(Image courtesy of Nebraska Appleseed)
In early December, Andrea Skolkin, Chief Executive Officer of OneWorld, and a OneWorld employee who is a DACA participant traveled to Washington, D.C. in order to speak to Nebraska’s members of Congress about the importance of passing the Dream Act of 2017. (DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allows children who were not born in the U.S. to stay in the U.S.)
Skolkin and the employee hoped to convey to Nebraska’s senators and representatives that Congress’ inaction puts Nebraska families, communities and businesses at risk.
“At first, I thought, ‘What should I say about my story? This is my everyday life,’” the DACA participant said. “But then I met other people who have talked to senators before, and I thought, ‘Oh, OK. It’s the importance of why I need to stay in the U.S.’”
Skolkin and our employee met with staff members from the offices of Sen. Deb Fischer, Sen. Ben Sasse and Rep. Adrian Smith, and they met with Rep. Don Bacon.
“Talking to staff gets you somewhere, but we wanted to talk to more people who had answers,” the OneWorld employee said. “The time with Don Bacon was so fast because there were lots of people in his office. He was straight to the point.”
In each meeting, Skolkin and our employee asked for a long-term fix for DACA, and Skolkin also asked them to reauthorize health center funding. OneWorld’s employee said she was nervous at first, but after a while, she thought it became easier to tell her story.
“I don’t think anybody remembers when they were little,” she said. “I don’t know the main reason why we were here in the first place. I know we came with a visa, and we did all the legal stuff. We just never went back. I don’t remember any of it, and I don’t see why I have to go to Mexico. Especially now that I have a daughter, I’m not going to take her rights to live in the U.S., too, because I have to go to Mexico because of something I didn’t know about.”
Our employee said speaking about her four-year-old daughter and her family made the process less intimidating.
“Other people blame their parents, but I don’t think it was my parents’ fault at all,” she said. “Every parent wants the best for their child, and I had never really thought about anything like that until I had I daughter, so I did talk to our elected officials about my daughter a lot. I told them about her and about how I’m a single mom. I would never leave my daughter behind, so if I had to leave, I would be taking a lot away from her.”
According to our employee, being a DACA participant has allowed her and her sister many opportunities, but they have had their share of disappointments, too. Her sister did not qualify for the DACA program this year, so she will not be able to pursue her goal of enlisting in the Army.
“My sister doesn’t know Spanish, and she was brought when she was starting Pre-K,” she said. “She would have no good luck in Mexico at all…I don’t think she gets that she can’t be in the Army. Teachers always tell you, ‘Yes, you can do anything,’ but I’m like, ‘No, you can’t.’ You can try, but they’re going to tell you ‘no.’”
Our employee hopes that her conversations with congressional staff members and Rep. Bacon had an impact. Until the future of DACA participants is clear, her future in the U.S. remains uncertain.
In addition to advocating on a national level, OneWorld is also prepared to help and support local DACA recipients however we can. Our staff members are here to provide behavioral health and support services, immigration consultation and more. OneWorld’s immigrant-focused medical-legal partnership with Justice for Our Neighbors-Nebraska (JFON) also helped patient families who needed help submitting DACA renewal requests.
OneWorld is committed to honoring its mission and values by advocating for issues that impact the health and well-being of our patients and our employees.