DREAMer to Congress: 'Think of Immigration as Saving Lives,' DACA Recipients See US as 'Land of Opportunities'
Undocumented immigrants sacrifice their history in their native countries for the American Dream and new opportunities in the United States, and that is no different for DREAMer Hareth Andrade-Ayala.
Andrade-Ayala was reminded "continuously" by her mother that the U.S. is the land of opportunities. She came to the U.S. at the age of 8 with her little sister and grandmother from Bolivia.
"I was happy to travel with my grandmother. I was not a big deal to leave my parents for the summer. I remember being extremely excited about coming to the U.S. because my aunt had lived here for some time and I would overhear that the U.S. was the land of change and opportunity," said Andrade-Ayala, now a graduate of Northern Virginia Community College.
Andrade-Ayala recounted her final night before arriving in the U.S., feeling in her gut that her life would not be the same the next day. But her path into the U.S. was very different from the thousands of people currently entering the country through the Mexican and southern U.S. border. Andrade-Ayala entered the U.S. through Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., in June 2001.
In the U.S., Andrade-Ayala was able to receive free public education up through high school. "It is through the system of education that I was able to reach out to people who guided my growth and led me to be the leader I am today," Andrade-Ayala told Latin Post. "The U.S has fostered my growth and has opened my eyes to the world outside its borders -- though I have suffered and cried through the challenges of living in the U.S without documentation, I believe that things happen for a reason, and I believe I am here to make a change."
When President Barack Obama signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program into law in 2012, Andrade-Ayala said it was the answer to "the courage of millions of students" who have supported efforts to help undocumented immigrants.
"It was a testament to the folks who followed Obama during his campaign to chant 'Yes you can,'" Andrade-Ayala said. "It was a sigh of relief but also a clench of the fist, because deep down I knew the community would celebrate by voting for him, and he now had a free ticket to use at moment's notice."
Despite Obama's executive action, Andrade-Ayala noted over two million families have been separated by deportation laws, which has earned the president the moniker "Deporter in Chief."
Congress has also disappointed many undocumented immigrants with its inability to pass legislation similar to DACA. Andrade-Ayala said she had high hopes for Congress to pass legislation addressing immigration as she confronts those who do not understand "what it truly meant to be an undocumented American," in conversations with many Republican staffers.
"Trusting that the Judiciary Committee would hold it together, I kept my head held high even after Rep. Steve King [R-Iowa] voted to defund DACA, because I knew that if the House could get something together it meant at least a road toward solutions. When summer began, their complete lack of union tore me, and I retreated from working in D.C. to focus in preparing myself for the battle ahead by continuing college," Andrade-Ayala said.
With reports of more than 57,000 unaccompanied undocumented children crossing the U.S. border, 100,000 immigrants set to be deported from detention facilities throughout August and the poor treatment and exploitation of undocumented women, Andrade-Ayala said these accounts have been happening for years.
She said, "This is our reality, for me and my family, these are stories we share over tea. This is what a contained community looks like, it is unjust and inhumane. All families deserve dignity and so far we have seen very little."
Although the House of Representatives voted to end DACA, Andrade-Ayala does not believe any of the representatives have "sweltering opposition" to the program that has allowed 553,197 undocumented immigrant youths to stay in the U.S., according to Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"[It] seems that the animosity stems with their definition of being a 'nation of laws.' Being a nation of laws doesn't mean that the president could not act by using his executive power," Andrade-Ayala said. "Though they say he doesn't have the power, I have yet to hear from them on where prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis does not apply to undocumented Americans. Yet as Congress continues to play games with our families' lives, DACA lives."
Andrade-Ayala wants lawmakers to consider immigration as "saving lives," adding that families cannot wait for a solution. Due to Congressional inaction, Andrade-Ayala said she supports Obama if he was to act on his executive power.
As Latin Post reported, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said an action by Obama could come in early September following recommendations from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.
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