“DAPA Dinner” events are continuing to roll in, as Florida State Senator Darren Soto has announced that he will break bread with five immigrant families this Sunday as part of the ongoing campaign to discuss how DAPA and DACA+ would impact the lives of immigrant families across the US.
We’ve been absolutely floored with the positive reaction to the dinners and the support we’ve gotten from elected leaders and candidates who want to know first-hand how DAPA and DACA+ — currently on hold due to a political lawsuit from the Republican Governors and Attorneys General from 26 states — would affect the lives of millions of immigrants.
And, as the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments this month, with a decision to come some time in late June, it’s important now more than ever to hear these stories.
In November, former Maryland Governor and Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley kicked off the campaign in Austin, Texas. Governor O’Malley’s dinner with the Ramirez family was historic — the first time to our knowledge that a Presidential candidate has visited the home of a family headed by undocumented immigrants.
“We should listen to our principles and the principles of our country,” Governor O’Malley told the mixed-status family. “In our country, we should not be breaking families up and tearing families apart.”
The dinner turned emotional when 13-year-old Abigail, a United States citizens, described living in fear that her parents would be deported: “I live in constant fear of coming home from school and not being able to see my family, not knowing if I’m ever going to see them again,” she told Governor O’Malley.
A few days later, Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) became the first member of the House — and first sitting elected official — to break bread with a DAPA-eligible family, sitting down with the Solorio family of Phoenix to hear how DAPA would impact their family.
“DAPA would help us so much,” the family’s matriarch, Felipa, told Rep. Gallego. “And not just us, but many of our friends. There are many, many families. I have a three year old. It would be traumatic for him to be separated from his siblings.”
“We need DAPA so families like the Solorios can stay together, stay engaged in their communities, and live without fear,” Representative Gallego said.
At the end of November, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) became the first sitting member of the United States Senate to join the DAPA Dinner campaign, sitting with the Ramirez family of Chicago.
Senator Durbin heard firsthand how involved this family has been in their community, with Maria working as a stay-at-home mom and dad Jose in a factory. During the past few years, Maria has become involved with the Resurrection Project through the Parent Mentorship program, where she volunteers to help parents get involved in their children’s education. She further works to improve her community and neighborhood by serving on the board of her local park district, as well.
“DAPA and DACA will help ensure that families are not torn apart because of our broken immigration system,” commented Senator Durbin.
In early December, Representative Bill Foster (D-IL) became the second member of the House of Representatives to share a meal with a DAPA family, sitting with the Flores family of Bolingbrook. Dad Pedro has lived in the US since 1990 is married to a US citizen, and together they have three children.
Pedro expressed fear to Rep. Foster of being separated from his children and family, and said that the implementation of DAPA, which he is eligible for, would help keep his family together.
“DAPA and the DACA expansion would provide temporary relief for families stuck in our broken immigration system through deferred action programs,” said Rep. Foster. “These actions would prevent millions of families from being torn apart, provide visas for highly-skilled workers, and give many immigrants relief from the fear of deportation.”
The next week, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) became the second 2016 Presidential candidate to become a part of the campaign, joining DREAMers, refugees from El Salvador and Bangladesh, an undocumented transgender woman, and parents eligible for relief from deportation under DAPA.
“The vast majority of people in this country are rejecting the outrageous idea, the un-American idea, that somehow we’re going to sweep out in the middle of the night, nine to 11 million people and throw them out of the country,” said Senator Sanders. “Very few people think that is right, is what America is about, or is what we should be doing.”
Later in December, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton became the third 2016 Presidential candidate to meet with DAPA-eligible immigrants, sitting with the Suarez family of Long Island. The family — consisting of two DREAMers, a parent with Temporary Protected States, and one other parent eligible for DAPA — gave her a letter asking her to continue supporting immigrant families.
“On behalf of all immigrant families, we ask you to remember our story as you go through this campaign,” read their letter.
Secretary Clinton’s meeting with the Suarez family marked another important turning point in our movement for immigration reform, as the first time the entire Democratic Presidential field has met with immigrant families.
In January, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) rang in the first DAPA Dinner of 2016, meeting with Nevadans and immigrant leaders eligible for DAPA and expanded DACA.
“Today I heard from families who should be enjoying peace of mind but instead continue to live in constant fear of being separated because of an unfair, politically motivated lawsuit,” said Senator Reid.
“President Obama only took executive action on immigration after an extensive analysis by the Department of Justice determined that he was well within his constitutional authority. I am confident that if the Supreme Court decides to take up this case, it will overturn the previous rulings by lower courts, and these programs will take effect.”
In February, families from Lorain, Ohio brought together community and faith leaders to ask the state’s leaders, Governor John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine, to remove Ohio from the lawsuit blocking the implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA.
Speaking on behalf of his family, Salvador Calderon described how the simple act of being able to get a driver’s license, for DAPA-eligible immigrants, “would allow us to leave behind our invisibility and finally come out of the shadows.” Lorain Police Chief Celestino Rivera also spoke at the event in support of the community’s immigrant families, saying that “in the end you’re going to win because your cause is just.”
And earlier this week, Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) became the third member of the House of Representatives to add his name to the DAPA Dinner campaign, sitting with the Pinto family for a meal.
“We hope that through this dinner and this conversation, my family and I can really share with him the importance that it is for the Supreme Court to remove the hold from DAPA and DACA expansion, especially because my parents will be benefitting from this executive action,” said Ambar, the family’s daughter and a DREAMer, before the meal.
“We live every day in fear, when we leave the house, we don’t know if we’ll ever come back,” the family’s father told Rep. Beyer during the dinner. “We do everything like citizens — we pay taxes, we follow the law. But we dont have the rights.”
Rep. Beyer expressed his support for both immigration reform and protecting DAPA and expanded DACA, saying that “America should welcome and support families like this. Congress should be helping to encourage and protect them.”
Continuing to lift up the stories of DAPA-eligible families through a DAPA Dinner could really help in telling the Supreme Court and other observers how important DAPA and DACA+ are to our communities, and to demonstrate how immigrant families are just like any other American family. If you are interested in hosting your own DAPA Dinner before the Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on April 18th, click here to let us know.