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Alondra Quechol

Alondra Quechol, a local recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, appealed to the community to urge Congress to pass the Dream Act of 2017.

As Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and other Wisconsin leaders lobby in Washington, D.C. for Congress to pass the Dream Act of 2017, local students and leaders met at Centro Hispano Wednesday to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.

Under an order from President Donald Trump Sept. 5, students like Alondra Quechol and Erika Rosales who are living, working and studying in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will be eligible for deportation as early as March.

“If it wasn’t for DACA, I know I wouldn’t be here,” Rosales, a UW-Milwaukee graduate student who works at UW-Madison, said. “DACA has given me those wings I so dearly wanted."

They are appealing to the community to call their legislators to support a “clean Dream Act,” referring to legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship and give current DACA beneficiaries permanent resident status on a conditional basis.

Centro Hispano executive director Karen Menendez Coller said she and the staff at Centro are supporting those lobbying in D.C.

“In a state where we have too many jobs and not enough people, in a state that could benefit from innovation across diverse perspectives where we value openness and community, why not prioritize and support our Latino neighbors that nationally have been put aside and made to feel so incredibly inferior at this time in our history?” Coller said.

Quechol described the “ripple effect” of living as a DACA student and having family members who are undocumented. She said it is more challenging to focus in school and that managing her family’s schedule is complicated since her undocumented parents are not allowed to get driver’s licenses.

“We have to work twice as hard,” Quechol said.

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Living in fear of repercussion because of their immigration status also becomes “a part of your life,” Rosales said.

Deputy Mayor Gloria Reyes spoke on behalf of Soglin and said the city continues to stand with DACA students in the Madison community.

“We believe that families should stick together, that hard work should be rewarded,” Reyes said. “That is why we need to make a common sense immigration process and a roadmap to citizenship.”

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.