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Dreamers and Allies Speak Out in Purple and Red States Across America

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Washington, DC – Across the country, DACA recipients and a broad range of their allies are urging Congress to act quickly to legalize America’s Dreamers. This is happening not only in traditionally Democratic states, but in purple and red states as well, and is quantified in a range of recent polling.

Below, we highlight some recent pro-Dreamer events and voices from states beyond the coasts: Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

In Kansas City, MO, Mayor Sly James, KCPS Superintendent Mark Bedell, and two local DACA recipients held a press event to call for Congress to pass Dreamer legislation. As Kansas City NPR affiliate KCUR described:

Two prominent leaders in Kansas City called on Congress today to pass legislation that would continue to protect from deportation those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, or DACA.

Ana Jimenez, a graduate student at the University of Kansas, says her parents brought her to America when she was just ten and sacrificed everything so she could go to college. DACA allowed her to get a social security number and a drivers license. “DACA has changed my life for the better,” says Jimenez. “It gave me the opportunity to come out of the shadows and for a short period of time I thought that I had achieved the American dream.”

Jimenez appeared on a press call with Kansas City Public Schools Supt. Mark Bedell and Kansas City Mayor Sly James. James put an economic spin the issue. He quoted a Center for American Progress study that said DACA recipients account for $209 million in economic activity in Missouri alone.

In Columbus, OH, local NPR affiliate WCBE covered a press call featuring Columbus City Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown; local engineer and DACA recipient Nathali Bertran; local DACA recipient Elvis Saldias Villarroel; Angela Johnston of the Catholic Latino Ministry; Rebecca Butler, VP of Enrollment Management and Student Services, Columbus State Community College and Malik Moore, Executive Director of YMCA of Central Ohio:

Columbus advocates, city officials and DACA recipientsThursday reiterated their call for Congress to agree on a legislative solution for the roughly 800,000 immigrants nationwide known as Dreamers.

On the call, Councilwoman Brown said: “The DACA program has been critical not just to its recipients but to our city as a whole. Columbus is home to hundreds of DACA recipients who are our neighbors, fellow Buckeyes, and taxpayers too. These young dreamers – who have only ever known the United States as their home – work and learn in our businesses and our universities. They make our neighborhoods stronger. They are Americans, and we are better because of them. President Trump and Republican leadership in Congress must stop gambling with their lives and instead begin betting on their success.”

In Nashville, TN, The Tennessean reported on a press call featuring local and state civil rights leaders speaking out on behalf of Dreamers:

A delegation of Tennessee civil rights leaders called for the state’s two Republican senators to immediately support a plan in Congress that will extend protections for undocumented young people.

Black, immigrant and urban-area civil rights leaders said on Wednesday that Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker must throw their support behind the bipartisan DREAM Act, with no added amendments, that will lay permanent protections for so-called Dreamers — young people who were illegally brought into the United States as children.

…”By establishing DACA, the U.S. made a promise to protect some of its most valuable residents,” said Gloria Sweet-Love, Tennessee State Conference NAACP president, of the program that allowed undocumented young people to live and work here legally. “In exchange for providing extensive information on themselves, they were given assurances to be free of persecution and deportation.”

The Tennessee NAACP was joined in the call by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and the Knoxville and Chattanooga area urban leagues.

In Brookings, SD, local ABC affiliate KSFY covered a local rally on behalf of Dreamers, calling on Rep. Kristi Noem to back pro-Dreamer legislation in Congress:

SDSU Democrats rallied in Brookings, hoping to grab the attention of Republican Representative Kristi Noem ahead of her speaking event at the Swiftel Center.

“I hope she sees there are so many here to support it, there are so many people affected by it,” SDSU student Sami Alfke said.

“I hope she sees there are a lot of South Dakotans who care about this issue,” SDSU College Democrats President Claire Deuter said. “It’s really up to Congress to create legislation to protect these dreamers.”

In Lincoln, NE, a local Dreamer named Armando Becerril Sierraauthored an op-ed in the Lincoln Journal Star sharing about how DACA transformed his life and calling on Congress to pass the Dream Act:

“I grew up playing ball, participated in spelling bees at my local 4-H building and pledged allegiance to the American flag daily, alongside my native-born classmates and friends – living the typical life of any other child blessed to be in the U.S.

…After graduating with my MPA, in May 2016, I began my career with KPMG as an audit associate in Omaha, serving clients in Lincoln, Omaha and other towns — the biggest blessing, to this day.

Rather than celebrating my upcoming one-year anniversary with the firm, I am worried about my future with the firm and in this country. This comes as a result of the Trump administration’s decision to phase out DACA with a looming deadline of March 5, 2018, putting our futures back into limbo, unless Congress acts and passes the bipartisan DREAM Act of 2017.

…The easy thing to do would be to lay low and see how the situation unfolds. Nevertheless, my fellow Dreamers, our allies and I will continue to work for what is right and just, so others can pursue their own American dream, just like me. Our positive cultural and economic contributions will continue to make the United States of America the greatest nation in the world.

In Madison, WI, the Capital Times highlighted a press event featuring Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, DACA recipients, and local immigrant advocates:

“We want a clean bill, we don’t want a trade,” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said. “We’re not willing to trade DACAs for their parents, DACAs for their siblings, DACAs for the wall.”

…Soglin also took time on the call to refute what he called “the false narrative” that immigrants are subsidized by the rest of the county and a drain on resources.

Ilse Merlin, a DACA recipient, activist and resident in Paul Ryan’s district, highlighted this point. Merlin described her history as an excellent student, “getting good grades, being on my best behavior, always turning in homework, always on the honor roll.” But when she started applying for college, without a Social Security number, she was denied financial aid, government grants, and a PEOPLE program scholarship. Instead of attending UW-Madison, which was financially unfeasible, Merlin got an associate’s degree at a community college. She now works in education.

“We are here, it’s not just to benefit ourselves, it’s not just to benefit our families, but it’s to benefit our communities,” she said.

Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice Education Fund on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice

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