DACA news conference

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin speaks Monday at Centro Hispano of Dane County in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Madison political and nonprofit leaders urged national lawmakers Monday to take action on a federal program that protects hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants from deportation.

As the future remains unclear for a program that allows immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as minors to work and live in the country, local leaders called on Congress to come up with a solution after months of stalled progress.

“For our community, it has become the perennial waiting game as elected leaders think, wait and defer yet again on making an equitable decision regarding immigration,” Karen Menendez Coller, the executive director of Centro Hispano of Dane County, said at a news conference.

Monday was supposed to be the end date of former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after President Donald Trump gave Congress in September a six-month window to come up with a legislative fix.

A federal court ruling in January, though, required the Trump administration to continue permit renewals, but it does not apply to first-time applicants.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, should heed the desires of constituents based on the results of the latest poll from Marquette Law School that showed support for the program.

The poll, released on Monday, found 86 percent of 395 registered Wisconsin voters want immigrants brought to the country illegally as minors to be able to stay and apply for citizenship. The poll has a margin of error of 6.3 percent.

“The vast majority of the people in the state of Wisconsin want a path to citizenship,” Soglin said. “They reject the tragic and sometime angry position of those who have failed to recognize the vast contributions and the humanitarian importance of resolving this matter.”

Two DACA recipients from Madison shared their experiences Monday.

Alondra Quechol, 21, said she remembers her father’s excitement when intentions for the program were announced in 2012, but added she’s had a hard time focusing on her academic studies with her future in a country she’s lived in since she was 3 years old in limbo.

“If you want to take it away … you better bring something better that’s best for everyone here,” Quechol said.

Rafael Martinez, 20, said he works three jobs to pay for tuition at UW-Madison as DACA recipients are not eligible for federal student aid.

“We aren’t here to change America in a drastic way,” Martinez said. “We’re here to change America in a way that we help one another, we help each other.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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