***VIDEO*** Menendez: We cannot leave for the holidays without passing the Dream Act

***VIDEO*** Menendez: We cannot leave for the holidays without passing the Dream Act

Highlights three New Jersey students who could be deported without Congressional Action “Let us put an end to the fear and uncertainty hanging over so many families this holiday season. Let us summon our collective compassion. Let us pass the Dream Act and let us do it now.”

   

Washington, D.C. – U.S Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today spoke on the U.S. Senate floor calling on Republicans in Congress not to go home for the holidays without allowing a Dream Act to be part of a must-pass spending bill this year. 

 

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Below, his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Across the country, families are decorating their Christmas trees, singing along to holiday playlists, searching for that perfect gift for the ones they love, and making travel plans to see their families.  The holidays are a time for joy and togetherness, a time for faith and family, a time for gratitude and hope. The holidays are not a time for fear.

And yet without action, Congress may leave hundreds of thousands of families across America in fear this holiday season.

“I’m referring of course to the 800,000 Dreamers across America whose lives have been thrown into jeopardy by this Administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. DACA is the program that made it possible for 800,000 undocumented youth across this country – including 22,000 in my home state of New Jersey – to come out of the shadows, to step into the light and to follow their dreams without fear of deportation.

“It’s been months since this Administration decided to end DACA. And despite what some of my Republican colleagues say, the consequences of this cruel and reckless decision are not some distant threat.  More than 11,000 Dreamers have already lost their DACA protections and work permits. So to anyone who thinks we have until March to take action: You are surely mistaken. For these young people – who grew up in the United States, who know no other home or country, who today live in fear of deportation, the crisis is here and the crisis is now. 

“Ending DACA has created a national emergency that is playing out in our communities each and every day.  Tens of thousands of DACA recipients are likely to lose their status on or before March 5th.  So what exactly are we waiting for? Why wait at all? There was no legitimate reason for the President to end DACA. This crisis was avoidable. But now that it’s here, it’s our job to fix it.  President Trump essentially told Congress the ball is ‘in your court.’ Well today I want to know from my colleagues, when are we going to take our shot? 

“If we have the votes – and I believe we have the votes – isn’t it time we held a vote?  We know there’s overwhelming support from the American people – Republican and Democrat alike – for America’s Dreamers. 

“This is not fake news – poll after poll, from Quinnipiac to the Washington Post to even Fox News – shows the American people want a solution. And we know there is solid support for the Dream Act here in the Senate. I’ve seen my colleagues share the photos of the Dreamers they meet, and post the stories about these brave young people fighting to stay in the only country they know and love. But they deserve more than Instagram posts and friendly tweets. They deserve action. Every day that goes by, more and more Dreamers find themselves in danger of being sent back to countries they simply do not know or even remember.

“So let us take a moment to remember exactly whose lives we are talking about when we talk about Dreamers. We are talking about the “Motherhood and Apple Pie” of the immigrant community, and the question of immigration. We are talking about young people brought here as children, through no choice of their own. Every child who is a dreamer is someone who only knows the United States of America as their country. Children who have grown up American and are American in every sense of the word except on paper.

“Dreamers are studying in our colleges, playing on our sports teams, serving in our military – risking their lives on behalf of what they consider to be their country – growing our economy, obeying our laws, and most of all, loving our country – because it’s their country too! They aren’t undocumented aliens – they are Americans who happen to be undocumented! And that includes 22,000 Dreamers in my home state of New Jersey.

“Promising students like Sara Mora, who you see pictured here on the floor. Sara grew up in Hillside, New Jersey. Her parents brought her to this country from Costa Rica at the age of three.  She was just three years old. As Sara recently wrote in the Star Ledger, “New Jersey has been my home for as long as I can remember.” Today she’s a hardworking college student – thanks to DACA. That’s how she was able to get a work permit, find a job, and work her way through Union County College.  Sara was preparing her applications to transfer to Seton Hall University and earn her four-year degree when the Trump Administration announced the end of DACA.  Now, Sara says, her future is one “big question mark. Without DACA, I'll go back to zero - no driver's license, no job, no possibility of paying for my education. I'll have to wake up fearing deportation every day.” When will we accept some responsibility, and recognize that it is our inaction here in the United States Senate that contributes to Sara’s fear every day?  

