“This is the time to get it done.”
■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
With Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) at the mercy of Congress, Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D., (D-36) joined forces with faith-based leaders at the Sacred Heart Church in Palm Desert on Sept. 23 to push for a version of the original DREAM Act “because it is the right thing to do.”
Ruiz has advocated for comprehensive immigration reform and for “dreamers” since he ran for office the first time in 2012. He has called for votes on immigration reform and the DREAM Act, stating that he put “pressure face-to-face on President Obama so that he could act when Congress was not acting.”
Then came DACA. An executive order was not enough, and there needed to be a legislative fix, according to Ruiz. “This is the time to get it done.”
After a workshop held Sept. 23 aimed at providing clarification for families affected by the decision to rescind DACA, Ruiz held a press conference.
He wanted to ensure that, “There were educators present making sure that dreamers and their families were not duped by people who want to commit fraud and take their money and capitalize on their fear.”
“[This is] the only country some of them have ever called home,” Ruiz said as he explained the feelings some dreamers have expressed. “They are understandably worried, anxious, and terrified – listening to hateful rhetoric and internalizing it. They are feeling depressed and perhaps unwanted. When they have wanted nothing more than to be Americans and to serve America.
“We all know the faces of those who are dreamers. They contribute here. Locally, they contribute to our economy, and they contribute to our safety. According to the Center for American Progress, ending DACA would be a $460 billion hit to the economy over the next decade.”
Ruiz has personally taught and mentored some of the dreamers, who want to be physicians, lawyers and engineers.
“They want to serve the country they call home,” said Ruiz.
“Let me tell you about Juan,” said Ruiz. “Juan is a student I have mentored since he was a senior in high school. He was picking the grapes in the fields with his parents, who endure hard work with calloused hands and sunburnt, broken backs with minimal rest, day after day.”
Ruiz described meeting Juan: “When I met him many years ago, he said ‘Dr. Ruiz, I want to be a doctor and come back and serve the community.’ I mentored this young man and despite the economic and social obstacles that he has endured, he graduated from UC Berkeley.”
Juan is now a medical student at UC San Francisco. Ruiz told the attendees that Juan “wants nothing more, my friends, than to be a doctor and serve an underserved community. He wants to heal your broken bones. He wants to comfort your aching hearts, and he wants to mend the illnesses that have caused you pain and suffering. And when I say ‘you’ – I mean every one of you. Despite your political affiliation, whether you are Democrat or Republican or independent… He wants to serve you and save your life one day.
“Instead of creating hateful rhetoric, we should be thanking him for his endurance,”said Ruiz in a passionate plea for resolution. “Both Republicans and Democrats agree that we need to protect dreamers and that we need to give them residency or a pathway to citizenship.”
At press time, the Hill was reporting that “House Democrats on Monday introduced a motion to force a floor vote on the DREAM Act, a bill to protect people brought to the country illegally as children from deportation.” They plan to use a discharge petition requiring a number of Democrats to sign on to accomplish their goal. Passage would require the support of Republicans.
“The proposal, sponsored by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), would grant permanent legal status — and eventual citizenship — to qualified immigrants. The protections would extend to those who were younger than 18 when they entered the United States, have been living in the country continuously for at least four years, and meet certain education requirements.”