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ICYMI: University of Cincinnati student feels like a pawn

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Cleveland, OH – A Cincinnati Enquirer piece by Mark Curnutte highlights the story of 21-year-old Ohio DACA recipient Laura Mendez, who faced with the Trump administration’s threats to DACA sees herself as “a game piece on a board, moved from square to square by politicians who are controlled by powerful, faceless special interests and their lobbyists.” Mendez, who is a senior at University of Cincinnati and carries a 3.85 GPA, has met with lawmakers to advocate for Dreamers following the Trump Administration’s decision to end the successful and popular program that protects nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation.

Excerpts from Mendez’s interview with The Enquirer are below. Find the piece in its entirety here.

Enquirer: Other than the collegiality with other Dreamers and your frustration with political gridlock, what was Washington like for you?

Mendez: It was very personal for me. I was visualizing myself being there, whether I’d be working at the national level or being involved in an internship for the city of Cincinnati. I am interested in education or becoming a professor within the political science department. I am covering all my bases. I’ve been that way since high school. I have to.

Enquirer: Dreamers are roughly just 800,000 of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States. What was your message to national lawmakers?

Mendez: Even though there is an urgency to do something about us, the problem doesn’t stop at Dreamers, whom some people would describe as the “cream of the crop.” That doesn’t count all of the other people who have contributed. We need legislation that keeps the conversation going. If this gets used as an opportunity to say, “We’ll give this to just a few,” but they end up hurting the rest of the community, it doesn’t fix the problem. There are still 11 million of us. There will always be 11 million of us.

I think we’re at a point where people understand the economics and what happens if all these people become undocumented. But what gets lost is the humanity of the situation. And that is worrisome.

Enquirer: How would you describe life under DACA?

Mendez: One of the things people don’t understand is that we had to undergo background checks and pay hundreds of dollars every two years to apply. It’s up to $495. We’ve had to provide every little detail of our lives. How many Americans can say they’ve gone through that experience? As an undocumented person, I have learned more about our laws and more about our history than most people. I could tell you what citizenship would mean to me. I could tell you how excited I would be the day I could vote, and for some people that just looks like an inconvenience. Right now, I am trying to plan for my career or life after college. Should I pursue what I want to or divert from some things?

Enquirer: Do you have a plan for the worst-case scenario? DACA is not extended. It dies in Congress. What do you do then?

Mendez: I try to keep myself busy to keep my mind off the “what-if” scenarios. I think this is me being very unrealistic, but I have it in my head, “There’s no way.” Part of me needs to prepare for that. My parents have my 3-year-old brother, who was born here, who was a surprise. I am sure they have prepared. But they try to stay positive around me, so I don’t know for sure. In my head, I have to stay positive and tell myself things — in light of a lot of bad things happening that don’t make sense — in order to keep myself going.