Texas union leaders demand Dream Act, TPS protections from Sen. Cornyn

4:29 p.m Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018 Local
Members of Texas AFL-CIO held a news conference in downtown Austin after meeting with a staffer for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

As the deadline for the next government shutdown looms, members of the Texas AFL-CIO on Wednesday met in Austin with a staffer for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn to demand the passage of a clean Dream Act as well as extensions for temporary protected status holders.

“The ball is in Senator Cornyn’s court and the nation is watching,” said Montserrat Garibay, Texas AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer, at a news conference. “The senator has a key role in determining the fate of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers and temporary protected status holders who are working people and a vital part of our society.”

Garibay said the state labor federation’s concerns would be reported back to the senator for consideration during this week’s immigration talks. More than 200,000 affiliated union members make up the Texas AFL-CIO, with workers from a variety of industries ranging from teachers to electricians.

RELATED: Texas employers worry immigration crackdown may cause worker shortage

“We need a Dream Act that doesn’t endanger other community members,” said Adriana Aguirre, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient. “Our urgency is because our future is uncertain. We do not want to get relief in exchange for harming our parents and for the deportation of others.”

In September, President Donald Trump rescinded the DACA program, which offers work permits and protection from deportation to more than 100,000 young immigrants in Texas.

Union members on Wednesday also asked Cornyn’s office to extend legal protections for temporary protected status holders, which make up about 320,000 people in the United States from 10 designated countries. Last month, the Homeland Security Department announced the end of legal protection for an estimated 36,300 TPS holders originally from El Salvador.

RELATED: What’s next for Salvadorans in Texas after TPS cancellation?

Unite Here chapter president Willy Gonzalez said that some members of his union, which represents the hospitality industry, are from families with mixed immigration statuses, including some U.S. citizens as well as some with TPS or DACA.

“We feel like deporting them and ripping them apart from their families would be not only totally wrong, but it would be criminal to do that to a family,” Gonzalez said.

Cornyn has said he’s sympathetic to the concerns of DACA advocates, however DACA recipient Aguirre on Wednesday said that “we don’t need sympathy, we need action.”