Dreamer from Transylvania University rallies for DREAM Act, hopeful for congressional resolution as DACA nears end

10/07/2017 03:43 PM

LEXINGTON — Paola Garcia wasn’t expecting to become a YouTube sensation when she shared her experience with a fellow Transylvania University student who urged others to report her to Homeland Security and have her deported to Mexico.

In fact, the undocumented immigrant didn’t even tell her parents before she uploaded her video for the world to see.

“They were like, ‘What?’ but they weren’t surprised,” Garcia said in an interview Friday. “Another thing that my father’s always told me — me and all my siblings — is that you guys have to defends yourselves.”

Garcia has pushed herself into the limelight during a turbulent time in politics and became a vocal advocate for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an Obama-era executive action that protects undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. at a young age from deportation.

Garcia, who came to the U.S. in 1997 when she was 2 years old, was among more than a hundred Dreamers who traveled to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, advocating for congressional action on the DREAM Act.

The final deadline to reapply for the program came Thursday, with those eligible for renewal in March facing deportation.

Garcia met with Congressman John Yarmuth, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and staffers in Congressmen Brett Guthrie’s and Hal Rogers’ offices.

But her favorite meeting, by far, was with Congressman Andy Barr, who offered to help her family in their applications for green cards, a process that has taken some 14 years. Her father is a permanent resident and her brothers are U.S. citizens, but Garcia and her mother are undocumented.

“Congressman Barr said, ‘We can very much do that, and we want to do that for you,’” Garcia said, noting that Barr’s immigration staffer said they could follow-up on her family’s case, “and so that, I honestly just stared at them for a minute. I felt like it wasn’t real, it wasn’t actually happening.”

However, Garcia said Barr also explained the political realities that come with immigration issues.

“He said that he 100 percent supports a permanent solution for Dreamers,” she said. “He thinks we’re crucial members of society, of the American nation, and he said that he is 100 percent on board with finding a solution to that, that it be practical.

“Unfortunately he said that he wouldn’t support just a standalone bill like the DREAMAct, which is what we were there to advocate for. He said that a lot of the issue with the Republican representatives and just the Republican Party is border security and interior security, so he thinks that the only practical way to get something going, to get something through the legislative process would be if that were a component of it as well.”

Garcia is optimistic that a deal will be struck in Congress for Dreamers.

She said Democrats in the House pledged during their meetings that they would not support a new federal budget without some action.

The issue, she says, has also galvanized many in the Latino community. She hopes that a resolution will be reached for Dreamers and, later, all undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

“Keeping silent would have been an injustice to everyone,” Garcia says of her decision to publish her YouTube video.

“An injustice to my parents who’ve worked so hard. An injustice to all the people I’ve seen deported throughout my lifetime. An injustice to my siblings. An injustice to the thousands of Dreamers, the millions of undocumented people already here.”


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