Our national debate on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is awakening strong emotions across the political spectrum. On Monday, for example, a group of protesters interrupted and heckled House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi during an immigration-focused event organized in her San Francisco congressional district.
We can only assume that at least some protesters were themselves “Dreamers,” young undocumented immigrants like myself who were brought here as kids. I fear that many Americans see this spectacle and presume that Dreamers are rowdy, left-leaning radicals—but the reality is that many of us are conservatives, and we want nothing more than to contribute to the country that we both love and grew up in.
As a DACA recipient, I empathize with frustration and feeling helpless. We do not know what the future has in store for us and our families as Congress considers our fate.
While San Francisco may be home to an estimated 4,000 young people with DACA, my state, Kansas, has at least 8,000 Dreamers. I have lived in Hutchinson, Kansas, since I was 2 years old. This is the only home I know. Our community welcomed my parents’ own conservative values and strong work ethic. They both worked hard to buy their own home. And while the property taxes my parents paid went directly to benefit the local school district, they opted for school choice by providing me with private K-12 Catholic education.
My personal values are the conservative values of central Kansas: committed to hard work, to preserving the freedoms of this great nation, and to seek to live by principles. As a high schooler, I joined others from my Catholic school and traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate at the March for Life, respectfully calling upon our governmental leaders to pass laws that would protect unborn children.
To many people, being pro-life means standing for unborn children, but, it is so much more than that. Pope Francis observed last week that being pro-life also means advocating for immigrant families, whom the Bible also makes clear are of special concern to God, with 92 references to the immigrant in the Old Testament alone. Christians of various traditions have taken their cues from Scripture and urged Congress to act on behalf of Dreamers like me, including a strong statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and letters to Congress signed by thousands of evangelical pastors and leaders.
Like any young adult, I dream of a bright future where those in my situation can become full participants in our society through our pursuit of lawful employment, higher education and military service. Yet my future remains uncertain.
My fiancé, an enlisted U.S. Army soldier, will soon be deployed overseas for the first time. I fear that when he returns from abroad, rather than celebrating our marriage, he could find that I have been deported to Mexico, as my protection from deportation will lapse when my DACA designation expires.
We both love this country and are willing to sacrifice for it. We’re not looking for a handout or any special advantage, but merely for the ability to stay—together—in our country.
My faith and patriotism deeply inform my desire to see a permanent solution for Dreamers like me. Thanks to DACA, I am both employed and enrolled in a public institution of higher learning for the first time in my life.
I join all Christian leaders who pray that Congress will come together—conservatives and progressives, Republicans and Democrats, Kansans (including my senators, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran) and Californians—to pass legislation such as the bipartisan DREAM Act, which would allow individuals like me to earn the opportunity to stay, work, pay taxes, and contribute permanently in the country I consider my only home. I am grateful that President Trump has indicated he is eager to sign such legislation.
Such a law will affirm the promise and guarantee the contributions of hundreds of thousands of people, many of them conservative folks from the Heartland like me, who are ready and eager to give back to the country we love.
Esmeralda Tovar Contreras is a student at the University of Kansas School of Nursing in Salina and a recipient of DACA.
Perspectives expressed in op-eds do not reflect the views of The Daily Caller.