NC DACA recipients: We are the hard-working people the U.S. wants as immigrants

Protesters oppose GOP immigration policy

About 50 protesters with the Tuesdays with Tillis Indivisible group called for passage of a 'clean' DACA immigration bill as they marched in Raleigh on Jan. 16, 2018.
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About 50 protesters with the Tuesdays with Tillis Indivisible group called for passage of a 'clean' DACA immigration bill as they marched in Raleigh on Jan. 16, 2018.

The hard-working children of ambitious parents are the very kind of people the United States should want as immigrants, two DACA recipients who grew up in the Triangle area said Tuesday.

Keny Murillo Brizuela, 23, of Creedmoor, and Jessica Garcia Solis, 25, of Wendell, both were brought to the United States by parents who wanted to work, support their children and launch them into better lives than they would have experienced in their native countries. Brizuela was born in Honduras; Solis in Mexico.

Both were temporarily protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program authorized by President Barack Obama in 2012 after Congress failed to pass legislation addressing their status. DACA provided protection in two-year increments for certain undocumented residents and allowed them to get work permits.

Critics said Obama overreached his authority in using an executive order to create the program and argued that only Congress could determine U.S. immigration policy. Opponents say the DACA program, which also protected children brought to the United States on travel visas that their parents then overstayed, rewarded unlawful behavior.

Nationwide, more than 800,000 applicants had received DACA protection before President Donald Trump announced in September that the program would be discontinued and that permits would begin to expire in six months, or March 2018. Depending on when they renewed, some applicants would be able to remain in the United States for two years.

In the meantime, the president said, Congress needs to work on a permanent solution.

Lawmakers have offered several possibilities but have not reached agreement and have been distracted by claims that Trump suggested during a meeting last week that the United States needed fewer immigrants from Haiti and Africa and more from Norway.

On Saturday, in response to a federal court ruling, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it would resume taking DACA renewal applications. Then on Sunday, Trump said in a tweet that “DACA is probably dead,” which he blamed on Democrats in Congress.

I’m being punished for something I did not do.

Jessica Garcia Solis, 25, of Wendell, brought from Mexico to the U.S. by her parents

The two most prominent immigration bills in the Senate – the DREAM Act, backed by many Democrats, and the SUCCEED Act, sponsored by North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis – would allow DACA recipients to eventually become citizens. Much of the public debate has been about which border security measures or other immigration-related measures, such as ending chain migration and the diversity lottery visa program, to include in a bill to fix DACA. Chain migration allows immigrants who have become U.S. citizens or green card holders to bring extended family to the country.

House conservatives, however, unveiled a proposal last week that would allow DACA recipients to obtain renewable work permits but would not offer a path to citizenship.

Brizuela and Solis, who visited the News & Observer offices Tuesday with DACA supporters, are among 49,712 North Carolina residents who have had deferred action applications approved. Several religious leaders in the state have said the country has an obligation to give them refuge.

Both Brizuela and Solis graduated from high school and, as they planned for college, found that because they were undocumented, they would be considered international students at state universities and would have to pay out-of-state tuition. Both were able to attend private universities, they said, with the help of scholarships.

Brizuela hopes to become a doctor and work in Durham or in rural North Carolina, he said. Solis said she would like to become an immigration lawyer.

Both said they are the children of fathers who own businesses and pay taxes – parents who went to great expense and considerable risk to bring their children to the United States for opportunities that didn’t exist in their home countries.

It’s what any loving parent would want to do for their children, Brizuela said.

Solis said her parents broke the law by overstaying their visas. “But that’s not my fault,” she said. “I’m being punished for something I did not do.”

Martha Quillin: 919-829-8989, @MarthaQuillin