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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke for over eight hours on Wednesday, telling the personal stories of Dreamers to oppose and protest the Senate’s approved two-year budget, which did not deal with immigration.
Finding a solution has become a Democratic priority and the party’s refusal to step down on the issue caused a three-day government shutdown in January that ended with a short-term funding bill. President Donald Trump has given Congress until March 5 to find a legislative solution to his repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which afforded a deportation amnesty to young undocumented people brought to the U.S. by their parents.
“All of these testimonies talk about giving back. There is not an ounce of arrogance anyplace. All of them are appreciative of what America has given them,” Pelosi explained. “Sometimes naming names, other times schools, other times churches, but always understanding that the opportunities they have are a blessing from our country, and we recognize that they are a blessing to America.”
The speech, which the House Historian’s office has confirmed to be the longest on record, began at around 9am CT and ended just after 5:10pm CT.
Here are some of the stories that Pelosi told from the floor to raise awareness on behalf of the 800,000 affected young people, accepted to the Obama-era program, whose futures now hang in the balance.
The Magdaleno brothers, chemical and biological engineers, born in Venezuela
“Two brothers, Jhon Magdaleno and Nelson, his brother. Let me tell you about Nelson and Jhon. These brothers came to the United States from Venezuela when Nelson was 11 and Jhon was 9. They are both honor students at Lakeside High School in Atlanta, Georgia. Here is a picture of Nelson. Jhon served with distinction in the Air Force Junior Officer Reserve Corps. He was the fourth highest ranking in a 175-cadet unit and commander of the Air Honor Society in his unit. Here is a picture of Jhon in his ROTC uniform. They went on to both become honor students at Georgia Tech University—Nelson in computer engineering, Jhon in biomedical engineering with a 4.0. In 2012, he graduated from Georgia Tech with honors.
“Do you understand being graduated with honors from Georgia Tech in computer engineering, and Jhon in a biomedical engineering major from Georgia Tech, and they have 3.6 GPA and 4.0 GPA? Thanks to DACA, they have been working as computer engineers for a Fortune 500 semiconductor company. Jhon received DACA in 2012, while he was still a student at Georgia Tech. He then worked for 2 years as a researcher in a biomedical engineering lab at Georgia Tech researching glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness.”
“In 2014, Jhon graduated from Georgia Tech with a major in chemical and biological engineering with highest honors—highest honors in chemical and biological engineering from Georgia Tech. He is now working as a process engineer with a Fortune 500 company, too.”
Everardo Arias, medicine student, born in Mexico
“This is Everardo Arias. Everardo was brought to the United States from Mexico in 1997 when he was 7 years old. Just imagine these adorable children. He grew up in Costa Mesa, California, and was an excellent student. He dreamed of becoming a doctor. A doctor, again. It was not until he applied to college that Everardo learned that he was undocumented. He was accepted at the University of California, Riverside, but because of his immigration status, however, Everardo didn’t qualify for any Federal assistance. When Everardo was a sophomore, he met with a counselor, who told him he had no chance of becoming a doctor because he was undocumented. But Everardo didn’t give up on his dream. In 2012, he graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a chemistry major and research honors. Shortly after he graduated, DACA was established. He received DACA. He worked for a year as a mentor for at risk students in his hometown of Costa Mesa. The following year, through AmeriCorps, he worked as a health educator with several local clinics. He gave classes to hundreds of people in both English and Spanish on topics ranging from diabetes to family nutrition to depression.”
“During his year as a health educator, he applied and was accepted in medical school. He is currently in his first year at the Loyola University Chicago School of Medicine. In his free time, he volunteers at a local clinic. He takes time to teach medical Spanish to some of his classmates. Here is what he had to say about DACA: ‘DACA changed my life. It opened the door to the future ahead of me. If it weren’t for DACA, I would not be here and I probably would not have pursued medicine. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to do what I love to do and to give back to the country that has given me so much.’”
“Will America be a stronger country if we deport Everardo Arias and others like him? Of course not.”
Leslie Martinez, medicine student, born in Mexico
“Leslie Martinez is a student at UC Irvine, and she was a guest of Congressman Lou Correa at the State of the Union. Leslie Martinez is a freshman in college who is passionate about her studies. She was brought to the United States at the age of 2. Growing up, she was alone most of the time due to her parents always working, but this allowed her to become independent at a very young age.”
“She found out she was undocumented during middle school, when she was trying to apply for a scholarship but needed a Social Security number. Luckily, DACA came around during her high school years, opening several opportunities for her, such as an internship at UCI Medical Center, where she—that would be University of California, Irvine—where she was able to shadow medical professionals, and it opened up her love for the medical field.
“DACA also made her college application a smooth process. Now she is a freshman in college and is passionate about, again, her studies. She attends the University of California, Irvine, and is majoring in chemistry. Leslie hopes to attend medical school after college in hopes of becoming a general surgeon or a pediatrician. Again, doctors, doctors, doctors. Maybe she could find out about Loyola University School of Medicine. Maybe she will have many more options by then, hopefully, when we pass this legislation.”
Esther, senior Harvard student, born in South Korea
“Twenty-two-year-old Esther was a hardworking and valued intern in Representative Jayapal’s office last year. She is also a Dreamer who came to the United States with her parents and younger sister when she was just 3 years old from South Korea. When they arrived on a visa, Esther’s parents sought help from an immigration lawyer to obtain more permanent legal status in the United States. They filled out applications, paid their dues, and gave the lawyer most of the money they had. And he ran away with all of it. He scammed them and left them with nothing.”
“Esther’s parents’ visas expired. They had little money. They pushed their kids around in shopping carts because a stroller was too expensive. Then they started over. They built their lives in the United States. They raised a smart, passionate daughter who is now a senior at Harvard.”
“The DACA status Esther obtained in 2013 helped to give her the freedom to pursue her own American Dream. Even when Esther’s DACA status was secure, she said that typical safe spaces like hospitals, police stations, and doctor’s offices filled her with fear because DACA doesn’t afford protections to her family. She also hides her status and worries what would happen if someone she trusted outed them to immigration authorities. Unless we take immediate action to help Dreamers, Esther’s future is even more uncertain.”
Josefina, Ph.D. student, born in Mexico
“Josefina is an undocumented Californian who is originally from Colima, Mexico. Her testimony has been presented by Representative Ted Lieu from California.”
“Josefina migrated to the United States when she was 3 years old. Well, her family immigrated to the United States when she was 3 years old, and she was with them. Although she became aware of her immigration at an early age, her status had never defined her. She had transformed uncertainty into determination.”
“When she graduated high school, she became hyperaware of the financial constraints faced by immigrant youth. Josefina was able to afford her undergraduate education at UCLA by working multiple jobs and by applying to many scholarships. She would commute 2 hours every day, each way, to UCLA on a daily basis because she could not afford to dorm. Her main motivation is her mother, who is also an immigrant. Her persistent determination to provide for her family convinces Josefina of her ability to surmount the barriers she faces as an undocumented student.”
“Today, she is earning her Ph.D. at UCLA. Her Ph.D. at UCLA. Her research interests include the health and aging of the undocumented population. Her scholarly work has been supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute for Humane Studies. She believes research is a way to rewrite the narratives of the undocumented community in the United States: Undocumented people are the backbone of U.S. society, she writes, yet we are dehumanized, tokenized, and invisibalized.”
“That is a good word. This prompts the need for a solution to immigration, which is long overdue. You are so right, Josefina.”
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology.