United We Dream seeks support from U.S. Rep. John Culberson for clean Dream Act
Victer Esquivel clutched a photo of his niece and nephew to take with him into a meeting with U.S. Rep. John Culberson, on Tuesday, Oct. 17, to request his support for a clean Dream Act.
United We Dream organizers and faith leaders from District 7 gathered to speak with Rep. Culberson at his office as part of a nationwide effort to address members of Congress in their hometowns about a clean Dream Act.
The initiative comes on the heels of President Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) earlier this year, which is a program that provided authorization for work and safety from deportation for those who arrived in the U.S. at a young age.
Rachel Hassell, a District 7 constituent and United We Dream member, expressed her deep frustrations with the restrictions the group was met with upon arriving at Culberson’s office.
“They only allowed nine people to go up and we just got kicked out of the lobby,” Hassell said.
Esquivel, a DACA recipient, was among one of the nine people who was permitted to sit before Culberson and share his story.
Esquivel has called Texas home for the last 20 years and has no recollection of his home country of Mexico. He came to the U.S. when he was 4 years old.
“My main fight is to stay close to my nephew and niece,” Esquivel said. “I love them like they are my own kids, I don’t see myself not being in their life.”
The first time Esquivel learned that he was undocumented was when he tried to go on a school trip to Spain when he was younger only to be told by his mom, “If you go, you won’t be able to come back.”
“She had to go through the process of telling me what my status was,” Esquivel said.
Since the announcement to overturn DACA was made early September, Esquivel said he has been living in fear and began suffering from panic attacks.
“I literally didn’t want to drive home because I was scared of getting into a car accident and endanger anyone else,” Esquivel said.
However, Esquivel wasn’t the only DACA recipient to show up to Culberson’s office hanging on to a sliver of hope that something would move in their favor.
Michelle Avendano, a University of Houston alumna, studied psychology and hopes to work as a graduate researcher learning about memory and thinking while chasing grants to fund her research endeavors.
Avendano said living in uncertainty has brought on a world of struggle as she works to maintain her productivity while at the University of Texas Medical Center as an assistant researcher and trying to ease the fear that’s erupted in her home with her undocumented parents.
“You’re in a golden cage, because the United States is a wonderful place but you feel a little caged in,” Avendano said.
Avendano said that if she were to lose DACA and nothing else was to come in its place to protect her and her family, she would need to apply to graduate school out of the country or move back to her native country of Mexico.
Avandano came to the U.S. when she was 8 years old. She was among the group that was asked to leave the lobby area and wait outside while the others met with Culberson.
Jonathan Page, senior minister at First Congregation Church and also president of Faith Leader’s Coalition, which is a group of predominantly progressive faith leaders, was in the meeting room with Culberson.
“This is a moral issue and our faith calls on us to care for those who are living on the margins, who live in fear,” Page said.
Page added that he could not come up with an argument from Christian scriptures against the Dream Act and that he does not believe one exists.
“Culberson is an expert politician he knows what he’s doing, he’s doing exactly what I would have urged him to do if I were in his position,” Page said.
Page explained that Culberson made no commitments in supporting the Dream Act but that he expressed concern, compassion and showed that he was listening, but made no concrete promises toward anything.
“I think that’s because of the pressure from his caucus that has very strong anti-immigrant views,” Page said. “To be blunt, there are people in his caucus that have very racist views.”
Culberson could not be reached for comment.