Houston ‘Dreamers’ And Immigration Advocates Have Mixed Feelings On Trump’s Immigration Proposal

Many ‘dreamers’ are concerned about them being legalized and, on the other hand, increasing probabilities that members of their families would be at risk of deportation

According to the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, there are between 70,000 and 80,000 ‘dreamers’ in the greater Houston area.

Local groups that represent the ‘dreamer' community have mixed feelings about the latest proposal on immigration presented by the Trump Administration, which would provide legal status and a path to citizenship to 1.8 million people, but would also entail funding to build a wall on the southern border and would restrict so-called chain migration, as well as eliminate the Visa lottery.

César Espinosa, founder and executive director of Houston-based Families and Students in the Struggle (FIEL, by its Spanish acronym), says his group is “adamantly against any sort of border funding or border wall funding.”

With this particular proposal, he says, many ‘dreamers' are concerned about them being legalized and, on the other hand, increasing probabilities that members of their families, such as parents and siblings, being at risk of deportation. “We feel very uncomfortable knowing that we’re gonna get status but, at the same time, we are almost pushing some of our community more further into the shadows, further into separation of families.”

According to a document released last week by the White House, its proposal means providing “legal status” to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as to “other DACA-eligible illegal immigrants.”

Those two groups would amount to 1.8 million people, according to the Trump Administration.

Espinosa argues that a border wall would be a waste of taxpayers’ money and would increase deaths along the border.

The activist, who is a DACA recipient himself, notes his organization is in favor of legalizing the 1.8 million undocumented immigrants proposed by the White House, but is against strengthening immigration enforcement that would separate families through deportations.

For Espinosa, “trading off 25 billion dollars” to fund more immigration enforcement that is going to “separate families” is not something FIEL is “comfortable with.”

A bargaining chip

The fact that ‘dreamers’ have become “bargaining chip” in the negotiation for the federal budget is not something that Espinosa likes particularly, he says, but: “We have to play the hand that we have been dealt.” And now that DACA is in the forefront of national politics the ‘dreamers' “have to take” what they can get and use it to keep advocating for a permanent solution for the rest of the undocumented community.

“We need something for our community to get a win,” Espinosa stresses. “We need something for our community to get some breathing room and hopefully that will help strengthen our movement and, and continue the… let people know that, just like we won DACA, we can win other bigger things and we can eventually win big wins for the eleven million undocumented people that live within the United States.”

The Texas Organizing Project (TOP), another group that advocates for the undocumented community with a Houston chapter, considers that the wall is a “non-starter”, according to their spokeswoman Mary Moreno.

Moreno believes that a wall would have negative effects both on trade with Mexico –particularly for border states such as Texas— and on the environment.

The TOP spokeswoman also has a problem with limiting legal immigration because “if somebody… who we want to come to the United States because they’re a brilliant thinker… They’re gonna wanna bring their family with them.”

For Moreno, the conditions around the proposal “are really poisonous,” although she acknowledges that the appeal of the legalization of the ‘dreamers' is “very strong.”

Houston leaders are calling on Congress to protect DACA recipients.

Houston’s leaders speak up

Houston political and business leaders also addressed the immigration issue on Monday.

During a joint press conference with the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce held at City Hall, Mayor Sylvester Turner assured that finding a solution for DACA, which is scheduled to expire in March because of a decision President Donald Trump made last year, “is not about Democrats, it’s not about Republicans, but it is about the city of Houston.”

According to the Chamber, there are between 70,000 and 80,000 ‘dreamers’ in the greater Houston area.

During the press conference, Laura Murillo, president of the Chamber, emphasized the economic arguments in favor of the ‘dreamers' and noted that the economic activity they represent in Houston and Harris County amounts to $2 billion annually.

Murillo also referenced other economic data that are compiled in a research document about the economic impact of DACA prepared by the Chamber.

During her statement, Murillo referred to U.S. Senator John Cornyn (Republican-Texas) as one of the lawmakers she thinks should lead the way to find a permanent agreement on DACA and she urged him to “be a leader, to be a hero, to do the right thing” and “not to utilize these dreamers as political pawns.”

United We Dream (UWD), the largest ‘dreamer' group in the U.S., went further in its assessment of the White House's proposal.

Other reactions

In a statement released last week, UWD referred to the document as “a white supremacist ransom note” and added that the Trump Administration has taken “immigrant youth hostage, pitting us against our own parents, Black immigrants and our communities in exchange for our dignity.”

“(...) Our fear, our pain, and our lives must not be used to shackle our parents and ban those seeking refuge; we must not be used to tear apart the moral fabric of this country. For months, we have organized and mobilized the country to demand a common sense solution that delivers protection without harming others: the Dream Act,” the statement added.

Other groups have adamantly rejected the White House's proposal.

The Remembrance Project, an organization focused on advocating for victims of people killed by undocumented immigrants, also released a statement last week saying “illegal alien criminals are being put first and this is a gross injustice.”

“Either we have laws, or we do not. America cannot survive another disastrous amnesty scheme — no matter how the politicians spin it,” added the statement by The Remembrance Project.

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