One day after a Republican-led change to dismantle President Obama’s executive actions on immigration failed in Congress, a group of young undocumented immigrants gathered in the Oval Office to deliver a message: The fight is not over.President Obama on Wednesday met with six DREAMers – undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children – to hear their stories and put a human face to a set of unilateral actions that together, are set to benefit as many as 5 million people currently living in the U.S.
“I don’t think there is anybody in America who had a chance to talk to these six young people – or the DREAMers all across the country – who wouldn’t find it in their heart to say these kids are Americans just like us and they belong here,” Obama said.
The gathering at the White House comes just one day after the GOP failed to curtail the president’s executive actions. House Republicans targeted the measures by tacking on toxic amendments to legislation for crucial funding to the Department of Homeland Security. As expected, the strategy failed to out-match a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, teeing up a battle over funding for homeland security operations before resources run out on Feb. 27.
The president strongly reiterated that he would not sign any legislation designed to rollback his own executive actions and chided Republicans for putting national security funding in jeopardy.
“There’s no logic to that position – particularly for Republicans who claim they are interested in strong border security – why would you cut off your nose despite your face by defunding the very operations that are involved in making sure we’ve got strong border security,” Obama said.
The DREAMers in attendance represented an array of young people who have already benefited from the president Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Some were unaware of their undocumented status until they attempted to apply for college; others were brought into the U.S. before they could even walk.
Maria Praeli, born in Peru and brought to the U.S. at the age of five, said after the meeting that advocates were undeterred by GOP-led efforts to gut the DACA program that has helped nearly 600,000 young DREAMers like herself.
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“This is our victory and we’re going to defend this victory no matter who threatens it,” she said outside of the White House Wednesday. “We are here, the DREAMers are not going away and we are going to continue to fight for our community as we have done in the past and as we will do in the future.”
Blanca Gamez said she told President Obama about how DACA changed her life. As a young undocumented college graduate at the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2012, she had a degree yet no real job prospects.
“I was graduating with a political science degree, I wanted to be in politics,” she recalled to reporters Wednesday. “Unfortunately nine silly little numbers pushed that away from me, pushed away my dreams.”
Now years later and with the DACA program in place, Gamez has two-bachelors degrees and is starting law school in the fall.