DACA Summit gives dreamers hope, encouragement

Attendees at the DACA Summit Saturday at the Capital Factory in downtown Austin gathered in groups seated in circles to discuss DACA issues. (KXAN Photo: Kyle Kovilaritch)
Attendees at the DACA Summit Saturday at the Capital Factory in downtown Austin gathered in groups seated in circles to discuss DACA issues. (KXAN Photo: Kyle Kovilaritch)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A decision impacting more than 100,000 people in Texas has just three months to be made — or all those people could leave the country.

President Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — or DACA — program in September. He gave Congress six months to create a permanent program, which is up in March.

Right now, Democrats are looking at tacking on a solution onto the government spending bill. They say it’s a required concession if Republicans want their support on the spending bill.

With the future up in the air, several local groups held a DACA Summit on Saturday at the Capital Factory in downtown Austin to build people up and offer resources for those who’ve benefited from DACA.

“We want to bring peace of mind to dreamers,” said Monica Peraza, co-founder and board president of the Hispanic Alliance.

While they wait for Congress to make a call, dreamers attended the summit to focus on their own future.

“With all the political climate lately, it’s hard, sometimes, not to feel unwanted,” said Nelly Garcia, a dreamer and business owner. “And it’s nice to know that there’s people here that believe in you.”

Garcia said her bakery has been featured in Forbes magazine, and she has come a long way since college graduation.

“All there was for me was I could be a waitress or work at a hotel,” she said.

Joseph Ramirez said his family was living out of their car.

“My family moved here when I was three,” he said.

A few years later, Ramirez  ended up going to LASA High School in Austin. It’s one of the top high schools in the country, which put him on a path to entrepreneurship, something he says can empower the undocumented community.

Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro updated the crowd on what’s happening in Washington and is pushing for the DREAM Act.

“We need young, talented, dedicated folks. That’s what dreamers are,” he said. “They are American, just like anybody else, except they don’t have a piece of paper. This is the only country they know. Congress needs to act.”

KXAN contacted several Republican lawmakers from Texas for their response to the DACA deal. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was the only one who responded. He says President Trump did the right thing, sending it to Congress to authorize a deal, and adds they will find one. Cornyn says he hopes to reach a deal before the March 5 deadline.

Since the program began in 2012, almost 1.6 million people have been approved for DACA permits.

Right now, 800,000 people are currently DACA recipients, with more than 120,000 of them living in Texas. In California, there are more than 300,000.

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