DACA; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 207
(Senate - December 19, 2017)

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[Pages S8076-S8077]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, yesterday I went to Benito Juarez high 
school in Chicago, in the southwest part of the city, in the Pilsen 
neighborhood. It has a predominantly Mexican-American enrollment at 
this high school. It is one of my favorites. I have been there time and 
again for so many different events. It is full of life and full of some 
amazing young students and some great teachers and a great principal, 
Mr. Ocon. I was there 2 weeks ago for a mariachi band ensemble, 
training students across the city to be musicians in the Mexican 
tradition. There is so much life there.
  But yesterday was not the happiest occasion. It was sad and 
worrisome. I met with about 20 of the students there, all of whom have 
been protected by DACA. DACA was President Obama's Executive order that 
was issued in 2012. That Executive order said that if you were brought 
to the United States as a child, an infant, a toddler, a young person, 
and grew up in this country undocumented; if you had no problems of any 
serious nature with the law; if you finished your education; if you 
went through a criminal background check and paid a fee, you would be 
protected and be able to stay in America 2 years at a time to go to 
school, to work, whatever your aspirations may be.
  Under President Obama's Executive order, 780,000 young people came 
forward, and the 20 I met at Benito Juarez were among them. They got 
the protection they needed to legally get a job. For a lot of these 
young students, that is a critical part of their lives because, being 
undocumented, they don't qualify for any Federal assistance to go to 
college. If they want to go to college, they have to save up for it, 
and they have to find the money and work for the tuition and other 
expenses. So getting a job is a very important part of it.
  These young people, as they went through the DACA process, knew that 
they were safe from being deported. That is a fear which many of us 
can't even understand, but it is a real fear for many people in this 
country who are here undocumented. So for these young people, they have 
that chance.
  On September 5, President Trump announced he was ending the DACA 
protection program as of March 5 of next year, putting an end to the 
protection these young people have. As their DACA expires, they will be 
vulnerable to deportation. They will reach the point where they can no 
longer work in America.
  The end of DACA as we know it will dramatically change the lives of 
thousands of young people. It will change the lives of 900 of these 
DACA-protected young people who volunteered to serve in our military--
currently serving in our military, willing to risk their lives for a 
country that will not give them legal status. Imagine that for a 
moment. If they had to prove that they really cared about America, what 
more could they do then to put their lives on the line? They have done 
it, 900 of them. When DACA goes away on March 5 of next year, they have 
to leave the military service. That is the end of their opportunity to 
serve America. Many of them are in the military because they bring 
special skills and special capacities to lead. We will lose them.
  It will mean that 20,000 of these DACA-protected young people, when 
it goes away for them, will no longer be able to teach--20,000 teachers 
across America. I met one of them yesterday, Katherine Galeano. 
Katherine, whom I had met before, is a special-ed teacher. Her family 
originally came from Nicaragua. She told a heartbreaking story about 
what happened 10 years ago. She was in high school. She was taking a 
shower in the morning before she was to go to school. There was a knock 
on the bathroom door. Her mother was crying and screaming: ``Come out. 
Come out.'' Katherine came out to see her father being handcuffed. They 
were deporting him to Nicaragua. He was gone. That was the last time he 
saw her and she saw him--10 years ago. As she told the story, she said 
that her mother tried to make it as a single mom with her kids here in 
the United States and finally gave up and went back to Nicaragua, 
leaving Katherine to raise herself, to pay her own way through college, 
to get a teaching certificate and teach special-ed in the city of 
Chicago. As of March 5 next year, Katherine is finished teaching. It is 
over. DACA is gone.
  When I met with these students yesterday, you can imagine what they 
were worried about. They are worried about themselves and their future. 
They are worried about their families. They are worried about having 
turned over all this information to the government when they signed up 
for DACA which can now be used against them and their families. That is 
what they are worried about.
  Many of them, I am sure, reflect on the fact that this could be their 
last Christmas in the United States of America. If that seems overly 
dramatic, then you need to meet them and talk to them and understand 
the reality of their lives. That is what they face.
  While President Trump did prospectively eliminate the DACA Program, 
he issued a challenge to us. He said to Congress: Now do something. If 
I am going to eliminate this Executive order, what is Congress going to 
do in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives? Will you pass a law 
to deal with this challenge?
  He said that in September, and here we are in the middle of December 
having done nothing--nothing--and the clock is ticking. It is a clock 
that means an awful lot to thousands of young people across America, 
including those at Benito Juarez high school in the city of Chicago.
  There are people who want to get this fixed, Republicans and 
Democrats. We need to come together and get this done. There is no 
excuse for delay. We know what needs to be done. We need to give these 
young people a chance.
  I introduced the DREAM Act 16 years ago here in the Senate, and the 
DREAM Act said to these young people: We are going to put you on a path 
to legalization and a path to citizenship. It won't be easy, and it 
won't be quick, and you will have to show us that you can be a 
productive part of America's future, but then we will give you your 
chance. These young people grew up in the United States of America, 
pledging allegiance to that flag, singing our national anthem, 
believing in their heart of hearts that this was home, but it really 
wasn't, legally. They were undocumented and illegal in America. Now the 
question is, What will we do to make that better, to fix it, to come up 
with a just solution?

