KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The debate on what to do with the “Dream Act” is now being pushed into federal budget and tax talks.
At the same time, there’s growing frustration and fear for the thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Kansas City metro.
Petitions and letters were hand delivered Thursday to congressional offices around Kansas City. The undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children are hoping it might help convince those in power to let them stay in the country they call home.
“They’re playing with my life," Diana Martinez said. "They’re playing with our lives, playing politics with them, trying to use us as bargaining chips to get their agendas forward, and that’s not right."
Martinez came to the U.S. from Mexico with her family when she was six years old. Two decades later, she finds herself an undocumented immigrant.
She was awarded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- or DACA -- status, but it expired. After President Trump’s decision to roll back the program, her prospects to stay in the country are growing dim.
“It’s been hard having to go to square one and constantly living in fear,” Martinez said.
But she's not giving up hope.
She’s joined with groups pushing to keep the Dream Act alive. On Thursday, they delivered petitions signed by dozens of community members and over 80 area businesses, pleading for Congress to keep “Dreamers” from being deported.
“Personally I feel like I have nothing to lose anymore,” Martinez said.
Robert Southard owns a boutique in Overland Park. He signed onto the petition supporting dreamers.
“We have a sign in our window that says, ‘Immigrants and refugees are welcome here,’ and we mean that," said Southard, owner of Unique Finds Gifts & Razzleberry Boutique. "It’s very important to embrace all people and all are welcome in the United States."
Southard sells gifts from all over the world. He believes Dreamers add a lot of important value to our communities and should have a shot at citizenship.
“I’d hire them in a minute, and the kind of contributions they make across the culture for jobs is very strong,” he said.
There’s evidence to support that. A study this year by the CATO Institute found the economy could lose out on $280 million if the nearly one million people who qualified for DACA were deported.
In Missouri and Kansas, there are more than 10,000 DACA recipients who have been able to drive, live and work because of the program.
This week, nearly three dozen House Republicans called on their colleagues in Congress to pass a permanent fix to DACA by the end of the year. Speaker Paul Ryan has said at least a temporary fix could be worked into the budget bill Congress has to pass to avoid a government shutdown Friday.
We reached out to the six Congressional members from the Kansas City area for comment on the Dream Act. Here are the responses we’ve received so far.
From Rep. Kevin Yoder:
"I look forward to hearing more details about the negotiations today at the White House between the president and congressional leaders from both parties. I'm confident a bipartisan legislative solution is within reach."
From Sen. Claire McCaskill:
“I support the DREAM Act and believe it can and should get passed as soon as possible.”