As I entered the Longworth House Office Building, my heart was pounding. I was going to be in the presence of 435 Congressmen, 100 Senators and the president of the United States — and they would all know that I was undocumented. What if this was my last day in America?

When I was told Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) had asked U.S. Capitol Police to check the identification of everyone attending the president’s State of the Union address and arrest any immigrants they found in the country illegally, my brimming fear and anxiety nearly took over. However, I was willing to risk arrest if it meant people would finally realize that individuals like me deserve a pathway to citizenship.

Balancing my life as a Georgetown student with advocating for my rights as an immigrant without documentation is not a normal college experience. However, with the support of friends and mentors, I continue to push forward. The Dream Act of 2017, proposed by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), must be passed. This bill creates a pathway to citizenship for eligible minors and offers many of the same protections as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Despite not having documentation, I was allowed to set future goals for myself because of a temporary two-year permit I received under DACA. But on Sep. 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA would be terminated on March 5 of this year.

Since December 2017, I have committed myself to advocating for the rights of my family, friends and community. I have participated in sit-ins and protests through United We Dream and FWD.us, organizations that focus on achieving immigration reform. On Jan. 9, I was able to share my story with multiple members of Congress from my home state of Arizona. A few days later, Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) invited me to attend the State of the Union. When I accepted the request, I wondered whether I was mentally or emotionally prepared to sit in the same room as President Donald Trump, who has caused nothing but harm to millions of people. At the same time, I wondered if the Democratic Party was using me as a political pawn.

Despite my doubts, I knew I had to take this opportunity to emphasize the urgency of a Dream Act. And if this was a strategic move, I needed to show up. I needed every single senator and member of congress to know that I, and so many others, exist — and that we will not give up easily.

As Trump made his way to the podium, I could not stand up and applaud. Instead, tears rushed down my face as I saw him greeted with such honor. They were mostly tears of anger. How is it possible that this man is one of the most powerful in the world? How is it possible that my future is in his hands? I was barely able to grasp his speech. After it was all over, I could not help but cry.  

Congress was originally scheduled to vote on a pathway to citizenship for 800,000 immigrants without documentation on Dec. 22, 2017. It was then pushed to Jan. 19, 2018; disagreement over the bill resulted in a government shutdown. In the deal ending the shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised to pass legislation regarding the “Dreamers” if Democrats agreed to pass a bill that funded the government until today, Feb. 8. Reports indicate the vote is being delayed — again.

Congress thinks youth without documentation have more time in America than is prescribed by the law. When the Trump administration rescinded the DACA program, it gave Congress a deadline of March 5 to come up with new legislation. However, that is not the deadline for people without documentation. DACA provides recipients with a two-year permit that must be renewed accordingly. Because of a technicality, however, permits that would expire after the March deadline cannot be renewed. Since Sept. 5, 122 DACA recipients have lost their legal status every day, according to the Center for American Progress. After March 5, that number will increase by 12,000 per day.

Congressional inaction has left about 15,000 former DACA recipients vulnerable to deportation. A lengthy process that can take up to 45 days is needed to pass a new law. Every delay means more people are deported. Members of Congress need to realize that they are deliberating over real lives and futures.

Unfortunately, the majority of Congress and the president were not satisfied with the proposed changes to border security. Instead, Trump proposed his own deal, which would give 1.8 million young immigrants without documentation a pathway to citizenship in exchange for a $25 billion investment for a border wall, an end to “chain migration” and an increase in immigration enforcement. This bill would put my parents at risk of deportation.

I would rather remain undocumented for the rest of my life than allow the passage of a bill that forces my parents out of the country they fought so hard to raise me in. No matter the outcome, I will advocate for my citizenship because I know I am on the right side of history.

Arisaid Gonzalez Porras is a freshman in the College.

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One Comment

  1. Manuel A. Miranda says:

    Your instincts are correct, you are being used as a pawn by the Democrats. Your conclusion, however, is not correct. Chain migration does not apply to your parents if they entered the country illegally. They remain deportable and ineligible for legalization under current chain migration laws. Chain migration has nothing to do with you or them.

    And that addresses the outrage I feel in seeing Georgetown putting resources into Dreamers while lifting no lobbying finger for your parents and the parents of birthright citizens (anchor babies).

    There is a great outcome that could be had, but not the way you are approaching it. As a hack partisan obsessed with your own emotions, unappreciative that you are among the luckiest 1% of the luckiest 1% of the luckiest 1% of your peers in the entire world’s population. And that is true now, if you remain in the US, or if you were returned to your country of birth given your education level.

    If ever you or our University want to pursue immigration reform that helps those who have greater reason to fear and suffer than you, I would be glad to volunteer my time for the cause.

    Manuel A. Miranda

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