REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS BEFORE MEETING WITH DACA RECIPIENTS, DREAMERS WITHOUT DACA, AND IMMIGRANT RIGHTS LEADERS
Vice President’s Ceremonial Office
12:19 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I — it is my honor and pleasure to welcome these leaders to the official Office of the Vice President of the United States to have a very important conversation — a continuing conversation around the future of our country. That really is the topic. That truly is the topic. The topic of our conversation is the topic of who are we as a country and the future of our country. And it is my privilege and pride to welcome you here today to talk about this.
And let’s be clear — and I don’t have to tell the people at this table: If anyone wants to know who are our DREAMers, let me tell you who they are. They include members of our military. They are college students. They are people that work in Fortune 500, Fortune 50 companies. They are the 200,000, at least, frontline workers who saved the lives and protected the lives of people they didn’t know. That’s who are our DREAMers.
And many arrived in their home country — in the United States — before they could walk or talk. Many have been living recently, for these years, a life of uncertainty even though this is the only home they’ve ever known.
And they deserve a pathway to citizenship. They deserve a pathway to citizenship.
And so, I want to make clear to the DREAMers who are here and those who are watching from home: This is your home. This is your home. And we see you, and you are not alone.
The President and I, needless to say — and I hope many of you saw his town hall yesterday — we are unequivocal that we recognize you for the Americans that you are, and that we recognize that you deserve all the rights that come with American citizenship.
And so we will be tireless in fighting for a pathway to citizenship. Now, we are having this conversation after the recent federal court ruling. But I want to make something clear: It will not immediately affect current DACA recipients. Also, it will put hundreds of thousands of young immigrants in jeopardy, including Diana, who you are about to hear from.
But our administration is taking action. So, through the United States Department of Justice, we have announced our intention to appeal the decision, and that is in process. And the Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will propose a new rule concerning DACA, which is very important because that’s about the enforcement piece.
The status quo of young immigrants living with uncertainty from one case to another is just simply wrong. Let’s be clear about that. And we have all met many times over these years.
To have to live with the level of uncertainty — to wonder whether there’s a knock at the door and what will that mean for you, for your family — it’s just wrong, especially, again, when we are talking about young people who are contributing to their community — contributing to our society. It’s just simply wrong.
The President and I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the bipartisan American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workers Protection and Modernization Act. And we need Congress to finally create a pathway towards citizenship. I spoke with Senator Durbin last night about this very topic, and we stand in solidarity on this issue — which is we will not give up in this fight.
And — and let me make a final point. This is about what is morally right. This is a reflection of who we say we are as a country. And at its core, I do believe this issue is also about self-determination. Self-determination. Because this is about saying that we reward and should reward — if we honor self-determination — the ambitions, the aspirations of our young people. This is about saying that we want to ensure that all people have the ability to determine their own future, in particular when they are living a life that is about contributing to their community.
And ultimately, this is also about saying that all people deserve to have the ability to make choices about their lives, unencumbered by other people’s limited ability to understand who you are.
So these are the things that are at stake at this moment. And we will not give up and I certainly will not give up in making sure that we stand with our DREAMers and that we do everything we can to create a pathway toward citizenship.
So, with that, I thank everyone who’s here. And, Diana, will you please share a bit about your perspective and your story?
MS. BAUTISTA: Hello, Vice President Harris. Good morning.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning.
MS. BAUTISTA: It’s a pleasure to see you again. My name is Diana Bautista. I’m 18 years old, and I live in Los Angeles, California.
I’m part of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, also known as CHIRLA. I’m undocumented, and I was not able to benefit from DACA. My mom is a domestic worker and my dad works at a warehouse, and they’re both undocumented as well.
My parents have faced many hardships, including sexual harassment, low pay, wage theft, and intimidation because of their immigration status and not knowing their rights. Despite all of that, they remain resilient and brave. My family has lived in the U.S. for 17 years — not in the shadows, but unprotected.
I’m undocumented because I was not able to apply for DACA. I was 31 days too late. President Trump rescinded DACA a month before I turned 15. Otherwise, I would have qualified. I was devastated. I felt that my future was at a standstill.
As a high school student, I had hopes of becoming an immigration attorney to fight in the courts for my community. However, due to the pandemic and a lack of immigration status, I was forced to find an alternative and made the difficult decision to not go into debt for an education.
In 2019, I had a chance to go to Washington to advocate for the Human Promise Act. And a few months later, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of DACA. When the program came back, I was so excited. I was able to apply in December 2020. And I paid the $800 filing and processing fee happily. I felt like this is finally my opportunity. This is my time.
My application was in processing for six months, then I went in for my biometrics. But the program was suddenly and cruelly canceled again last week because of a judge’s order.
That afternoon, I learned that my DACA application would not be approved. Although I am ineligible for the program, I paid my dues; I waited my turn. I was let down again — this time by conservative forces that don’t know me or my journey.
Being undocumented puts me at a disadvantage and puts us all at a disadvantage — not only an academic disadvantage, but an emotional disadvantage. These situations take a toll on our mental and emotional health.
There are nights where I can’t sleep, thinking that — thinking about all the families being separated, that have been separated. I often think that could be my family, especially now that we have a mixed status family because I have a baby brother who is a U.S. citizen.
We keep getting let down again and again. As immigrants, essential workers, we have kept this economy going through a pandemic. I have done my part. I have showed up for my community. My parents have showed up for this country. They have paid their taxes. They have contributed in countless ways. Our communities contribute in countless ways. They have contributed.
I just want Congress to show for me. Congress has the power to pass immigration reform by including a path to citizenship in the reconciliation process, for example. And I know you can all work together.
This is possible. It can be done. It should be done. It needs to be done now. Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. You are right. It needs to be done, and it needs to be done now.
END 12:28 P.M. EDT