Ellie Perez is a DREAMer and immigration activist from Arizona. She was recently nominated by DNC Chair Tom Perez to serve as an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee and became the committee's first undocumented member. The views expressed are her own.
I was four years old when my parents brought my sisters and me to Arizona. They made the long journey from Veracruz, Mexico to the U.S. in hopes of giving us the life they never had. I am now 26 years old, and Phoenix has been my home since I can remember.
A year ago, more than 740,000 DREAMers like me woke up to the news that Donald Trump had won the election. It was appalling to see that someone who ran his campaign on prejudice and insults was going to succeed Barack Obama, a president who made it possible for people like me to sleep easy at night without the fear of being deported the next day. A year ago, I saw the dread in the eyes of my fellow DREAMers that all of Trump’s campaign promises would soon become reality.
Fast-forward to 2017. I close my eyes and see myself standing in room full of other Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients as the Trump administration announced the end to the program for immigrants like me. He said he would treat us “with heart,” but here we were, confronted with his heartless decision. He said he “loved” us, but here we were, cast out by his hatred.
I relive that moment almost daily. First as a painful memory, but now as a personal reminder of why I'm fighting to change my community.
For DACA recipients and their loved ones, the terrifying reality is that our days of protection under this program are limited. My own permit expires in February 2019. At the moment, hundreds of thousands of other Americans like myself are now lost in limbo, waiting for action from a Republican Congress that is unwilling to bring a clean DREAM Act to a vote. [Ed. Note: When advocates refer to a "clean DREAM Act," they are talking about legislation that won't include enforcement add-ons or border security measures in exchange for protecting Dreamers.]
Last month, I was chosen to represent Arizona as a new member of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). It was a humbling and unexpected honor. For my entire adult life, I have proudly considered myself a Democrat. So I’m grateful for the chance to help rebuild our party and fight back against Trump’s agenda. I will use my membership to advocate for everyone in my community and for our party’s values of inclusion and opportunity that our country so desperately needs right now.
My passion for activism started in 2010 when legislators in my home state of Arizona passed SB 1070 – otherwise known as the “Papers, Please” law. This piece of legislation encouraged local law enforcement to racially profile people whom they suspected to be “undocumented” – people who looked like me, my family, and my community.
Since then, I have fought every day to stand up for the ideals that make this country great. And with Trump’s decision to end DACA, I believe it has never been more important for our leaders to show that our nation values compassion over cruelty.
We must rise, organize, and take action. I urge you, your friends, and your family to get involved in the fight to protect DREAMers. My days under DACA’s protection are numbered. But my commitment to my community and country is limitless, and I will fight to the very end. I ask you to join the fight and demand action for fellow Americans.