As Congress negotiates on a temporary spending bill, Austin-based recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA, and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus gathered at the Texas Capitol on Thursday to call for a legislative fix for the program that gives work permits and protection from deportation to more than 100,000 young immigrants in Texas.
“There’s an urgent need for Congress to pass a permanent DACA fix before (Friday),” said state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin. “Congress must not allow DACA to lapse … because there would be terrible humanitarian and economic consequences.”
Eliminating DACA could reduce gross domestic product in Texas by nearly $6.3 billion annually, according to the Center for American Progress.
Liam Garcia, a DACA recipient and entrepreneur, said the uncertainty weighs heavily on him. Garcia grew up in Houston and graduated in the top 10 percent of his high school class. At the University of Texas, he pursued a premedical degree path. But without access to federal financial aid or many scholarships, Garcia eventually had to leave school.
“It wasn’t until college that I realized the true impact of being undocumented in this country,” he said. “The daily anxiety is hard to take.”
Garcia, 30, launched a digital marketing business and now worries that when his permit expires next year, he’ll no longer be able to serve his clients or treat his lupus and rheumatoid arthritis properly. His medications, he said, cost about $4,000 monthly.
“All we want is to contribute to the economy, our country, our state” Garcia said. “We’re not bargaining chips.”
Although the federal government recently resumed accepting DACA renewal applications, this week the Trump administration announced that it would appeal a California court order that allowed the DACA program to stay in place while a lawsuit goes forward.
DACA recipient and UT student Vanessa Rodriguez Minero said that without lawful immigration status, she can no longer envision having children. “If I do have children,” she said, “I will never be able to tell them that I will be able to stay with them.”
While Rodriguez didn’t directly advocate for a rejection of the spending bill, he said if there’s a government shutdown, “it’s because Republicans don’t want to do right by these young people,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say that Democrats are in a position to shut down the government,” Rodriguez said. “We’re in a position to try and advocate for these young people and that’s what we should be doing.”