As Congress Debates Immigration, Dreamers Are In Limbo Along With Their Families

Christian Olvera’s parents know how to drive. But they’re afraid to, because they’re in the country illegally, and they don’t have driver’s licenses.

So most days, Olvera drives them to work.

Olvera is 26 years old, and looks even younger, with curly black hair and a baby face. But he’s taken on a lot of responsibility. On paper, Olvera owns the family business. Even the house where they live, on a leafy street in Dalton, Georgia, is in his name.

“People ask me, do you still live with your parents?,” Olvera joked. “I’ll say no, my parents live with me.”

The reason Olvera can do all these things for his family is DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Obama-era program protects about 700,000 of the so-called Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children — from deportation, and allows them to work legally.

But those protections are in jeopardy unless Congress takes action. The Senate will turn its attention to hashing out an immigration deal this week. And there’s a lot stake — not just for the Dreamers, but for all the parents, siblings and other relatives who rely on them.

Olvera has talked publicly about his family’s situation and lobbied Congress for legislation to protect Dreamers.

His mother and father arrived in the U.S. on a temporary visa almost 20 years ago, and stayed. The family wants to share their story but the parents asked not to be named because they fear being deported. Still, Olvera’s mother says her family can have a better life here.

“If you’re a respectful, educated, hard-working person,” she said through a translator, “the U.S. will always open its doors for you.”

It was DACA that opened doors for the family, by giving Olvera and his brother protection from deportation.

By Joel Rose for NPR
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