Congressman Tom Suozzi supported and gathered together three Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients today at a press conference at his Huntington district office to highlight their stories and contributions to the Long Island community.
Suozzi also urged fellow Congress members to support the DREAM Act to create a “pathway to citizenship” rather than just focusing on DACA, which was always a temporary solution for those without legal status.
“The most fundamental of American principles is all men and women are created equal. Not all men and women with a green card are created equal, or all men and women with a passport are created equal,” said Suozzi, a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act.
Among the three DACA recipients was Kevin Berrezueta, of Roslyn, a student at Baruch College in Manhattan. The 22-year-old came to United States when he was just 7 years old.
Studying for his international business bachelor’s degree, Berrezueta intended to study abroad, but as part of the rescission of DACA current recipients were also barred from applying for advance parole, which allowed recipients to travel outside the U.S.
“I only have a semester of college left, so after that there is uncertainty over whether I will be able to get a job or not. I’m doing an internship right now, and I don’t know if they’ll be able to hire me. It’s scary, it’s really scary,” Berrezueta said.
Nelson Melgar, a prominent advocate and immigrant from Honduras, was 13 years old when he came to the U.S. Melgar works as an aide to New York State Assemblyman Chuck Lavine and founded last year the North Shore Hispanic Civic Association to benefit the region’s hispanic community.
“This may change my status, I may lose my driver’s license, my health insurance, my ability to work,” Melgar said. “But that doesn’t mean I will lose my ability to dream, my ability to persevere, my ability to continue doing what I’ve been doing up until now.”
Carlos Diaz Lezama, a 31-year-old DACA recipient, works six days a week up to 11 hours a day to support his two children, aged 10 and 5, who are U.S. citizens. He hails from Mexico City and came here in 2000, now working as a truck driver for Long Island Carpet Cleaners.
His employer, David Swidler, vice president of Long Island Carpet Cleaners, said that Lezama may just be the best truck driver he’s ever had.
“Carlos is just a phenomenal employee, and we would be at a huge loss if he were no longer able to work for us. He comes to work every day on time. He does anything and everything that we ask,” said Swidler.
Suozzi said that Democrats are not likely to compromise on an extension of DACA, but may concede enhanced border protections if something like the DREAM Act can seriously be considered.
Maryann Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins, said 70 percent of the American people support the DREAM Act.
“It’s the will of the American people,” she said, speaking at the press conference.