Monday February 12th, 2018

Cortez Masto: Dreamers Are Our Neighbors, This Is Their Time Of Need


Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) delivered remarks on the floor of the United States Senate today as it began to consider immigration legislation. In her remarks, Senator Cortez Masto shared the story of Nevadan’s impacted by President Trump’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the critical importance of putting Dreamers on a path to citizenship. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

It has been nearly four months since President Trump rescinded the DACA program. Since that time, nearly 20,000 DACA recipients have lost their status. That number is growing.

I’ve posted this sign outside my office so my colleagues can see that 122 Dreamers are losing their status every single day. But this chart cannot begin to tell the story of the impact this reckless President has had on Dreamers’ lives.

Over the past year, I’ve held roundtables with Dreamers throughout Nevada. I wanted to hear their concerns, listen to their stories, and make sure they know their rights. Dreamers are not charts, or numbers. They’re people. And they’re amazing. They are putting themselves through school, studying hard, serving in our communities, our Churches, and our military. All while working multiple jobs to support their families.

In meeting with them, I’ve learned they are their own best advocates. Dreamers deserve the chance to speak for themselves. They deserve better than to be used as pawns in a cynical game. They should not be forced to choose between achieving protection in the only country they’ve ever known, and seeing their families attacked with arbitrary and cruel cuts to our family reunification and diversity visa programs. I’m tired of seeing this White House pit people against one another.

Congress is about to determine the futures of these patriotic young men and women. Before we begin this debate, we need to take a few moments to understand who they are, what they are doing for our country, and what the consequences will be if we fail them. I want to read a few of the letters they sent me:

Listen to this letter from Jevi, a freshman at Nevada State College. Jevi said, “I was born in Mexico in March 1998 and was brought to the United States when I was six months old. I recently started my freshman year at Nevada State College. I am majoring in Business Administration in the hope that I can open a small family restaurant someday. I have grown up in Las Vegas my entire life. It’s the city I know, the City that raised me. It is my home, my only home.”

Listen to Maggie’s letter. She wrote, “I came to the United States when I was ten years old. I faced language barriers when I started elementary school, but I quickly learned English and excelled as a student. I graduated from High School in 2007 with $20,000 in academic scholarships, but couldn’t use them because I was undocumented. After receiving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in June of 2013, I was able to begin working as a health care enrollment counselor for Nevada Health Link. In January 2014, I was accepted to the University of Nevada, Reno, where I continued working to help people access affordable health care while going to school full time.”

Listen to Francisco: “My story is very much like others in this country. I am one of the 1.5 million undocumented children that were brought to the United States as minors by their parents. On September 17th, 2012, I applied for Deferred Action, hoping to be granted a work permit. Around that same time, I learned that I had been admitted to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. On November 5th my work permit arrived. My family and I all came to tears upon learning the news. I quickly looked for a job so that I would be able to enroll and start paying for my school.”

Hear from Anna. She wrote, “I came to the United States with my family, from the Philippines, at the age of 7. My father left our family in 2001, and our visas expired soon after. I graduated from Centennial High School in 2008 and started nursing school at the College of Southern Nevada. I graduated in 2012 and received my DACA acceptance a year later. I am currently going on my third year working at University Medical Center (UMC) as a pediatric ICU nurse.”

These are only four of the stories I’ve heard from Dreamers and their families. There are hundreds of thousands more just like them. When you hear these stories, you see that this fight is not about charts or numbers, or political leverage.

I just recently received a batch of 32 letters from seventh graders at Bailey Middle School in Las Vegas. They expressed their concerns – every single one of these seventh graders shared the same message – including, Clarissa who wrote: “I would like to change Trump’s decision and let the DACA program stay so immigrants get to have the life they had before. My family and friends are all I have in my life. I don’t want to see them go because they can’t go to school or get a job.

I also heard from Andrea. In her letter, she wrote: “President Trump’s decision affects my family, people I know, and the community. It affects my family because my two older siblings were brought here when they were just babies. It affects people I know because some of my other family members were brought here as babies.”

This fight is not even about individuals. It’s about entire communities. It’s not just about what will happen to Jevi, Maggie, Francisco, and Anna. It’s about what will happen to their customers, their students, and their patients. Their employers, their parents, their families, and their friends.

Dreamers are our first responders. They serve in our military. They drive our ambulances. They pray with us in church. They are on the front lines teaching our kids and defending our country. What happens when they’re not here anymore?

The debate over immigration in this country has focused, for too long, on misconceptions and stereotypes. Immigrants aren’t taking our jobs, they’re creating them. They’re not causing crime, they’re putting their lives on the line to fight it. What do we gain by deporting them? What do we gain when Maggie and Francisco are forced to drop out of school? What do we gain when Anna can’t go back to work in the pediatric ICU? Jevi has no memory of the country where he was born. He spent only the first six months of his life there. What do we gain when we send him back?

Living in a community means depending on the people around you. It means having neighbors you can turn to in times of need. Dreamers are our neighbors. This is their time of need.

I urge my colleagues—understand who Dreamers really are. Don’t pit kids against parents, or neighbors against neighbors. This is bigger than partisan politics. It’s about human lives. I know many of my colleagues support the Dream Act and reasonable border security measures. Let’s get this through the finish line.

The American people are watching us. And 80% of them want us to help Dreamers.

Dreamers belong here. Dreamers are American. This is our chance to do what is right.


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