From Texas Public Radio:
DACA recipients face a painful choice between supporting President Donald Trump’s offer of an immigration deal and agreeing to fund and build a border wall. But some Dreamers in south Texas say they won’t support the border wall even if it means they gain a pathway to citizenship.
Seventy-five years ago, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge was established along the Rio Grande. But on Saturday, outside the gates to the two thousand acre nature area, the crowd of supporters wasn’t having a birthday party – it was holding a protest.
Hundreds of people turned out, trying to preserve the preserve from the border wall. Scot Nicol of the Sierra Club says this is ground zero for Trump’s border barrier.
“The first of those walls would hit Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge,” Nicol says.
The federal government could move fast to wall off the refuge because it already owns the land. Most other property along the Texas Mexico border is privately owned, and eminent domain land grabs take time.
Nicol says the only thing that’s stopping the wall from being built at Santa Ana is money. Congress needs to approve it. Trump wants that done the next time legislators fund the government – expected on February 8th.
“Everybody basically here is saying, ‘No you should not give them money for the wall,’ ” Nicol says.
To make that point, many protestors wore t-shirts that read “Save Santa Ana” or “No Border Wall.” Four protestors operated a giant puppet portraying an ocelot, the wild cat that lives in the area.
Erica Davila dressed-up as the border wall itself. “I just wanted to make people aware – so you can see what can happen.”
This isn’t what Trump intended during those campaign chants of “Built that wall! Build that wall!”
Part of the chant included a pledge that Mexico would pay for it.
But now Trump wants Congress to spend $25 billion for the barrier. That’s going to require votes from Democrats, and in exchange Trump is promising to pass a Dream Act with a pathway to citizenship.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, reacted to that proposal on CNN.
“If that’s what it’s going to take to take 800 thousand young men and women and give them a chance to live freely and openly in America then I’ll roll up my sleeves. I’ll go down there with bricks and mortar and begin the wall,” he said.
DACA recipient Allyson Duarte calls this response by Democrats a stab in the back.
“No… no.. No deal. No deal,” he says.
25-year old Duarte, a native of Mexico, came to the United States when she was 13. Duarte, her mother and her brother crossed the Rio Grande in the pre-dawn hours and set out to build a new life.
“In our case it was looking for better economic opportunities. We struggled quite a bit back home,” she says.
Life in the United States was also hard. “Obviously if you’re not documented usually you find the lowest kind of employment – oftentimes there is abuse,” she says.
But in the United States there is also a promise. “They always push this narrative: if you work hard, it’s going to pay off — the American Dream — and you start to believe it.”
After graduating from high school, Duarte was offered soccer scholarships but she couldn’t accept them because of her undocumented immigration status. She studied philosophy at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and graduated. Her younger brother Chris, also a DACA recipient, recently graduated with a degree in computer science.
Both their lives would immediately improve if a Dream Act deal is reached but she says she doesn’t want that.
“I cannot be so selfish and forget about other immigrant groups – my parents and just the community members that will be affected by the actual physical border wall,” Duarte says.
Supporters of the border wall argue that it is needed to improve national security, combat the flow of drugs and end illegal immigration.
Opponents like Duarte say the wall will do none of those things and that it has become an abstract talking point for politicians. They say that with a $25 billion price tag, it deserves a full policy debate and should not be treated as a throwaway bargaining chip when talking about the Dreamers.
“I’m not willing to sacrifice that for a potential citizenship,” Duarte says.
Duarte says it’s time for Congress to vote on a clean Dream Act: No strings — and no wall — attached.