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home : opinions : commentary May 28, 2016


8/9/2014 3:22:00 PM
Commentary: A life of constant fear

By Cokie & Steven Roberts


Karina Velasco paid her way through college by cleaning office buildings in downtown Washington for five hours every evening. She did her schoolwork after getting home at midnight, and is on track to receive her degree in social work next spring.

Karina is a model citizen except for one thing. She's an illegal immigrant. She crossed the border without papers from her home in Mexico 10 years ago, when she was 14.

Under a program initiated by President Obama in 2012, Karina is one of about 550,000 young people, sometimes called "DREAMers," who qualify for "deferred action" regarding their immigration status. That means they can obtain a work permit, a driver's license, a social security number and some assurance that they won't be deported.

Karina can now work for a social service agency that helps other young people deal with the mental side effects of illegal immigration: stress, depression, fear. She knows the symptoms because she suffered them herself.

"One night I woke up with a nightmare -- my mom and dad were being deported," she recalls. "I was crying and crying and I called my mother. I was like, "tell me you're OK, tell me you're here. What am I going to do with my brother here by myself? Who am I going to turn to?' It was something I was always thinking about."

Karina's terrors have abated, but she knows her protected status is not guaranteed. Obama's program could be canceled by a Republican president.

"I am always living with the uncertainty of what will happen," she says. "I am scared that in a future day I won't be able to renew my deferred action, and I will be in limbo again."

Last week, House Republicans passed a bill repealing the deferred action initiative. That measure will die in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but it's a stark reminder that Karina's concerns are justified. Only 11 GOP Congressmen opposed the bill while 212 supported it -- a clear sign that most Republicans badly misunderstand DREAMers like Karina and what they mean to this country.

Most of them are givers, not takers. They work hard, often at menial jobs -- like cleaning office buildings -- that few native-born Americans are willing to do. They pay taxes. They obey the law. They contribute to their communities. Karina's brightest dream is buying her mother a house.

Voting to plunge these youngsters back into the nightmare of anxiety is an act of mean-spirited vindictiveness. Republicans will pay a price with Latino voters -- and they should.

Critics argue that deferred action is responsible for the flood of children crossing the southern border from Central America. But as Roque Planas reports in the Huffington Post, "there's virtually no evidence to support this increasingly popular conservative talking point."

For one thing, the program only applies to immigrants who arrived before June 15, 2007. For another, rising street violence and political instability spurred the influx of children a year before the deferred action program began.

"The fact of the matter is that all the elements were in place for a large-scale movement of Central American kids across the border, with or without (deferred action)," Planas writes.

Republicans also maintain that by authorizing deferred action, Obama is somehow abusing his executive powers. But as Seth Hoy of the American Immigration Council notes, the president "did not create a new law, sign an executive order or grant anyone citizenship or amnesty." All he did was direct immigration officials to "exercise discretion" in enforcing existing law, "an action that is well within his power as president."

Even the Republican Speaker, John Boehner, concedes there are "numerous steps" the president could take on immigration "without the need for Congressional action."

Obama genuinely hoped for a bipartisan deal on immigration, and the Senate did pass a comprehensive reform package with 14 Republican votes. But House leaders, bullied by a hardline tea party faction, buried the measure.

Frustrated by that intransigence, the president is now considering broader initiatives on his own. One idea would enable parents of DREAMers like Karina to qualify for deferred action; another would extend the program to parents of U.S. citizens.

Normally we don't think executive actions are a good idea. Big problems should command a consensus and be resolved through the legislative process.

But that process has failed.

Millions of lives are in limbo. Many DREAMers and their parents want to be good Americans and deserve to live here without the constant threat of deportation. The president should act quickly to dispel their fears.



Steve and Cokie Roberts can be contacted by email at stevecokie@gmail.com.


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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, August 18, 2014
Article comment by: Fed up Liberal

The bluest of liberals that work in schools and hospitals are turning red. We see accelerated domestic violence, a defiance to learn English and assimilate to our culture.

If I go to the ER I have financial consequences in which a lien will be put on my property if I don't pay. Which is like punishing the successful. The women get free baby deliveries while their husbands send every other paycheck to Mexico instead of paying their medical bills. In every community they invade, the uncompensated medical skyrockets. It is the inequality of our health care system that makes them scapegoats.

However, I support this woman who's working herself through college. We need professionals and law abiding taxpayers.

The Bible? Jesus? Not working? Breaks my heart people get dropped on their heads as babies only to grow up and spew unrelated nonsense.


Posted: Monday, August 18, 2014
Article comment by: Bart Brush

I love this mantra "secure the border, secure the border..." A good idea, but if we really did that, all these superpatriots would immediately begin complaining about the cost, government waste, and the liberals raising our taxes.

Posted: Monday, August 18, 2014
Article comment by: Maggie Holt

It seems a little reminder is in order:

There is not a single person in the United States whose forebears did not come from another country--even those found here when Amerigo Vespucci, Christopher Columbus et al came to this country. While they had been here more thousands of years than the bible claims the earth has been in existence, their forebears also came from another country.

How hard is it to understand that this is not a christian nation born for the WASPs? It is a country populated totally by immigrants and their progeny.

Besides, the bible is full of vengeance and getting revenge. Is that really how we want to live today? What's wrong with "Love thy neighbor as thyself"?

