Dreamers brace for hope as Congress votes on spending bill on February 8th


Maria Rodriguez standing on capitol hill to lobby to Congress on behalf of "dreamers."
Photo credit: Maria Rodriguez


The Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program, otherwise known as DACA, was implemented in 2012 by President Barack Obama to protect immigrants who came to the United States as children. The program allowed “dreamers” to obtain work permits and health insurance. It is renewable every two years and does not include a pathway to citizenship.

In September 2017, President Trump ended the program and told Congress they needed to come up with a replacement.

“Congress needs to realize that it’s these people come here for a better life and you shouldn’t blame the children for not knowing if they are legal or illegal,” said Sabina Bousbar, a Junior International Affairs and Political science major at Florida State University student, who is the child of immigrant parents.

“Luckily my parents did get citizenship but I have many friends who didn’t know until high school that their status was not an American citizen. It’s children, “dreamers,” that deserve the same right as everyone else.”

Maria Rodriguez, a Colombia native, and her family left the country when she was just three years old to escape death threats from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), leaving her grandparents behind.

When she and her family arrived in the United States in 2000 they thought they had gained citizenship. Her father took a job as a veterinarian in central Florida with a promise from his employer that he and his family would gain citizenship in the United States.

“Everything seemed to be going fine. The employer would ask my parents for their birth certificates or college degree,” said Rodriguez.

It wasn't until Rodriguez’s family found themselves in a terrible situation that they found out no process was being taken for them to become citizens.

“It seemed like he was making serious steps, but then they realized that he had never started anything.” said Rodriguez.

Maria Rodriguez (second from the left) stands with other "dreamers" to fight for citizenship on Capitol Hill.
Photo credit: Maria Rodriguez

By the time Rodriguez’s family realized they fell out of status they had already been in the United States for over a year, which limited their citizenship options. They knew returning home was not an option.

In January, Congress faced a two-day shut down after disagreements on funding for government operations and agencies. One of the top issues: Immigration. President Trump and his administration added fuel to the fire when he gave congress an ultimatum: in order to provide a pathway to citizenship for dreamers he wanted funding for a wall to keep immigrants out.

For Rodriguez, whose status expires in 2019, and some 800,000 other dreamers feel a sense of protection under the DACA program.

“I try to not worry about it but it’s like you do still worry.” said Rodriguez.

The threat of DACA has many wondering how immigration policies will affect the states.

In January, a recent agreement was made amongst U.S. Immigration Customs Officials (ICE) and 17 of Florida’s Sheriff’s departments on a “housing agreement” between local agencies. The agreement would allow ICE to issue warrants for illegal individuals and house them in facilities for up to 48 hours.

“The meeting was by invitation only,” said Lt. Grady Jordan of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. “ ICE is looking at the most prolific countries involved with immigration.”

The Leon County Sheriff’s department was not in attendance at the meeting that took place in Largo, Fl.

“Our policy is that once a person is booked in our system, we notify immigration enforcement,” said Lt. Jordan. “If an ICE order is detained by a federal judge then we hold him; however, we do not hold them based on request from ICE, it has to be from a federal judge.”

Rodriguez has dreams of becoming a pro bono lawyer for immigrants in the same situation. She is a strong supporter of human rights and has already traveled to D.C. three times to lobby on behalf of DACA. She hopes that one day those dreams will come true.

“If I could tell congress one thing I would probably say that this is probably the civil rights issue of our time and remember that this will go down in the history books. Think, really think, about what you’re about to vote for. Think of the people who are going to be impacted, it’s not just immigrants, it’s the entire country.”

The next vote on the spending bill, which will include the DACA bill, will be on February 8th.