SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – President Trump announced a proposal over the weekend that would extend protections for DACA recipients for three years in exchange for $5.7 billion to fund a border wall, a deal that doesn’t sit well with local “Dreamers.”
“It’s not OK. We are not bargaining chips. We are not something he can just throw around and say, ‘I’ll give you this if you give me this.’ This is our lives we’re talking about. This isn’t a couch you can bargain for. This is our livelihood,” said Itzayana Koos, a DACA recipient.
“It makes me feel like I’m some sort of puppet…that I’m kind of being dangled around. It doesn’t feel good. It feels like they’re messing with our lives when they should be thinking seriously about ours,” said Xochitl Juarez, a DACA recipient.
Koos and Juarez both have similar backgrounds. They both came to the U.S. from Mexico when they were young with their families, who wanted to pursue a better life. Utah is home for them and they can’t imagine life elsewhere.
“I feel like an American. I’ve lived here most of my life, I grew up here, I graduated here, I went to college here. Yet, I’m not an America because of a piece of paper that says that I’m an immigrant or an undocumented alien, as they like to call it,” said Koos.
They shared feelings of insecurity that come with being a DACA recipient and the uncertainty of their future.
“It’s unsettling. You just never know what’s going to happen You’re always on your toes. Even with DACA, which gives you a two-year deferral of your deportation, you don’t know if the president will just change his mind one day and make us leave,” said Koos.
The thought of being deported and having to return to Mexico brought Juarez to tears.
“It would be really hard and it makes me so emotional because my whole life is here. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am,” said Juarez. “To go somewhere where you see cartels on the streets, where they’re kidnapping people and children, and where they’re killing people, that’s something I can’t get used to.”
“I haven’t gone back to Mexico since I was 7 and there’s no one where my family used to live. It would be very dangerous for me to go back. It’s just constant unrest, even when you’re happy, the thought of being deported is still at the back of your mind,” said Koos.
Both Koos and Juarez said Dreamers deserve a path to citizenship and said currently, there isn’t one available to them.
“In the immigrant community, we have this thing called the ‘model immigrant’ and a lot of DACA recipients fit that bill exactly. You have to be going to school, you have to work, you have to do something with your life in order to receive DACA. We work so hard for that, yet, we’re still being told, ‘You’re not worthy enough’? Just because you were born in the wrong longitude and latitude?” said Koos.
Congress is expected to take up President Trump’s proposal later this week.