- Nancy Flores American-Statesman Staff
Dozens gathered at the Texas Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday night to demand the passage of a law in support of young immigrants using a unique approach — Christmas caroling.
Austin families urged elected officials to act with kindness and generosity this holiday season as an estimated 800,000 immigrant youths brought to the U.S. illegally as children await Congress to pass the DREAM Act, a bill that could create a path to citizenship for them.
“The holidays will take on a new, tragic meaning for me with just a few more weeks of legal protection,” said Luis Ortega, a college student and executive director of the Austin-based nonprofit Immigrants United. Although Ortega applied for a renewal of his permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, it expires on Dec. 29 and he has not heard back about his application’s status.
“Dec. 29 will be the last day I can help provide for my family,” Ortega said. “Like me, everyday students will begin losing their jobs, their permits, but the one thing we can’t lose is hope.”
On Sept. 5, the Trump administration announced it was ending DACA, an Obama-era program that allowed young undocumented immigrants who qualified to obtain a work permit and protection from deportation. Trump gave Congress a mid-March deadline to come up with legislative replacement for it.
Yuridia Loera, a 22-year-old community organizer with United We Dream, said she wanted a “clean” DREAM Act, meaning one that doesn’t include any legislation that hurts other immigrants like her parents. The Trump administration has suggested that the DREAM Act should be accompanied by funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border or include limits on legal immigration.
Loera’s DACA permit has expired and though she submitted her renewal in April, her future is on hold as well. “I’m now afraid that because I’ve been waiting nine months that that means a rejection,” she said. Loera, the eldest of seven children, said her family lives on about $20,000 a year. Although she studied chemical engineering, she’s concerned about her ability to contribute to her family’s income. “I’m in limbo.”
Loera joined families on Tuesday night who huddled together singing their own versions of holiday songs in hopes of keeping momentum alive for a cause that’s sparked nationwide demonstrations this week.
On Wednesday, some Texas-based advocacy groups traveled to Washington, D.C. to demand Congress to pass the DREAM Act before this session ends.