course of his life.

That “something” was a government program, DACA. The acronym might mean little to citizens but these four letters can mean everything for people like Luis and his brothers.  DACA, or “deferred action for childhood arrivals,” was created by an executive order from the Obama administration. It allowed people who’d come to the US illegally as children to obtain temporary, two-year work permits, social security numbers and driver’s licenses. These immigrant children, or “dreamers,” often know no other home beyond the U.S.  To be eligible for DACA, dreamers had to prove they had no serious criminal history and that they were high school graduates or currently enrolled in school. They also had to pay a $500 processing fee, as well as associated attorneys’ fees (typically between $500-$1000). 

DACA meant Luis could leave the construction company and get a better-paying job working as a teller at a local bank. His brothers, along with 7,000 other Wisconsin Dreamers, also received DACA; one now works for the same bank, another for a local healthcare system. They all have driver’s licenses. Luis can now drive to work, the farmer’s market, or to his volunteer gigs without fear. In the years since he received DACA, Luis has thrived in his new career. 

Luis now manages the teller line, and when the manager isn’t in, he manages the branch. He completed his general education requirements at CVTC and began taking classes at UWEC. As a DACA recipient, however, he wasn’t considered an “in-state” student. He had to pay tuition and fees as an international student. He found it frustrating that though he and his parents were taxpayers, he wasn’t eligible for in-state tuition like everyone else. He considers the financial barriers to higher education for DACA and undocumented students to be a waste of talent and a waste of taxpayers’ investment in K-12 education.

Still, DACA has had a powerful, positive effect on Luis’s life—and he’s not the only area immigrant to have flourished under this program. DACA enables people to dream and invest in their futures and in their communities. As Gabriela pointed out, “can you even plan for your education, your career” if you don’t know if you will be able to stay in the U.S.? She added that it’s not just DACA recipients who benefit from this ability to plan: businesses benefit from the hundreds of thousands of dreamers they employ.

(Emily Anderson’s interview with Luis)