DACA recipients to Congress: Act now before it's too late
Edilsa Lopez says she’s exhausted. Like others who came to the U.S. as children and now have temporary protections to live and work in the country, the 30-year-old is tired of waiting on Congress to act.
“We are already like U.S. residents that we pay our taxes,” said Lopez, who came from Guatemala when she was 12. “We work here. We went to college here. We're parents now, and we have children to take care of. So, it is terrible to live in uncertainty.”
Lopez, who lives in Austin and is an accountant, is one of nearly 600,000 individuals enrolled in the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Another 400,000 or so immigrants are eligible but unable to enroll due to ongoing legal challenges to the program.
On Wednesday, she and other DACA recipients from around the country will meet with Congressional leaders and staff to share their stories and urge them to adopt legislation that would give them permanent protections from deportation.
DACA recipients and advocates worry that if Congress doesn’t act during the lame duck session, the program — which is only a temporary measure — will end up getting axed.
After a series of rulings, the case is back with U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas, who many believe will rule against the program again. If so, the case would likely return to the Supreme Court.
“This is my third time in D.C. flying to meet with congressmen from both sides of the aisle and they just keep on talking and talking,” said Diego Corzo, 32, of Austin. “I think it’s time that they finally put an importance to find a solution — a long-term solution — for the DACA recipients, for the Dreamers, so that we stop living in limbo.”
Corzo was 9 when he and his family came to the U.S. from Peru looking for better economic opportunities. He graduated third in his high school class, graduated from college with two degrees and now works as a Realtor and real estate investor. Corzo said he bought his first property when he was 23 and now, ten years later, he owns around 60 properties.
“I am just one story and I believe DACA recipients are an asset to this country,” Corzo said. “Some people think that DACA recipients don’t pay taxes, that we’re not supporting the economy and that we’re here for a free ride. And that’s not true.”
According to the Center for American Progress, which bills itself as an independent, nonpartisan policy institute, DACA recipients in Texas pay an estimated $782 million in federal taxes and about $436 million in state and local taxes.
A perilous journey to Texas
For Lopez, when she thinks about her DACA status, she remembers the perilous journey she made with mom as a child. At one point, she was separated from her mom and the group she was traveling with. She was kidnapped and held in someone’s house until she managed to escape, later reuniting with her mom with the help of a stranger.
Despite that experience, Lopez said she and her family felt they had no choice but to leave their country of Guatemala. There they lived in extreme poverty and with a physically abusive father.
“I consider myself like a survivor, surviving many things that could have taken my life away, that could have taken my dreams away,” she said. “And today, you know, I’m a college graduate and I’m also a mother who has worked really hard to get to where I am.”
Lopez said she wants members of Congress to understand the emotional rollercoaster she and others have been on.
“But it also gives us fear and uncertainty about planning our future,” she said. “It makes us believe that we have no future here.”
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