State Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, who is running for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat as U.S. representative for Florida's 27th Congressional District, held a Dreamer Dinner at David’s Cafe in Miami Beach to discuss immigration reform with Dreamers and their families.
“We need immigrants in this country. We depend on a growing base in our population. We depend on younger people to make our economy successful,” said Richardson said at the event on Sunday.
The guests of honor at the event were all Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients who have been able to work and study in this country with minimal repercussions or fear of being deported. This status might soon change if Congress doesn’t come up with a solution by March 2018, since no renewal applications will be issued after that month. DACA and work permits are valid until their individual expiration dates. However no new applications were accepted after Sept. 5, and no renewal applications were accepted after Oct. 5.
Young people who were brought into the country as children feel increasingly frustrated spending several years trying to regularize their immigration status.
“[We] came to this country to have these opportunities. We came here to be able to qualify for these jobs. Maybe because we come from other countries motivates me to work even harder,” said 21-year old Florida International University student Lorena Malavet.
“I came to [the United States] when I was 7 years old. I’ve pretty much known this country my whole life. I only remember some memories from Colombia, but it’s not my home,” she said.
The main issue for these Dreamers is to have a DREAM Act passed that keeps families intact.
“A clean DREAM [Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors] Act means nothing that would hurt our families because they’re also undocumented -- no wall, no more enforcement, no more discrimination against our community,” said 34-year old Lorena Jofre. Jofre calls herself an “older generation Dreamer.” She came to the U.S. from Chile in 1993 when she was 10.
Malavet became emotional when thinking about her parents’ own immigration struggles and their desire to see her succeed. She also wants to make sure that they are protected. “[We worry] so much about our parents because you can tell how much they've struggled. We're trying so hard to push forward. We want to see them feel like they also belong here because they're the original dreamers.”
Though Rep. Richardson warned of the complexity of immigration reform, especially legislation that encompasses everybody and not just Dreamers, Monica Lazaro, 24 and a recent FIU graduate, is hopeful and steadfast in her fight.
“I'm not going to settle as a Dreamer. I'm not going to settle for something that would throw other immigrants under the bus,” she said.
In a press release sent out on Tuesday, Richardson stated, "If elected to Congress, I want to be 'at the table' to find a permanent solution for the Dreamers, and move forward with an overall immigration reform package."
Richardson is one of eight Democrats running to replace Ros-Lehtinen, who will retire at the end of her current term in the House. Three Republicans also are running.