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DACA Recipients Face Deportation In The Coming Weeks


For weeks now, lawmakers have tried and failed to strike an agreement to extend DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. President Trump says, barring action, he will end DACA on March 5, though some legal battles could change that. What we do know is there is a lot of uncertainty for immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children and are protected by DACA. Cristina Jimenez is the co-founder of the immigrants rights group United We Dream, and she joins us from our bureau in New York. Cristina, good morning.

CRISTINA JIMENEZ: Good morning, David.

GREENE: I want to start by asking, your brother is a DACA recipient, right? What is his story, and what's he thinking right now?

JIMENEZ: You know, my brother, Jonathan, came with our family in 1998 and grew up in New York City. And my parents are undocumented, and he's protected by DACA. And on September 5, when President Trump decided to terminate the program, he put my brother's life and thousands of young people like him at the risk of deportation. So the anxiety and the fear that my brother and others live with is very real.

GREENE: So your brother's been living in the country for what, like, two decades now?

JIMENEZ: Over 20 years.

GREENE: And how are you feeling about that? I mean, are you really believing there's a chance that he could be forced out of the country?

JIMENEZ: We know that the vulnerability to deportation in this moment is very real in our community. So, you know, every time I get a phone call from him, or even a phone call from my dad or my mom, I always worry if something is happening to them. This is why we had been advocating for Congress to really get to a breakthrough on this issue and provide a solution that will protect people like my brother and millions like him. And, unfortunately, what we have seen is a game with the lives of young people when President Trump, who terminated the program himself and also committed to working on a solution, has now killed almost every bipartisan proposal that has come forward. And Republicans have been unable to work with Democrats to find a solution.

GREENE: You're singling-out President Trump and Republicans, but I wonder, I mean, there are some House Democrats who felt that the Democratic Party in the Senate should've held up a government funding bill even if it meant down-shutting the government, that that was a moment of leverage that the Democratic Party had, and Democratic senators opted not to do that, angering a lot of House Democrats. Did Senate Democrats let you down?

JIMENEZ: You know, I believe that there was really a leverage opportunity, as you mentioned, David, to be able to include a Dream Act negotiation that will protect young people from deportation without hurting our parents as part of the spending conversations. And when that wasn't done, I do believe that Democrats lost leverage in the conversation and perhaps the best opportunity to be able to pass legislation. But ultimately, Republicans control Congress. And President Trump, in his leadership role has been supporting and or rejecting many proposals, has changed many times his view on different proposal, has said that he wants to sign any bill in many meetings - a bill of love, what he called it once - and then he will reject them publicly. So as we head to March 5, when we're going to have thousands losing protection from deportation every week, the urgency grows, and we're going to need Congress to really get to a breakthrough here.

GREENE: Cristina Jimenez is the co-founder of the immigrant rights group United We Dream, joining us from New York. Cristina, thanks a lot.

JIMENEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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