Luis Cortes received his DACA status in 2013, the same year he graduated from law school.
“Anybody who's grown up here undocumented has had a lifelong contingency plan I think that keeps adding to it and changing and evolving as time moves forward,” said Cortes brought to the U.S. as a toddler.
The caseload of his Kent office spans hundreds of immigrants, including high profile cases such as the undocumented immigrant turned over to ICE by Tukwila police just last week and Daniel Ramirez Medina, the Dreamer who lost his DACA status after ICE agents detained him last year. Ramirez has since been released as his court case continues.
“Weirdly enough when I'm in court, that seems to be one of the only times when I can have some peace,” said Cortes whose own status remains in limbo, along with the hundreds of thousands of other DACA recipients nationwide.
“Having a temporary work permit that can expire or be taken away is very scary. It’s a very uncertain way to live. No one chooses to be like this,” said Cortes. “If there was a way (to apply for citizenship), individuals would certainly be applying.”
Lawmakers on Monday began debate to solve that very issue. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created under executive order by the Obama administration, is scheduled to expire March 5 unless Congress comes up with a legislative fix.
"The president's framework is not an opening bid in negotiation. It is a best and final offer,” said Senator Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas.
Senator Cotton, along with several other Republican colleagues, introduced a proposal that incorporates the White House guidance released last month. Their proposal would provide a ten to twelve-year path to citizenship for DACA recipients based on a series of guidelines, coupled with a $25 billion-dollar border security plan, as well as changes to the diversity visa lottery program and limits to extended family migration.
The proposal would allow parents of U.S. citizens to receive non-immigrant visas to enter the U.S. for a renewable five-year-period, according to the “Secure and Succeed Act.”
“I think the broader concern other than the long wait is that this is going to be done at the stake of their parents, saying ‘okay we'll provide some legislative fix for Dreamers but we're going to deport everyone else,’” said Cortes of the proposal to limit family migration. “That's one of biggest concerns that a lot of dreamers have and that we won't stand for.”
Lawmakers now just a few weeks to solve an issue both highly complex and emotional. Congress hasn’t passed a major immigration reform in three decades.
“This entire immigration debate is designed to fail and it will,” a Senate aide told NBC News, according to an article published Monday.
Attorney Luis Cortes, who navigates the complexities of immigration law on a daily basis, remains skeptical a grand bargain can be reached by the deadline next month.
“It’s difficult to have hope in Congress given their current track record,” said Cortes.
“I hope they see that this is something much larger than themselves but you know it's hard to keep optimistic with what's going on.”