Undocumented Immigrants Are Getting A Hand From An Unexpected Ally

"We were all a little bit surprised when we heard the news."

Undocumented immigrants just got a tip of the hat from an unlikely source: South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

On Wednesday, Senator Graham announced that he was readying legislation to protect the legal rights of the 740,000 undocumented immigrants who were protected under Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) directive. Those undocumented immigrants, commonly known as DREAMers, received work authorization and temporary safety from deportation.

One of them, Deyanira Aldana, spoke to A Plus about the importance of DACA to her and her family. 

Aldana came to the United States when she was 4 years old with her parents, who overstayed a travel visa and have since raised her and her siblings here. Like most immigrants, Aldana said, her family came her to find better education and work opportunities, and to have a shot at receiving decent medical care. Before she graduated high school, President Obama announced DACA. 

"One thing to remember is that it is not amnesty," Aldana told A Plus. "This is not the solution, this is a temporary fix for the current problem but it isn't an entire fix for the whole problem. There are people like my mother who do not have any relief and live in fear of deportation every day."

Aldana now works for the nonprofit United We Dream and says that throughout adulthood, DACA has helped her family live without fear of deportation (except her mother, who is not a recipient). Because of that, she says, she and her siblings have all found jobs and gotten to live productive lives contributing to the economy in the United States.

Graham's support of Aldana and DREAMers like her is surprising, not just because of his party's often hardline stance on immigration, but because he's often had harsh words for DREAMers specifically. In 2010, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors act (where DREAMers derive their name from) failed to pass in the Senate. Graham responded by saying that the young people should stop "wasting their time" with the bill until America had secured its border.

"We were all a little bit surprised when we heard the news," Aldana said. "But it's not a surprise to me that there are politicians  who are looking at DACA and seeing how beneficial it has been overall."



The Aldana family.
The Aldana family. Photo courtesy of Deyanira Aldana

Greisa Martinez, advocacy director of United We Dream, sent the following statement to A Plus:

"Republican Sen. Graham understands that throwing over 700,000 immigrant youth to the wolves by ending DACA without any recourse would be a moral, economic and political disaster — it is time for the rest of the Republican party to come to grips with that fact."

In the wake of Donald Trump's campaign, which featured some hardline rhetoric around immigration, it's understandable that people like Aldana became worried about the prospect of deportation. She's lived in the United States for as long as she can remember. But she also understands that there are fierce opponents to DACA, and that some Americans would love to see Trump fulfill his promise of mass deportation.

"We are human beings, we're here [for] a better life, not only for ourselves but for our communities and all of those people who struggling," Aldana said when asked to address Americans who support mass deportation. "I would encourage those people to use their moral compass when looking at our families. I would just remind them that family separation is something that we're against."

Cover photo: Flickr / Skidmore.

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