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DACA Activist Weighs In On The Partial Government Shutdown


As we've been hearing this morning, the major sticking point in a possible deal to end the government shutdown is DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. That program gives protections to many of the so-called DREAMers who immigrated to the U.S. illegally as children. Democrats have said they will not vote for a budget unless it extends DACA. Republicans are saying let's pass the budget first and get to DACA after that. Cristina Jimenez is co-founder and executive director of the activist organization United We Dream. She joins us from our bureau in New York. Good morning.


GREENE: And, Cristina, we should say you're a former DREAMer yourself, right? So this is very personal for you.

JIMENEZ: I grew up undocumented in New York City, and my brother is a DACA recipient. So, you know, like me and my brother, we have millions of young Americans that grew up here and don't have immigration status and have been caught up in this crisis created by Trump when he terminated the DACA program that protected almost a million young people from deportation on September.

GREENE: You say created by Trump, and certainly, there are many people and many Democrats who would say that. I just want to ask you about a way that Republicans are coming to this. They are saying that they are certainly open to extending DACA. President Trump has said that himself. The program expires in March. Republicans are saying let's just get this budget deal done and then let's dig in to figure out a solution to that. Why not take that offer?

JIMENEZ: The reality is that we cannot wait. You know, up until this week, we have over 16,000 young people that have already lost DACA, and that means that they're vulnerable to deportation in an era where deportations are happening every day at a much higher number than under the last administration. Juan Manuel is a DACA recipient who was already deported back to Mexico. And just recently, Osman in Pennsylvania, another DACA recipient, was detained and held in a detention center until our organizing efforts were able to get him out. So the urgency of this crisis is now. We cannot wait until March. And this is why we need a breakthrough in Congress to get the DREAM Act passed, which is a bipartisan legislation that will protect undocumented young people and create a pathway to citizenship for them. And it's supported by over 86 percent of Americans, including Republicans.

GREENE: Including Republicans - and that leads to my next question. Are you worried that taking such a hard line on this budget vote could actually backfire? You've had Republicans who are very willing to talk about a bipartisan solution to this. There was the Durbin-Graham bill. Are you worried that a political showdown over the budget could actually poison the waters and backfire for you?

JIMENEZ: I think it's clear for Americans that we have a challenge in the White House. You know, the president's recent comments really revealed what's underneath his immigration policy. So I really think that in this moment we have an opportunity for Republicans to really step in and do the right thing and give us a breakthrough, come to the table, create a solution, not only for DACA but for the other issues that are on the negotiation table and to not allow folks like Stephen Miller to control the debate here. I mean, what we have seen is that there have been bipartisan negotiations, and they have been rejected by the White House - first agreed to by the president in some instances. And then we have seen how Stephen Miller and others in the White House have changed the president's mind on this. So even, you know, Senator Graham said that Stephen Miller has been a huge problem. So I really think the Republicans have an opportunity to lead in this moment, come to the table - and Democrats - to work together for a solution.

GREENE: Cristina Jimenez is the co-founder and executive director of United We Dream. We appreciate your time this morning.

JIMENEZ: Great to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.