Call it a plea or call it a demand: As a Thursday deadline fast approaches, DACA recipients say they want legislation that's fair to all immigrant communities, not just a favored few.
Even if the favored few includes them.
Several spoke during a Center City news conference on Monday, saying a deal that trades citizenship for enhanced border security would be no deal at all, that it would only divide communities and separate families.
"I've been undocumented all my life," said Marisa Piña Rodriguez, 28, who came to the United States from Mexico as a child. "I'm in no hurry to get citizenship if that means throwing others under the bus."
If Congress fails to act on immigration by Thursday — when funding runs out for the federal government — Washington could face its second shutdown of the year.
Last month, Democrats demanded that a short-term spending bill include protection for DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers. They voted to reopen the government after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to bring bipartisan Dream Act legislation to debate.
The federal DACA program that allowed about 790,000 young immigrants, brought here illegally as children, to live, work and attend school in America is deep in jeopardy. On Sept. 5, President Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but delayed implementing his decision for six months, giving Congress a chance to craft a legislative solution.
That effectively created a March 5 deadline. But as Democrats and Republicans spar, the future of DACA, or a new program like it, has become entangled in other issues, including the president's demand for a wall at the Mexican border and Congress' need to reach a budget agreement.
On Monday, Trump reiterated that he won't back an immigration deal unless he gets money to build a wall. "Any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time," he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Chris Coons (D., Del.) planned to introduce compromise legislation they say would protect Dreamers. The proposal would strengthen border security, but not explicitly provide money for a wall.
Several DACA recipients, gathered at Arch Street Methodist Church under the auspices of the activist group Juntos, said they or friends belong to "mixed status" families, in which some are wholly undocumented, some are citizens or have legal status, and others are DACA recipients.
"We cannot afford to take this deal," said Karla Rojas, 23, a DACA recipient from Mexico who has lived in the U.S. for 17 years. She criticized legislators in Washington who "see my life as nothing more than a bargaining chip."