In Genesis god pitted brother against brother when he showed more respect for Abel's gift to god than Cain's. And this attitude is still going on today--pitting one against another for the stupidest of reasons. Trying to make one better than another.

Sadly, it's working in many places.


Posted: Friday, August 15, 2014
Article comment by: Conscripted volunteer

Jesus personally healed the sick and fed his followers. He never preached that government should be given discretion to redistribute wealth at the whims of those in power.

Collectivism is not another word for charity.


Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2014
Article comment by: Mr. America

Romans 13:1-2
"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves."

This means obey the law.

2 Thes 3:10
"For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either."

This is self explanatory.


Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2014
Article comment by: Reply to @ Generous

I'm not sure your Christ would want you paraphrasing his words, however, I have no intentions of facing him for judgement - I'm going to Mexico - should be just about empty by then!!!

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2014
Article comment by: Secure and Return

Secure our borders and return them all!
Our nations borders should have been secured after the first amnesty provision, which never should have never happened in the first place - The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986—signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on November 6, 1986—granted amnesty to about 3 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Every President since Ronnie had the opportunity to close our borders and every one of them has failed this country in this respect. Do the math, 28 years of illegal’s coming across our borders – every one an upstanding citizen for sure, considering the very first thing they did was to break our laws by entering illegally!!!


Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Article comment by: Hey Save it

You are right, I just reread the Sermon on the Mount passages and saw a Phariseean (The Tea Party of that era) op-ed of that event that reported Jesus actually checked ID's for proof of Judean citizenship before He fed any poor or healed the sick.

(The Sadducee's Editorial page observed, condescendingly, that the only people rejected were some white Romans charioted immediately back to Rome).

Based on your opinions on immigration and Charity, compared solely with Christ's words and example, you'd best take a huge sewing needle with you when you head to the Pearlies.


Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Article comment by: Save it for Mexico

@ generous folks:

Please direct your message of compassion to the governments of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, etc.

They have responsibility for their citizens.

The people of the U.S. do not.


Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Article comment by: uncommon sense uncommon sence

Jesus lives everywhere,even in mexico.Your
faith is very weak and I feel your pain.
Relocating to better oneself is understandable
as thousands have done legally.It's hard but
the lord will see you through.Geograffic fixes
don't always work,just ask a junkie.


Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Article comment by: To the generous folks posting here

I do not think Christ will be very welcoming to you when you face Judgement:

Paraphrasing Matthew 25:34-36: ... for I was hungry and you wretched about 'free' food for me and my children... I was a stranger and you brought weapons to make sure to keep me away... I was sick and you forced me onto the streets to die... I was in prison because I spoke of Love, Peace and Forgiveness but you called me a Socialist, unpatriotic Liberal whacko..."

Since Christ did not list nationality or time- frame for his words, I think you all could pass through the eye of a needle before...

But, the US is a 'Christian' nation.



Posted: Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Article comment by: Arizonans are sick of paying for illegals

Great comments here from we Arizonans who know the reality of illegal immigration and its significant costs.

We who have to foot the bill for their health care. We who have to pay for their children's education and for their free school lunches. We who have to pay for their incarceration -- because not only are they here illegally, they sometimes do really bad things.

And all the while they send their money back to Mexico instead of recirculating it here and becoming a positive contributing part of our communities.

Just say no to the progressives flawed worldview.

Secure the border, first and foremost. Quit encouraging these illegals by giving them amnesty now or ever. Reform our immigration laws so it works better for us.

Then those who are here illegally can get in line with everyone else who wants to be a citizen.

And give these people green cards, not citizenship, so they can work here legally, then go home to Mexico or wherever they came from.


Posted: Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Article comment by: Mark Alan

Just thought I'd ask the obvious:
Why didn't Ms. Velasco go to college in Mexico? Get a night job in Mexico to help pay her way through that college there?
She wouldn't have had to become a felon, (assuming federal laws were actually enforced that is), and take such a huge risk with her future to cause such "terrors" today, and the anguish imposed upon the likes of the Roberts to write such a thing .....
Somebody might think, at some point, maybe Mexico needs to fix Mexico, I mean we The People send their government billions to help - so why ain't it helping?
When I see homeless whites & blacks everyday right here in Cottonwood I can have no sympathy for those who think cutting in line is ok, in fact it's insulting - but you already knew that didn't you.
Come on libs, cry me a river - we need the water ....


Posted: Monday, August 11, 2014
Article comment by: Mr America

If she has been here for 10 years, why hasn't she applied for citizenship? There is a legal pathway to citizenship. There is good reason Congress has not passed Obama's amnesty request - most Americans don't want it.

Posted: Monday, August 11, 2014
Article comment by: Dream From The Other Side

Really? "Many DREAMers and their parents want to be good Americans and deserve to live here without the constant threat of deportation. The president should act quickly to dispel their fears" So, what about MY fears as an American citizen that they are here illegally - wouldn't my right to live without law breaking, illegal immigrants trump the rights they DO NOT even have? They have no right to be here, so who cares about their fears of deportation, they broke the law upon their arrival. Do the crime, yet can't do the time? Stay on your side of the border. Steve and Cokie Roberts should renounce their citizenship and become citizens of Mexico.


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