Originally published by The New York Times
Every vote to protect Dreamers like me failed on Thursday in the Senate, and I am relieved.
Why am I glad that senators voted against legislation that would have given me a path to citizenship? Because those bills would also have harmed people I loved.
I couldn’t accept a deal that protected me while criminalizing so many others — from my colleagues to my aunts and uncles. I couldn’t accept a deal that made it harder for immigrants to bring their families to this country.
I was ambivalent about the first vote, on a measure from the Republican Senator John McCain and his Democratic colleague Chris Coons that had been denounced by President Trump. It would have increased border enforcement, but it would not have ended family-based migration. Once that was defeated, the best I could hope for was another stalemate.
While the senators were debating, I was watching from above, in the gallery with a group of fellow Dreamers. Looking down at the senators chit-chatting, all I could think about was our parents and the sacrifices they have made for us. I know so many immigrant parents who wake up every day at 4 or 5 in the morning to get to work on time and provide food and shelter for their kids. I thought of my own parents, who were forced to move back to Mexico when I was in high school because they had no path to legal status here.
Over the past 17 years, since the Dream Act was introduced in 2001, politicians have played with our lives, particularly during election years like this one. They go out of their way to say they care about our community, while sending members of our community to detention centers.
The proposal that perhaps had the best chance of passing came from a bipartisan group that called itself the Common Sense Coalition. Seen as less bad for immigrants than the plan from Charles E. Grassley that Donald Trump endorsed, it still included $25 billion for border security, changes to our immigration system that would lead to more deportations and a reduction of family-based immigration. As someone whose own family was separated by this country’s immigration system, I prayed that both bills would fail.
It was hard for me to watch the vote. A group of mostly white men in suits, with a simple thumbs up or thumbs down, had the power to change the lives of so many people like me. And I’d seen senators fail us before. Eight years ago, I was watching just as closely when the Dream Act came up for a vote. Back then, Democrats controlled the Senate. But with Republicans opposed and five Democrats refusing to support us, the bill failed.
I was watching, too, in 2013, after many sleepless nights of organizing and mobilizing our community, when the Senate actually passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill. But nothing could persuade Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote on it in the House.
This time, the only bright moment was the defeat of President Trump’s favorite plan. When it failed by the biggest margin, I couldn’t help smiling. In the end, though, Congress had made no progress on protecting immigrant youth like me. Talking with other Dreamers on the phone afterward, we cried together. We cried because we are tired of the country we call home refusing to recognize our humanity.
Who, then, should we blame? While I am deeply frustrated by senators on both sides, President Trump is the one who created this crisis. Last September, he was the one who decided to end DACA. And since then, he has rejected bipartisan compromises, while using his power and his microphone to demonize immigrants of color.
I’m going to graduate from college in May. But will I be able to use my degree? If Congress does nothing, the papers that I received from DACA will expire in January. It’s hard to feel hopeful in what is supposed to be a land of opportunity.
But my parents taught me to be a warrior in moments of uncertainty. I’m going to keep fighting, not just for Dreamers, but for our families, too.