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Reactions To DACA's End Preview A Fight Ahead In Congress

Jose Hernandez-Paris of the Latin American Coalition spoke at a press conference near the Charlotte office of Sen. Thom Tillis Tuesday.
David Boraks
Jose Hernandez-Paris of the Latin American Coalition spoke at a press conference near the Charlotte office of Sen. Thom Tillis Tuesday.

President Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, or DACA, brought a range of reactions in North Carolina. Congressional Democrats called it a betrayal and cold-hearted. Republicans applauded, though they disagree on how far to go with a law to replace DACA. Immigrant advocates hope for a compromise to help DACA's so-called "dreamers." 

Jose Hernandez-Paris of Charlotte's Latin American Coalition said he was saddened by the president's announcement, for what it takes away.

"We know that at least 800,000 young people have benefited from this very successful program, not only because it has provided a way for many of our youth to go to school, but also for them to be able to work and for them to be able to take care of their families," Hernandez-Paris said at a press conference near the Charlotte office of Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, off Harris Boulevard.

Tillis said Tuesday he will introduce a DACA replacement bill within a week. Hernandez-Paris said he is encouraged by part of what Tillis is proposing:

"The path to citizenship. That is something that in previous proposals (has) not been included. That's the reason that for 10 years we haven't really been able to move forward." 

A key question will be whether that idea can make it through Congress.  Republican Representative Robert Pittinger doesn't like it.  

"Pathway to citizenship is out," Pittenger said Tuesday. "You get a pathway to citizenship by entering this country in the proper way. We should respect those who have come in the proper way. And no, it should not arbitrarily provide citizenship to somebody who didn't go through the rules."

That's a preview of fights to come over the next six months - the time frame President Trump gave Congress when he announced the end of DACA.

Tillis isn't the only member of Congress offering ideas. Two Senators - Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina - filed the Dream Act in July. It's the latest version of a bill Durbin first filed 16 years ago. It also offers a path to citizenship.

Graham made a pitch to fellow senators Tuesday:

"If you're a constitutional conservative, passing the Dream Act should please you, because the Congress is doing its job, with the president signing a bill that's passed by the Congress.   If you're worried about these kids, you should vote for the Dream Act because it gives them what they, I think, deserve - a new life in their home country," Graham said in press conference.

Hernandez-Paris said he hopes Tillis will join forces with Durbin and Graham to get something passed. And he knows it won't happen without compromise.

Arely Guevara says she wants Congress to pass immigration reform.
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
Arely Guevara says she wants Congress to pass immigration reform.

"In our side, we're preparing our community for something that we might not like, but also that the other side may not like. … It may mean compromising, and that is very difficult. It's a hard word to say," he said.

His biggest concern …  That the legislation will get tripped up by a fight over funding for President Trump's long promised wall on the Mexican border.

18-year-old Arely Guevara of Charlotte came to the U.S. from El Salvador with her mother when she was two. She's here under temporary protected status, and said at the press conference she wants Congress to solve the nation's immigration dilemma.

"It is time for us demand legislation that solidifies what Dreamers already know: I am America. We are America, and we're not going anywhere," Guevara said.

She said until Congress acts, people like her will be protected, but at a dead end. 

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