Local Dreamers are raising their eyebrows skeptically as Democrats say they're inching closer to a deal with President Donald Trump that could offer protections to nearly 800,000 Dreamers nationwide.
“If they really want to make sure young people are not feeling all this anxiety and stress and fear of not knowing what could happen to them tomorrow, they should just bring the DREAM Act up for a vote,” said Reyna Montoya, a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
After House and Senate Democratic Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer met with the president for a dinner of Chinese food and chocolate pie on Wednesday night, they announced in a joint statement that they'd "agreed to enshrine the protections of (DACA) into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that's acceptable to both sides."
Trump then contradicted their statement on Twitter, waffling a bit by saying no deal had been
No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2017
“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!" the president tweeted.
Twenty-seven-year-old DACA recipient Maxima Guerrero says she’s had enough of this back-and-forth.
“It’s definitely pretty draining,” Guerrero said. “You read one thing, and an hour later you read something else … It causes a lot of anxiety for sure.”
The meeting came less than two weeks after Trump announced he'd end DACA — an Obama-era program that offers undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children protection and permission to work — with a six-month delay.
Guerrero is the director of leadership development for the youth and Dreamer-led immigrant rights group Aliento. She says she feels that the Democratic leaders are using Dreamers to further their agendas.
She’s not alone.
Aliento said in a statement that the group is "cautiously optimistic" about a potential policy, but wasn't interested in being used for the political gain of either side.
"We are disappointed that Democratic leadership has sided with Trump by negotiating with the lives of undocumented youth in exchange for border security," the statement read. "Dreamers/DACA recipients value family above all else. We will never accept a piece of legislation that creates more problems and doesn’t address real immigration solutions."
Guerrero, who came to America from Mexico when she was 5 years old, says Trump left her and 28,000 other Dreamers in Arizona in political limbo when he ended DACA. Now she says it feels as if Democrats are willing to negotiate with her life.
The best-case scenario, according to Guerrero, is for Congress to pass standalone legislation of the DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. This legislation was first introduced in 2001, and various versions have aimed to give undocumented children a path to citizenship.
Montoya, the founder of Aliento, agrees. She says that topping off legislation offering protection for Dreamers with issues such as border security can be dangerous and may slow down the process of passing protections.
"By adding different things like border security, it will drag out the conversation longer," she said.
Many Arizona legislators have remained silent since Schumer and Pelosi announced their dinner with Trump, but Senator Jeff Flake was quick to praise Trump on Twitter.
“Kudos to @POTUS for pursuing an agreement that will protect #Dreamers from deportation,” Flake tweeted.
Republican Congressman Trent Franks' office and the Arizona Republican Party did not return messages from Phoenix New Times.
And while things remain up in the air legislatively, Guerrero said Arizona Dreamers are focusing on the fact that while legislation can affect what happens to them, it can’t define who they are.
“It’s just a really intense time,” Guerrero said. “Everything is happening so fast, but we’re trying to acknowledge as a community that, with or without DACA, we’re still students, still parents, and still humans. A lot of times, we let a political label take control of our life, which isn’t healthy. So we’re trying to acknowledge that we’re still worthy.”
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.