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In search of heroes in Congress to pass DREAM Act

I grew up in Boston, where I was surrounded by the richness of American history. On its cobblestoned streets stand monuments and historic structures that tell stories of leaders who had the courage to defend freedom as they founded our nation. They are our heroes.

Today, we are desperately in need of new political heroes.

{mosads}We have a president who preaches the “rule of law” but pardons former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, who was voted out of office and then convicted in federal court related to charges of violating the U.S. Constitution by racially profiling Latinos like me.

Next, President Trump performed perhaps the cruelest act I have ever seen committed by an American president by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which included almost 800,000 participants. Unless Congress stops him, Trump and the anti-immigrant politicians and base he represents will be ending the American lives of young adults who are contributing to our country.

It is up to all of us to stop this political madness. We need to dedicate ourselves, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month, to rising up and demanding an end to cruelty to show that we deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

For years, the so-called Dreamers have been my heroes. When I was afraid to speak out on behalf of immigrants’ rights — for my parents, in particular — they gave me courage. I saw their growing political strength through public protests that put them at risk of deportation, and I thought: They are undocumented and unafraid. I am a U.S. citizen, and I must no longer be afraid.

As the citizen daughter of Colombian immigrants, our family lived the double life of embracing our American existence in Boston while hiding the fact that my parents and older brother did not have legal status. After failed attempts to rectify their status, my father used what little savings he had to make monthly payments to a lawyer who was helping us — but the lawyer scammed us. I will never forget going with my father to visit the attorney, only to find an empty office and the nameplate gone, along with our money. It was heartbreaking and, unfortunately, all too common.

During my freshman year in high school, my family was deported. When politicians talk about immigration, they focus on the politics more than the affected families. I assure you, the impact is great. The family unit comes to an end when it is separated, and the financial, emotional and scholastic lives of children are shaken.

As my acting career took off, I avoided interviews out of fear of being asked about my family background in the midst of the hateful political climate. With inspiration from Dreamers, I found my voice on behalf of immigrants’ rights and Latino civic engagement.

When it comes to Congress, I do not pretend to be an expert. But here is what I know.

First, destroying the lives of DACA recipients is 800,000 times what happened to me but worse. My family was torn apart because of Congress’s failures to update the immigration system in a just and fair way. Not the Trump way of building border walls, funding a massive deportation force and reducing the legal visas, but in a way that speaks to the reality of our diverse nation that benefits greatly from the presence of immigrants. Ending DACA would cost us $460.3 billion in lost economic growth over the next decade.

Second, I am a voter — and an outspoken one — and like all voters, I want Congress to do its job. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act needs to be passed by the House and Senate now. Not next month, and certainly not next year. Voters, including the overwhelming majority who do not want Dreamers deported, are tired of childish threats about government shutdowns and reading tweets divorced from reality.

Pass the DREAM Act on its own, without any additional baggage like a border wall that will be an ugly monument to Trump’s anti-immigrant legacy. Pass the DREAM Act with the urgency you are applying to fund hurricane recovery and relief. Remember that hurricanes are acts of God, but ending DACA is a political disaster that only Congress can fix.

Third, we are watching. During Hispanic Heritage Month, I will be part of a campaign called RISE: Register to vote. Ignite community involvement. Strive to grow our political power. Engage by becoming citizens and mobilizing others to get involved. We are ready to hold you accountable, now and next year, when you stand for reelection.

This is your chance to rise with us and show that you are on our side, the side that seeks morally right legislative solutions. Show that you have the courage exemplified by our founding fathers.

Diane Guerrero is an actor and author of her memoir, “In The Country We Love,” and partners with Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Mi Familia Vota and New American Leaders Project.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Hispanic Heritage Month

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