Two sisters who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections have vowed to leave the U.S. if Congress does not pass a deal to codify their protections before the program lapses. One sister whose protections would end in March said she would willfully leave rather than be forcibly deported by immigration agents; her elder sibling said she would also exit out of solidarity.
In September 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he would discontinue DACA in March 2018. The president said that it was up to Congress to pass legislation to provide protections for the nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children, also known as Dreamers.
On Feb. 9, Congress passed a two-year government spending bill that also raised the debt ceiling. Immigration activists blasted the majority of Democratic lawmakers for supporting the spending package without demanding that it include a DACA fix, Vice News reported.
“This squandered opportunity is not only another failure to deliver on their word; it’s a choice to be complicit in the detention and deportation of Dreamers,” the groups United We Dream, National Immigration Law Center and Indivisible said in a joint statement.
That day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would allow a shell bill for immigration to be considered the ensuing week. McConnell said that fellow senators could add any combination of amendments to the legislation until it gained the necessary 60 votes to pass, BuzzFeed News reported.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan has stated that he would only allow his chamber to vote on an immigration bill if the bill had the blessing of Trump himself. DACA recipients will no longer be able to renew their protections after March 5 if Congress does not pass a solution, according to CNBC.
On Feb. 7, sisters Alex and Daniela Velez of New Jersey stated during an interview that they would move from the U.S. if there was no DACA fix by the March 5 deadline. The two Dreamers said they would rather abandon their lives in America than attempt to evade detainment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“After all these years living like a regular American teenager, I will not go back into hiding,” Alex told CNN Money.
Alex and Daniela were brought to the U.S. in the 1990s on visitor visas to escape political turmoil in Venezuela. Alex said that she did not even know she was an undocumented immigrant until former President Barack Obama enacted DACA in 2012 and her sister applied.
Daniela recalled that her parents had warned her that she could not go to college because she was undocumented. After attaining DACA protections, she enrolled in Rowan College in New Jersey and obtained two associates’ degrees. She is currently studying at Rutgers Business School and works for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.
19-year-old Alex has paid $10,000 in tuition fees to attend community college and is studying to become a veterinary technician. She will be notified whether she will be accepted into the vet technician program in March. Her DACA enrollment will expire on March 6 if Congress does not codify her protections. She said she would sooner leave than become vulnerable to deportation.
“I will leave,” Alex said. “I will leave America as soon as possible. I want to be able to leave on my terms. I’m not going to be waiting for anyone to come get me.”
Daniela will remain enrolled in DACA until 2019 but said that she would not let her sister leave alone.
“If DACA ends, I will leave with Alex,” Daniela said. “I will close my business, leave work and school.”
“In all honesty, it is scary to think about leaving,” Alex added. “My mom cried for the first time since we talked about our situation. She’s a positive person and is hoping that something good will happen for us.”