An Ohio State alumnus and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient led a local effort by community leaders Tuesday to call on Congress to protect children of immigrants — often referred to as “Dreamers” — in a press conference at the Ohio State House.
Elvis Saldias, an Ohio State graduate now working for Nationwide Insurance, joined local leaders such as Ohio Dominican University President Dr. Robert Gervasi in public support for legislation to protect those enrolled in DACA.
The federal program that protects undocumented immigrants who arrived as children is to sunset in March, the Trump Administration announced Sept. 5. President Trump has recently pushed Congress to pass legislation protecting DACA recipients, but it is unclear if it will do so.
“If there is no action taken by Congress, in a little less than six months, statuses will start expiring,” Saldias said. “As a young professional, it makes it hard to plan for the future.”
Saldias said DACA was an integral part in helping him attend Ohio State. He said it meant access for him.
“At the time I was applying, they were trying to treat me as an out-of-state student because of my status,” Saldias, who grew up and attended high school in Ohio, said. “That’s hard to pay for when you’re poor and your parents are immigrants. [DACA] helped me get in-state tuition.”
Saldias said DACA not only helped him receive in-state tuition but also meant he could do things as simple as getting a driver’s license, which he said allowed for him to get around and go out to bars with friends.
Gervasi said when his grandparents arrived as immigrants, they were the target of ethnic slurs, just as he was subject to growing up.
“Undocumented and illegal meant unwanted and unrecognized,” Gervasi said.
“Despite our radical commitment as a nation to ‘e pluribus unum,’ as humans, we are afraid of people that are different.” Gervasi said, referencing the motto “out of many, one” that is on the dollar bill.
Gervasi said taking away DACA puts many people at risk, while also diminishing the law. He referenced Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” in calling for action.
“If we really want to make America great again, then let’s key in on what made America great in the first place,” he said. “We welcome all people who want to commit themselves to this great experiment.”
Saldias said he did not feel betrayed by the government and was thankful for the opportunity to call on Congress to act. Of the two bills recently introduced in the U.S. House and Senate, Saldias said the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was the better choice.
“The DREAM Act is the best outcome for us as ‘Dreamers,’” Saldias said. “It provides a path to citizenship.”