UW-W student joins advocacy effort in Washington, D.C.

Group of 150 DREAMers met with Congress to discuss DACA


Courtesy of Mark Graul

A group of 150 students and professionals visited Washington, D.C. to meet with representatives to ask them find a non-partisan solution for replacing DACA.

Brad Allen, Managing Editor

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater sophomore student Oscar Perez joined a group of 150 students and professionals in Washington, D.C. last week to meet with Congressional representatives to ask them find a non-partisan solution for replacing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

“It was very exciting,” Perez said. “It made me happy to be around people in a similar situation as me. We all connected together; we were there for one cause.”

DACA is a 2012 executive order by former president Barack Obama that offers temporary reprieve from deportations for people who were brought into the U.S. illegally at a young age. Approximately 800,000 of the nearly two million total eligible individuals nationwide have applied successfully and qualify for DACA status.

An end to that policy was ordered by President Donald Trump on Sept. 5. Trump gave Congress six months to draft a replacement policy before DACA programs begin to phase out in March 2018.

The White House released a statement Sunday that Trump would be willing to keep DACA programs in place if House and Senate Democrats compromise to allow the hiring of 10,000 new border patrol officers, increased funding of a proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and eliminating funding for so-called ‘Sanctuary Cities,’ which don’t share information on undocumented citizens with the federal government.

The trip to Washington, D.C. was organized and sponsored by FWD.us, an immigration advocacy organization. Perez said the organization’s university program director, Ali Trocotio, reached out to him via email offering the opportunity to join the trip.

Leezia Dhalla, Press Manager for FWD.us, said extensive planning went into organizing the trip, adding that participants traveled from 25 different states.

“We think DREAMers [DACA-recipients] are the best messengers on this issue,” Dhalla said. “We felt it was best for Congress to hear their stories directly.”

She added that the trip provided a chance to put lawmakers in front of the constituents they represent.

Perez said the trip was overall a positive experience, adding that what stood out most was the opportunity to meet with both Democratic and Republican representatives, some of whom have been challenging to reach through correspondence.

“I met with Senator (Tammy) Baldwin (D-WI), who expressed her support for DACA,” Perez said. “Everything we went there for, we accomplished. We received a lot of helpful information.”

He added that it was comforting to meet with people from both major political parties who were understanding of the DACA-recipients’ situations.

“It gave us hope, and the strength to continue fighting for what we believe is the right thing to do,” Perez said.

The Royal Purple reached out to Sen. Baldwin seeking comment. She was not able to offer comment by press time.

Not every person’s origin country is located in Central America, Perez said, noting that some individuals who lobbied in Washington, D.C. were born in countries such as Sweden, India or Brazil.

For some, the deadline to re-apply for current DACA status fell on Oct. 5, the same day students and professionals met with Congressional representatives in Washington, D.C.

Oscar said he was not required to re-apply for DACA programs because his status is set to remain until March 2019.

But, he added, “other DREAMers’ deadlines could have been yesterday (Oct. 5), and their dreams” of retaining protections provided under DACA “could have disappeared overnight.”

Dhalla said that beginning March 6, 2018, approximately 14,000 people will fall out of DACA protections each business day unless a replacement policy is enacted.

“DREAMers [DACA-recipients] contribute billions of dollars a year to society,’ Dhalla said. “They eat at local restaurants and shop at local stores. They will be ripped away from the work force and the education system.”

Dhalla said she hopes Congress will “come together” and find a non-partisan solution to “allow these people to continue living and working in the country they call home.”

Perez said he intends to continue working hard toward his accounting degree and hopes to work closely with FWD.us in the future. He also said he plans to attend a leadership conference in San Antonio, Texas.

“Time is limited,” Perez said. “I cannot let my college education be thrown away. That is not an option for me.”

Oscar said he hopes the UW-Whitewater community will continue to offer support and that other students will consider calling their representatives in government to offer their thoughts regarding DACA.  

“Our lives are being restricted,” Perez said. “We need to push Congress to come up with a solution sooner rather than later.”