  Some of my Republican colleagues say: Well, you have to give us more 
than just fixing their problem; you have to give us some fix to our 
immigration system. I am not against that. I was part of a group of 
eight Senators who spent months together--four Democrats, four 
Republicans. We crafted a comprehensive immigration bill, which I am 
proud of. It passed on the floor of the Senate and was sent over to the 
Republican House of Representatives where they refused to even consider 
it. They would not bring it up for a vote. It died in the Republican 
  I know this immigration system in America is broken. I have talked 
about one specific piece of it this morning, but there are many aspects 
of it that are broken. The Republicans have said to us: Do something to 
make our borders stronger. Sign me up. I voted for that on the 
comprehensive immigration bill. Does that mean more technology, more 
equipment, making certain that it is clear that our border is going to 
be a real border that you cannot cross at will? Of course. I am 
prepared to do that, and many Democrats--maybe all the Democrats--would 
join in that effort. There are things that we can do to fix this 
system, but what we cannot do is ignore it. We cannot ignore what is 
happening to these young people, the threat to their future, to their 
families, and we can't ignore the reality that this is a basic test of 
who we are as Americans.
  I stand here today as the son of an immigrant mother. My mom was 
brought to this country when she was 2 years old, and thank goodness my 
grandmother decided to put her on a boat, bring her from Lithuania to 
the United States. I wouldn't be here otherwise. That is my story, that 
is my family's story, and that is America's story. That is who we are. 
I cannot imagine my grandmother and grandfather, whom I never knew, 
making the decision to come to a country where they didn't even speak 
the language,

[[Page S8077]]

giving up everything and leaving it behind in their mother country of 
Lithuania to try a new country called the United States of America. 
That story has been repeated millions of times, and thank goodness it 
has. They not only brought strong backs and strong minds, but they 
brought with them a part of their DNA, which was a DNA of culture, 
courage, and determination, and I think that is part of who we are as 
Americans--and proud to be.
  Let me tell you the story of one of these Dreamers, as I call them, 
or DACA young people. All of my speeches notwithstanding, these stories 
tell more about this situation than anything I could possibly say. This 
is Maria Rocha. I have told stories of Dreamers on the floor; she is 
101, I believe, of the list that I have given. She came to the United 
States at the age of 3, brought from Mexico. Maria grew up in a rural 
town called Stonewall, TX. Her fondest memories of growing up in the 
Texas Hill Country include haystack jumping, armadillo chasing, and 
fishing in a lake. Later in her childhood, Maria's family moved to San 
Antonio. Maria was a very good student. She graduated from high school 
twelfth in her class. She played varsity soccer. She was recognized as 
a San Antonio Scholar Athlete of the Week during her junior year. At 
the same time, as she was going to school and playing soccer, she was 
working a job to help support herself and her family.
  Maria was accepted at the University of Texas at San Antonio. While 
enrolled as a full-time student, she kept right on working. In fact, 
she juggled three different jobs. She was a housekeeper, a babysitter, 
and a personal assistant. She had to come up with $40,000 out of pocket 
to pay for college education. She didn't qualify for any Federal 
assistance because of her immigration status. So these young students 
in college are working harder than many others just to make sure they 
  In May of 2012, she graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary 
studies. After graduation, she decided to enter a program known as 
Teach For America. Almost everyone knows about this program, but they 
should know that this is a program in which college graduates volunteer 
to teach in some of the most challenging schools across America. Maria 
was one of those.
  Today, Maria continues her career as a teacher. She teaches third 
grade in her hometown of San Antonio, TX. At the same time, she is 
pursuing a graduate degree in education, once again with no Federal 
assistance, no Federal loans. Without DACA, Maria would not be able to 
work and could be deported immediately. When asked what would happen to 
her without DACA protection, which President Trump eliminated as of 
March 5 next year, Maria only thinks of her students. Here is what she 
said: How are my students going to take it? What is going to happen to 
them? That is what scares me.
  Nationwide, there are 20,000 DACA recipients just like her. With 
Teach For America alone, 190 of these undocumented students who have 
gone on to get degrees in college are teaching in the Teach For America 
Program. Currently, they are teaching 10,000 students across 11 States, 
with one-third of them in the State of Texas.
  In a few weeks, Congress is going to face the reality of this DACA 
provision by President Trump coming into full effect. As of that day, 
she and others like her will start the clock ticking to lose their 
jobs, be legally unemployable in America.
  Christmas is a special time of year for every family of Christian 
faith and those who observe it. It is a special time of year for my 
family. The real question though is, Can we leave this week, ignoring 
this issue? Can we go home and enjoy our Christmas without thinking for 
a moment of how young people like Maria may be facing their last 
Christmas in the United States of America? That is the reality of what 
she faces. So why don't we face this issue?
  This is an empty Senate Chamber, which is usually the case, 
unfortunately. I wish it were filled--filled with a healthy, fulsome 
debate on this issue. Let's have our disagreements, bring them out. 
Let's work out our compromises. Let's do something that is really 
radical around here. Let's come together and legislate--Democrats and 
Republicans. Let's solve this problem. That is why we were elected, not 
to collect a paycheck and build a pension but to solve the problems 
facing America. This one is real, it is timely, and it is now.
  Maria Rocha and 780,000 other young people are counting on us to do 
something. Let's not come up with excuses. Let's come up with answers.
  I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Strange). Without objection, it is so