BY Allyson Duarte | Guest Columnist
I watched my own member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, vote to deport immigrant youth like myself earlier this month.
I was in Washington D.C., that week before the shutdown when all but five Democrats in the House of Representatives voted against a temporary spending bill that did not include protections for Dreamers, including Valley Congressmen Gonzalez and Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.
The Democratic Caucus, along with Republicans working for protections for Dreamers, lined up to vote against the continuing resolution without Dreamer protections. Their strategy was to push congressional Republicans to come to the table and negotiate in good faith on a way forward to offer protection from deportation, and eventual citizenship, for Dreamers. The bipartisan group of lawmakers was following the lead of immigrant youth, like myself, who have been spending every free moment pushing for passage of a Dream Act.
Seeing my member of Congress vote against my future was devastating.
I do not believe that Rep. Gonzalez is looking after my interests or the interests of the nearly 7,800 Dreamers in his district who need protection after President Donald Trump callously announced last year that he was ending DACA, beginning in March.
Being a Dreamer and living along the border, I am always affected when talks of immigration are brought up; whether it’s the border wall, more militarization, or the passage of the Dream Act. This time, when they spoke about immigration, it hurt when Gonzalez did not come out publicly against the hateful Republican tactics. Republicans previously said that they loved Dreamers and would provide protection someday, but the day of the vote on the continuing resolution, they referred to us as illegal aliens.
We know CHIP funding has been delayed by Republicans playing games with children’s lives. Republicans could have approved children’s healthcare since September if they really wanted. Instead, they took CHIP hostage and used it as a tool so that Democrats could be divided and trapped with their vote. Only Gonzalez, Cuellar and three other House Democrats took the bait, which is very disappointing.
I want to let Rep. Gonzalez know that we have been fighting for the Dream Act since 2001. Day in and day out, Dreamers have put their lives at risk by protesting, engaging in meetings, and calling out the different members of Congress who are standing in the way of protecting Dreamers. The continuing resolution vote was one of the best chances that we had for progress. If Rep. Gonzalez had voted “no” on the temporary spending bill and told Republicans that any spending deal needed to include CHIP, a Dream Act and funding for Puerto Rico, I believe we would have been in a stronger position to win a bipartisan deal. I am disappointed that he let Republicans get away with this and let them take me and hundreds of thousands of other Dreamers hostage.
I do not want a verbal promise from someone. I want a permanent solution for all the undocumented youth like myself! We are human. We are not something that you can use to negotiate. We are forced to live with fear and uncertainty about our futures because lawmakers keep messing with our lives. We deserve the same dignity, peace and comfort enjoyed by those whose status goes unquestioned. Rep. Gonzalez’ lack of leadership brings only broken promises from him and the Republican party.
I am only one of many constituents that Congressman Gonzalez let down with his vote. I call on the congressman to hold a town hall during the upcoming House recess so that he can hear directly from his constituents. In a matter of weeks, Congress will once again face a funding deadline and with it a choice: Pass a Dream Act or fund the deportation of Dreamers. Dreamers, like myself, will continue organizing and continue pushing so that Congressman Gonzalez makes the right choice next time.