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Missouri Dreamers and allies press for long-term immigration solution

DACA recipients lead a march through the Delmar Loop on Friday evening. March 2, 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
DACA recipients lead a march through the Delmar Loop on Friday evening.

Young immigrants in Missouri who are protected by an Obama administration program that granted them temporary permission to stay in the United States are taking their case to members of Congress.

In Missouri, 3,500 young people have registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. They want Congress to pass a long-term solution that would allow them to stay in the country.

Members of MO Dreamers, a political organization based in St. Louis, led a march along Delmar Boulevard on Friday to decry President Donald Trump’s decision to end DACA by March 5. The marchers, among them religious leaders, immigrant-rights activists and others, gathered in front of Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s St. Louis office.

Members of MO Dreamers hold a rally outside U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill's office on Feb. 7, 2018
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Members of MO Dreamers hold a rally outside U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill's office on Feb. 7.

  “We have to remind our senators, our representatives that we’re still here and we’re not going anywhere,” said Rigo, a DACA recipient and MO Dreamer member. St. Louis Public Radio is not using his last name because of his immigration status.

The march in St. Louis comes days after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a White House appeal of two lower-court rulings that allow DACA recipients to renew their protected status for up to two years.

In February, the U.S. Senate blocked four proposed measures, including one that would have provided a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, often referred to as “Dreamers.”

The Supreme Court decision puts renewed focus on a legislative solution, said Jim Hacking, an immigration lawyer in St. Louis. But he said that seems unlikely given other priorities in Congress, where Democrats and Republicans are at odds on many issues.

“Even though many members of Congress say that they are willing to do something for [DACA recipients], the problem is that different people have different ideas, and they keep attaching pre-conditions to the proposed law,” Hacking said. “The Dreamers really have become, once again, a political football in Congress.”

Given the intense political battles over immigration, DACA recipients have become little more than a bargaining chip in Congress, said Rigo, the 18-year-old at the march.

“Mainly, we’ve been tossed over the table over certain amounts of money, over certain deals, like the border wall,” he said. “We’re not being treated for what we are. We’re just numbers on their table.”

Follow Shahla on Twitter: @shahlafarzan

Shahla Farzan was a reporter at St. Louis Public Radio. Before becoming a journalist, Shahla spent six years studying native bees, eventually earning her PhD in ecology from the University of California-Davis. Her work for St. Louis Public Radio on drug overdoses in Missouri prisons won a 2020 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award.