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Houstonians commemorate 12th year of DACA at City Hall by urging President Biden on path to citizenship – Houston Public Media

Houstonians commemorate 12th year of DACA at City Hall by urging President Biden on path to citizenship – Houston Public Media

Houstonians commemorate 12th year of DACA at City Hall by urging President Biden on path to citizenship – Houston Public Media

Colleen De Guzman

Zak Galindo is a DACA recipient and owns several local businesses throughout the city, such as Galindo’s Barbershop and Galindo’s Coffee + Elixirs.

Graduate from college. Become a business owner. Manage a bank.

These are some of the dreams that local beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program said they have been able to achieve in Houston. June marks the 12th anniversary of DACA and Mayor John Whitmire marked it by inviting local leaders and recipients of the program, also known as Dreamers, to City Hall on Tuesday.

Former President Barack Obama’s program allowed about 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to remain in the country. An estimated 60,000 Houstonians are Dreamers.

Local Dreamers are estimated to contribute $255.4 million in taxes and spend $846.2 million in the city’s economy.

While Whitmire acknowledged the program’s accomplishments, she said the country has a long way to go to retain and utilize the talent and education that local DACA recipients have to offer the city.

“This is a day of celebration, but it is also a day of challenge,” Whitmire said.

Yolanda Batz, 22, attended the University of Houston and just passed her exams to become a registered nurse. She said she is grateful that the program has allowed her to continue her education in the country, but in trying to get a nursing job, she ran into obstacles.

“During nursing school, I faced a lot of discrimination from clinical settings. My job applications have also been repeatedly rejected,” Batz said.

She, along with several other speakers, called on President Joe Biden and Congress to work to establish a path to permanent citizenship for undocumented people living in the country.

Batz said she dreams of being a nurse practitioner one day. She also dreams of reuniting with her family in Guatemala whom she has not been able to see in 19 years.

“If DACA were to open up again or if I got a work permit, I would gladly do it,” he said.

Zak Galindo is a DACA recipient and owns several local businesses throughout the city, such as Galindo’s Barbershop and Galindo’s Coffee + Elixirs.

“I have opened multiple businesses and now my company has over 70 employees, all of whom now have jobs, can support their families, can live the American dream and buy homes,” Galindo said. “This story is the same as many other DACA recipients. There are also many people who just need that one chance, just like I had when I got DACA.”

Emiliano Valencia is deputy Texas director for the American Business Immigration Coalition and said it is “an example of what Houstonians can accomplish when given access to work authorization.”

Valencia said that thanks to DACA he also graduated from Sam Houston State University while working as a bank manager.

“Now I help other Houstonians achieve their American dream, just like me,” he said.

But he also urged leaders to open a path for Dreamers to receive citizenship.

“Today’s event is not only a celebration of the impact of DACA, but also a call to action,” Valencia said, “to the administration and Congress to work together to further expand work authorization and create a path toward legal status for Dreamers.”