DACA Beneficiary Tells Congress She Feels Attacked by Opponents of Immigration Executive Actions

WASHINGTON – A 26-year-old college student whose family stands to benefit from President Obama’s executive order providing relief to about 5 million undocumented workers told a Senate committee the initiative makes the United States a stronger country and demonstrates what the nation stands for – “the American dream.”

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Astrid Silva, of Las Vegas, chastised those who have criticized Obama for signing the order that protects from deportation unauthorized immigrant parents who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and have children who either were born in the U.S. or are legal permanent residents and expands the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It also bolsters security along the nation’s southern border.

“When people attack the president for this action or challenge his legal authority, they are attacking me,” Silva said. “They are attacking my mother. They are attacking the hundreds of thousands of children who need their parents to care for them and tell them that there are no monsters under the bed. They are attacking workers who are contributing to our economy. They are attacking me with every word that they say.”

Silva told the committee she was 4 years old when her parents floated her across the Rio Grande from Mexico in a homemade tire raft. America, she said, is the only country she has ever known. She learned English, graduated from high school and is working toward a college degree having gained some personal protection from deportation under DACA.

“But my fear didn’t end completely,” Silva said. “I am still afraid that my mom and dad will be deported. Even though we have lived for more than 22 years in the same house, in the same neighborhood, and in the same community, I am afraid that one day I will come home and they will be gone. That our lives will be turned upside down. That we will be torn apart and separated.”

Despite being a hard worker, Silva said, her father faced deportation but Obama’s executive order “will keep my family together.”

“Of course there are many, many more that it will not help,” she said. “I have many friends whose parents will not qualify, I have many friends who do not have children and therefore don’t qualify. I feel tremendously lucky that first I, and now my parents, fall into categories of people that can be legally protected if we meet certain qualifications. But so many of those countless others who aren’t so lucky, are really just like us. They are people that, like my family, are only making our country a better place.”

Obama said he signed the executive order protecting certain undocumented workers from deportation because Congress has failed to act on what is viewed as a growing problem. The Senate passed a package in 2013 that the White House found acceptable but the House has refused to act. Silva urged lawmakers to “pass a permanent legislative fix to our country’s broken immigration system so all mothers and fathers can be with their children.”