- Mario Carrillo Special to the American-Statesman
Over the next two weeks, immigrant youth from across the country will double down on their efforts to call on Congress to pass the DREAM Act before the end of the year. In Texas, young immigrants have been marching and making calls, demanding that our state’s delegation do the right thing and support the more than 120,000 so-called Dreamers who claim the Lone Star State as their home.
The fight for the DREAM Act began in 2001, when the legislation was first introduced. That same year, Texas became the first state to allow undocumented youth to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and to be eligible to receive state aid. This bill was signed into law by then-Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.
Sixteen years later, some of our state’s leaders seem intent to stand on the wrong side of history.
Texas has been a longtime ally of immigrants, dating back to its days as a republic. But because of discriminatory laws like Senate Bill 4, and Attorney General Ken Paxton’s spearheaded attack that helped President Trump end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program earlier this year, our state has taken a dark turn.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the GOP’s second in command in that chamber, has been a constant obstacle to progress. While he has spoken at length of the benefits of immigrants in America and talked a big game about the need for sensible immigration reform, Cornyn has a long history of not backing up his talk and sabotaging our country’s chance at protecting Dreamers and their families.
Here are a couple things we do know: The American people, across party lines, overwhelming support passage of a DREAM Act. It’s not controversial; there’s a national consensus. The votes exist in the House and the Senate to pass a DREAM Act. At this point, Texans must know the truth about Cornyn: Despite his spin, he will not lead on this issue and vote for a bill protecting Dreamers. The immigrant community will not fall for the “Cornyn con.”
Can you imagine having the power to improve the lives of 120,000 of your constituents and their families and cynically playing politics instead? That’s what we’re facing with Cornyn.
It’s time for him to step aside and allow those in Congress truly interested in solving this issue to lead. The urgency to pass a DREAM Act before the end of the year is imperative.
The lives of more than 800,000 young immigrants nationwide are at stake. Hundreds of DACA recipients are losing their status every day, while tens of thousands more will stand to lose their work permits and protection from deportation if Congress does nothing.
One of those Dreamers is my wife, whose parents made the courageous decision of coming to the U.S. in search for opportunity and a better life when she was only five. My wife has been a DACA recipient since 2012 — and because of DACA, she has been able to finish college and start her career.
We were recently married, and we have had to live under the cloud of uncertainty brought on by the ending of DACA and the current failure of Congress to pass a DREAM Act. Even though we’re married, the process to adjust her status is not a given; we still worry about her being detained, especially here in Texas, with the added fear that the discriminatory SB4 law has brought to our state.
Now, we’re having to make plans for a worst-case scenario. We have to discuss what we’ll do if she is deported. These are conversations Dreamers, who like my wife only know the U.S. as home, are having across the country.
Cornyn is a key part of the Republican chorus that includes Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who say that a bill to protect Dreamers can wait until next year. Of the three, Cornyn represents the most Dreamers and, if he deigned to talk to them, he would know it is simply not true. The votes are there to pass a DREAM Act now. A failure to do so will mean that Republicans — especially Cornyn — will be remembered in history as the party who allowed Dreamers to be deported.
Carrillo is the Texas director of America’s Voice.