South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is one of a few lawmakers who are bringing Dreamers as their special guests to Tuesday’s State of the Union Address.
In the U.S. there are 1.8 million Dreamers, otherwise known as recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration status. It was last year that President Donald Trump made known he would not be renewing the program, which would affect an estimated 800,000 of these Dreamers.
Nicholas Perez, 29, is one of those Dreamers who could be affected by DACA’s end.
He is originally from Venezuela but has lived in Broward County since he was 12, free from fear of deportation - until now.
“I would just go and say to Trump: Think of us like if we were your family, your neighbors, your friends,” Perez said. “If I get deported, I don’t get to spend time with my kids, my people. It’s like putting a bullet through my head.”
Any path to citizenship, Perez said, even if it takes years, would be better than deportation in his mind. He wants people who question whether Dreamers should be allowed to stay in the U.S. to know that DACA was not easy for him to get.
“People, in order to qualify for DACA - it’s not that easy,” he said. "You need to be able to get at least a high-school diploma, you need to be able to get a good GPA, you don’t have to have any criminal records, you have to be able to show at least you can support yourself.''
Wasserman Schultz said she would not vote for a Dream Act that included stipulations for a U.S. border wall. She does want to vote yes on a completely clean Dream Act and before the next federal government shutdown deadline of Feb. 8.
“Regardless of what the president ultimately does, he has put millions of children and their immigrant families through an excruciating amount of anxiety in their lives. And that is not leadership, nor is it compassion,” Wasserman Schultz said.
South Florida U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo is also set to bring a Dreamer as his guest to President Trump’s first State of the Union Address.
Perez is looking forward to the address, and he’s hoping to act as a representative for all of the Dreamers who can’t be there.
“I’ll do anything that I can to be the voice out there,” Perez said. “We are just as good as U.S. citizen people.”