“I came to the United States when I was two years old with my family. We moved to Baxley, Georgia and that’s where I grew up,” says Emmanuel Diaz. He tells me his friends call him Manny. We are talking in downtown Savannah on his lunch hour. He works two jobs, including at a hotel at night. And he attends college. Diaz is a “Dreamer” or DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient.
Diaz was brought here illegally by his parents two decades ago but says the U.S. is the only country he knows. “One of the things I’ve always told people when we went to school and we stood up and did the Pledge of Allegiance, when we listened to our teachers (and they told us we could do anything and become anything that we wanted to be) all those lessons meant for American citizens , well I received them too. So I grew up with the same drive and the same hope that everybody else did, “Diaz told me. “So when everyone speaks about me not belonging here I just don’t understand it because everything ingrained in everyone else is also inside of me.”
The DACA program allows young people like Diaz to be able to work and get a driver’s license. They register with the federal government but their applications must be renewed on a regular basis. For example, Diaz says his registration would expire in November of 2018.
Awhile back, President Trump reportedly said he wanted a fix for DACA and those like Diaz. But recently, Trump said if there is to be a fix for DACA and or a pathway to citizenship for young people like Diaz, that a bill that includes DACA must also include other things suited to overall immigration reform, including building the famous wall.
Supporters like Savannah’s Jeanne Seaver (who was the grass roots coordinator for the Trump campaign in Georgia) say the president is on the right track. “I think that we need to do something. I think the first thing we need to do is stop playing politics and do what’s in the best interests of this country and all the citizens in this country.”
Seaver says she personally has “never supported DACA although that doesn’t mean there is not empathy for young people, like Diaz.”
Still, she believes Dreamers should have to follow the law. “All Americans are expected to follow the rule of law and it’s a double standard to allow someone whose parents didn’t follow it to now say that’s a good excuse why you should never follow it.”
Diaz says he would like nothing better than to begin the process of applying for citizenship but says there is “no way forward and that’s what a Dream Act would do is give us options.”
He also says Dreamers are often hardworking and want to make something of themselves. Diaz says he and others just want to give back to the U.S. “That’s the point I really want to get across with people is that you know we’re not here to make your life difficult, we’re actually here to make your lives better, ” he said. “We’re here to do everything that we can to make our communities prosper.”