“Or take Adriana Gonzalez of Toms River, New Jersey.  As the Asbury Park Press recently wrote, Adriana is “a flute player, a student ambassador, a girl who would play soccer with special needs children.”  So like most Dreamers, Adriana isn’t known by her peers as undocumented immigrant. She’s known as a smart young woman with a bright future and something to contribute to her community. 

“Or how about Reiniero Amaya of Elizabeth, New Jersey. He’s studying civil engineering from Fairleigh-Dickinson College. I can’t think of anything more backwards than deporting a hardworking student who dreams of becoming a civil engineer. We need civil engineers! His story is just one more reminder that our country can’t afford to lose America’s dreamers. They have so much to offer to our communities and our economy.

“In fact, ending DACA is projected to cost New Jersey’s economy over $1.5 billion annually. And reduce U.S. by $460 billion over the next decade.  DACA gave dreamers like Reiniero the freedom to pursue his dreams.  But it also gave him a sense of security.  He recently wrote on NorthJersey.com that “the day I received my work permit and my Social Security card was the day I finally felt proud of who I am. I felt recognized. I felt safe.” That sense of belonging, of acceptance, of safety was ripped away by the President’s decision to end DACA. But so long as this Congress fails to act, we are complicit in prolonging the very real fear that 800,000 Dreamers feel today.

The fear that the knock at the door isn’t your family or neighbor, but an immigration agent ready to whisk you away from your family. The fear that we see when these young people who believed in our government, came forth to give information about themselves and their family, all under the guise that it was going to be confidential, and now have all that at risk.

“The willingness of DACA recipients to share their stories speaks volumes about their integrity, their courage, and the trust they put in us as elected officials.  I’m remindeD of Psalm 56:3. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Well, Dreamers like Sara, Adriana, and Reiniero put their trust in the United States of America when they applied for DACA.  They came out of the shadows, registered with the Department of Homeland Security, passed criminal background checks, and handed over personal details about themselves and their families to authorities they've been forced to hide from their entire lives.   DACA recipients went through all of this to get a two-year renewable work permit and the promise of protection from deportation.

“So I ask my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, was their faith, their trust, their belief in the U.S. government’s word a monumental mistake?  Were they wrong to believe that we can put partisan politics aside and come together and do the right thing? Will the United States Senate go home for the holidays without lifting a finger to make sure these promising young students feel safe in their homes, in their schools, in their communities?

“They’ve become an integral part of our American family and many are starting families of their own. In fact, 25 percent of DACA recipients have U.S. born children. Do we really want these young mothers and fathers to be torn from their children and sent back to a country they’ve never called home? Do we not have an obligation to protect American children from the trauma of losing a parent? Do we not have a moral responsibility to keep families together?

“Will we sit idly by as this Administration implements a policy that says whether you are selling drugs in our streets or earning A’s in our classrooms or serving in our military, everyone is fair game for deportation. No one is safe, not even children who know no other home. That’s not law and order. That’s fear and chaos!

“Where is our compassion? Where is our sense of urgency? How many more Dreamers have to lose their DACA status before we stand up and do what’s right?

“The time for temporary fixes is over. The time for empty gestures is over.The time for heartfelt words is over. It’s time for us to stand up for these young people! It’s time to for us to act.  It’s time for us – Democrats and Republicans – to use whatever legislative vehicle is necessary to pass the Dream Act.  Whether it’s a continuing resolution or a straight vote here on the floor, it’s time for us to get this done.  Let us put an end to the fear and uncertainty hanging over so many families this holiday season. Let us summon our collective compassion. Let us pass the Dream Act and let us do it now.

For me it is a moral imperative that these young people, who know no other country besides the United States, who are Americans in every other sense of the word, not have to live this holiday season with the fear that the knock at the door isn’t someone other than family or a neighbor.“

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