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‘We need action in Congress’: Local DACA recipients, Rep. Lacy Clay urge action on Dream Act

DACA activists rally outside an event organized by U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay at Saint Louis University. Nov. 10, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
DACA activists rally outside an event organized by U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay at Saint Louis University.

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay said Friday that he won’t support the year-end spending bill necessary to keep the government running unless it includes provisions to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation.

The remarks came at a Saint Louis University forum organized by Clay to discuss the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gave 800,000 young immigrants work permits and relief from deportation over the last five years.

Clay also reiterated his support for a “clean” Dream Act, a bill that would create a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, but would not include spending for more border security.

He was joined by U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who advocates for the DACA program at events around the country.

“We continue to hold hostage young people in exchange for some very extremist enforcement strategies,” said Grivalja. “We don’t want all these extreme demands by the majority … to be part of the Dream Act.”


Supporters stand with MO Dreamers for a rally on the Saint Louis University campus. Nov. 10, 2017
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Supporters stand with MO Dreamers for a rally on the Saint Louis University campus.

Underlying frustration

Some attendees at the event, including a number of DACA recipients, said it fell flat, failing to include the perspectives and concerns of young immigrants with DACA status.

MO Dreamers, a group of young St. Louisans who advocate and organize for immigration reform, rallied before the the event to express dissatisfaction with how it was planned.

“We cannot continue attending events that claim to build community when we are left out of the picture during the organizing of such events,” said Vivian, a student and DACA recipient, as she read from a letter sent to Clay last week by members of MO Dreamers. St. Louis Public Radio isn’t using Vivian’s last name because of her immigration status.

Activists expressed frustration that Clay’s event was billed as a conversation to build community support for a Dream Act. Legislators who are on their side, they said, need to instead build support among their fellow Congress members.

“We don’t need any more of these events. We need action in Congress, where it does matter,” said Naomi Carranza, who founded MO Dreamers in 2015. “Push your friends in Congress.”

Democrats hope they can force a vote on the Dream Act before the upcoming vote on a year-end spending bill in December because their refusal to vote on the budget could lead to a government shutdown.

President Donald Trump, who ended the Obama-era DACA program in September, has given Congress until March to come up with new legislation to permanently extend work permits and deportation relief for DACA recipients.

Follow Carolina and Willis on Twitter: @CarolinaHidalgo, @WillisRArnold

Carolina Hidalgo joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as the station’s first visual journalist. She now produces photographs, digital stories and radio features with a focus on issues of race, inequality and immigration. In 2019, she reported from the United States-Mexico border as an International Women’s Media Foundation fellow. In 2018, she was named one of The Lit List’s “30 photographers to watch.” Carolina also volunteers as a mentor with NPR’s Next Generation Radio project. She is a proud native of New York City and a member of Women Photograph and Diversify Photo.