Some Dreamers – immigrants who were brought to America illegally as children – are threatening to leave the country if Congress doesn’t ink a deal to revive protections provided by former president Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
President Trump canceled the program, which Obama created through questionable executive action, in an effort to pressure Congress into finding a permanent fix for the roughly 700,000 young adults currently protected from deportation. Trump announced in September that the program will end on March 5, giving lawmakers several months to craft a deal.
At his State of the Union address, Trump offered to provide a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers – those eligible for the current program – in exchange for $25 billion in funding for border security and construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
As the deadline nears, and folks like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi grandstand on the issue, some Dreamers currently protected by DACA are threatening to leave if Congress doesn’t act soon.
Alex and Daniela Velez told CNN Money that Alex’s DACA status expires on March 6, and if there’s no deal, they’re gone.
“I will leave. I will leave America as soon as possible,” said Alex, a 19-year-old community college student who works at the clothing store Forever 21. “I want to be able to leave on my terms. I’m not going to be waiting for anyone to come for me.”
The girls came to America from Venezuela to escape the country’s oppressive socialist government, when Alex was four and Daniela was nine.
“When Hugo Chavez became president in the late 1990s, things started to change and become difficult for the middle class,” Daniella told CNN Money.
The girls gained DACA status in their teens, which allowed them to obtain driver’s licenses, jobs, and attend community college. Daniela’s DACA protections don’t expire until 2019, but she plans to leave the U.S. with her sister if Congress doesn’t act to extend her privileges before the March deadline.
“Daniella and I will go to Ecuador and start over with my family there,” Alex said. “At least we will feel safe with family by our side.”
“It’s not right,” she said. “After all these years living like a regular American teenager, I will not go back into hiding.”
White House chief of staff John Kelly, meanwhile, assured the Associated Press that DACA recipients without criminal records “are not a priority for deportation” if the deadline expires.
The threats to leave America come as Pelosi performed an hours-long speech for the House this week in an effort to stall a Senate approved budget and press for a DACA deal, Fox News reports.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer described the Senate bill, crafted with bi-partisan support, as the “best thing” lawmakers could come up with for the middle class.
“The budget deal doesn’t have everything Democrats want, it doesn’t have everything the Republicans want, but it has a great deal of what the American people want,” Schumer announced on the Senate floor.
Apparently, it doesn’t have what Nancy Pelosi wants.
The budget deal, necessary to avert another government shutdown, “does not have my support, nor does it have the support of a large numbers of members of our caucus” of Democrats, she said.