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'Dreamers' From Washington State Lobby Congress For Immigration Reform

Paula Wissel
Paul Quinonez and Alejandra Perez meet in Seattle with other undocumented youth before heading to D.C. to lobby Congress.

Undocumented young immigrants, including a contingent from Washington State, are descending on Capitol Hill to push for passage of the Dream Act before Congress leaves on Friday. The Act would provide a path to citizenship for more than a million undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Paul Quinonez, who came to Washington State from Mexico when he was six years old, is an organizer with Washington Dream Coalition. He says he’s traveled to D.C. several times in the past few months to lobby Congress.

He says he knows lawmakers are up against a deadline now, but he wants them to see the situation from the perspective of someone like himself.

“It’s hard and kind of impossible for us to go home for the holidays and even enjoy it without knowing if this may be the last Christmas we’ll be able to spend in the communities we’ve grown up in,”Quinones said.

He currently has protection under DACA or Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program, but President Trump is getting rid of the program.

Cinthia Illan-Vazquez came from Mexico as a child, is a DACA recipient and also works as an organizer with Washington Dream Coalition. She says the anxiety level has never been higher.

“It’s been really difficult for our community just to live free from the fear of detention and deportation and we can’t afford to wait anymore,” she said.

She says she often feels like they are used as pawns in the political debate. She says she travels to D.C. to stress the point that they are individuals, people "in your community."

The immigrant advocates are putting pressure on moderate Republicans in Washington’s delegation, including Representatives Dave Reichert and Dan Newhouse who have been supportive of immigration reform in the past.

But, Quinones says that doesn’t mean Democrats, like Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, are off the hook.

“We want it to be clear to them that for us it seems like they’re taking a page out of Trump’s governing book. It’s not enough for them to put out tweets to say they support us,” he said.

He says too often it feels like the Democrats in Washington take Latinos and immigrants  for granted. He says his message to them will be that they need to take action and use the leverage they have to make sure undocumented youth are taken care of before the Democrats agree to a budget resolution even if it means shutting down the government.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.