Hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients are anxiously awaiting a decision by President Trump, expected Tuesday, as to whether he will end the Obama era immigration program.
NBC News is reporting that the president is leaning toward ending the policy but with a six-month delay, allowing Congress time for a legislative fix.
“We’re still facing a lot of uncertainty,” said Paul Quiñonez, a volunteer with the Washington Dream Coalition.
Quiñonez himself has been a DACA recipient since 2013. The program has allowed him to graduate from Gonzaga and work at the Washington State Legislature. Brought to the US from Mexico at age seven, he doesn't want to leave the country he now calls home.
“I realize how American I feel and how I've gotten used to being here and how my life really is built here,” Quiñonez described. “It's not really an option that I'm willing to consider, at least not yet.”
However, the question of what’s next looms for nearly 800,000 DACA recipients nationwide, including more than 17,000 in Washington State.
“We love the dreamers. We love everybody,” President Trump said last week when asked whether DACA recipients should be worried.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 a chance to stay in the United States to study or work, if they meet certain conditions and are approved for the program.
However, 10 states have threatened to sue if the program over its constitutionality, if it’s not cancelled by Tuesday, forcing President Trump to make a final decision by that day.
Meanwhile, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is threatening legal action of his own if the program is cancelled.
“We're hoping we can continue to put pressure on him, and his team to say this is not the right way to go,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington.
Rep. Jayapal, an immigrant herself and longtime advocate, held a dinner roundtable with a group of DACA recipients Monday night to discuss the impact and concerns for the program's future.
Members of Congress will return to Washington D.C. on Tuesday where the debate over DACA will no doubt be added to their long list of items to work through this month.
“We have the votes I know in the House if (Speaker) Paul Ryan brings a bill to the floor,” said Jayapal on Monday. “There are two legislative vehicles already on the docket. He could bring one of those to the floor and it would pass.”
Washington Republicans Dan Newhouse and Dave Reichert sent a letter to Speaker Ryan last week, urging action to provide some level of certainty to the Dreamers now in limbo.
“We are willing and ready to find a solution no matter what action is taken by President Trump in coming days,” read the letter in part.
One of the legislative options with considerable bi-partisan support includes the BRIDGE Act which would make DACA law for a three-year period. Both Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington and Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Washington are co-sponsors of the bill.
However, Dreamers including Quiñonez, want a more permanent solution, such as the DREAM Act which would provide a legal pathway to citizenship, something currently lacking for DACA recipients.
“We’re feeling a lot of mixed emotions because this is a country that we've grown up in, that we've been raised in,” said Quiñonez.
“No one would probably know that we were undocumented, unless we told them. No one expects me to be undocumented, as a student at Gonzaga, as a person working at the state legislature. No one ever thinks of that when they talk to me. But, it is a reality, so to be living that life and that story and to not even feel welcome in the country you grew up in. That's a really tough spot to be in.”