DREAMers Skeptical Of DACA Deal

Sep 15, 2017
Originally published on September 15, 2017 7:50 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

You could be forgiven for being confused by what is going on with the future of immigrants known as DREAMers. These are children whose parents brought them to this country illegally. The White House and Democrats couldn't seem to agree on what they did or didn't agree to in a meeting on Wednesday. That meeting focused on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. And for more on what the people most affected by the future of DACA are thinking, we turn to NPR's Richard Gonzales. He's been talking to so-called DREAMers about the developments. Morning, Richard.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: Good morning.

KELLY: Tell us about some of these people you've been talking to and what they're telling you.

GONZALES: Well, I'm hearing a lot of skepticism, you know, a feeling of whiplash. You know, first, the president says he'll end DACA. And a week later, he says he wants to make a deal to allow the DREAMers to stay in this country. Then you have a GOP backlash and conditions that are placed on the deal. One DREAMer I spoke to called it a psychological torture. And another DREAMer, 23-year-old Itzel Guillen of San Diego County put it this way.

ITZEL GUILLEN: I definitely felt a lot more anxiety than I have ever in my life. This feels like a roller coaster that is not stopping. So I would say that a lot of other DREAMers in my same position are feeling the same exact way.

KELLY: Richard, might another way to look at this be that the president does keep saying he wants to help DREAMers? Are any of the people you talk to finding a little bit of encouragement in that?

GONZALES: Well, you know, I heard two reactions to that idea. One, they don't want to be used as a bargaining chip. And two, under no current circumstance is it a time to expect a victory and to celebrate. Here's another DREAMer. She's 25 years old. Her name is Mitzie Perez of San Bernardino, Calif.

MITZIE PEREZ: I think being undocumented, you don't really get to celebrate a lot in your lifetime, but we need a strong policy that protects people under DACA but that's not going to hinder the rest of the community.

GONZALES: And so by that, she means that they don't want a deal that would, let's say, implement the E-Verify system, which requires employers to check the legal status of people they hire. To the DREAMers, that's just another way of increasing the threat of deportation to their undocumented parents. And they also don't want a deal in which their DACA status is a tradeoff for enhanced border security. That, they say, would further what they consider the militarization of the border.

KELLY: Let me inject a word here, and the word is amnesty. The president is getting pushback from conservatives, who say he has flip-flopped on immigration. And he's now offering what amounts to an amnesty to people in this country illegally. Do these DREAMers you've talked to - do they think of this possible deal as amnesty?

GONZALES: No, they don't. They see a potential deal as just an opportunity to keep doing what they're already doing - working, studying, joining the military. One young man, Ronnie James of New York, leads a group of black DREAMers. They're young people from the Caribbean and Africa. And he says, he can't call himself optimistic or pessimistic.

RONNIE JAMES: I'm being realistic. I wouldn't want to be too optimistic because I see what happened with DACA. That was a huge breakthrough, and now it's being taken away. So I'm not particularly optimistic. I am hopeful.

KELLY: All right. That's one of many voices talking there with NPR's Richard Gonzales.

Richard, thanks so much.

GONZALES: It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.