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Dreamers Break Bread With Tallahassee Mayor Gillum, Who Pledges Support in Fight for DACA

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Dreamers and advocates hosted the latest Dreamer Dinner last night in Tallahassee, Florida with Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Terry Coonan, a law professor at Florida State University (FSU).

The Dreamers in attendance included Daniela Donoso, who led the student group Advocates for Immigrant and Refugee Rights during her time at FSU and won the 2015 Global Citizen Award; Maria Juliana Rodriguez, who has lived in the US since she was five and hopes to attend law school in Washington, DC in order to pursue her interest in human rights and social justice; Maria del Pilar Rodriguez., who is currently an undergrad at FSU and hopes to pursue a career in dentistry and work with Doctors Without Borders; Juan Rodriguez, who is studying political science at FSU with the dream of one day holding public office; and our own Juan Escalante, who is Digital Campaigns Manager here at America’s Voice.

Over guacamole, salsa, and Spanish music, the Dreamers spoke about what it’s like to grow up undocumented and how much DACA has changed their lives. The three Rodriguez siblings spoke about how their parents pushed them to succeed and go to college — even so, obtaining driver’s licenses, finding resources for applying to school, and obtaining scholarships were difficult, until DACA allowed them to legally work and earn money for tuition. Juan Rodriguez is the father of a baby girl, and fears what will happen if DACA ends and he faces deportation, separating his new family. Daniela spoke about a moment she still remembers from high school — when her teacher told her to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, and she had to tell her teacher that she didn’t have a social security number.

Mayor Gillum was supportive and understanding throughout the dinner, and recommitted to helping immigrants and refugees in Tallahassee. Gillum has worked to make Tallahassee a welcoming place for refugees, even defying Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott when Scott wanted to close the state off. The Mayor made clear that he does not want local police to act as ICE agents, in order to better preserve the relationship between police and the immigrant community. (Leon County, which encompasses Tallahassee, only obeys ICE detainers when accompanied with a court order from a judge.) And Gillum thanked everyone for being so brave, sharing their stories, and being on the front lines of the fight against Donald Trump’s mass deportation agenda. As he said in a statement afterward:

DACA has shielded nearly 800,000 DREAMers from deportation, while providing them with the opportunity to work and contribute to their communities. I call on President Trump to keep DACA in place until Congress acts in a bipartisan way to protect these young, aspiring Americans.

Dreamers and advocates are continuing to count down until September 5, the deadline that has been given to the Trump Administration to make a decision about whether to keep DACA. DACA is a program which has helped almost 800,000 young immigrants over five years by allowing them to work in the country legally and live without fear of deportation. Without DACA, Dreamers all over the country will lose the massive ground they have gained since the program was put in place, and face deportation from the only home they’ve ever known. Our Dreamer Dinner series are intended to help spread the word about DACA, explain why it’s crucial, and build up support for Dreamers. Help us by hosting your own Dreamer Dinner today.

View photos from yesterday’s dinner below: