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Durbin Celebrates 10th Anniversary of DACA, Calls on Congress to Finally Pass the Dream Act

In 2010, Durbin sent a bipartisan letter asking then-President Obama to stop the deportation of Dreamers—ten years ago today, President Obama responded by announcing the DACA program

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and lead author of the Dream Act, today celebrated the 10th anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and called on Congress to finally pass the Dream Act to give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship.

Twenty-one years ago, Durbin first introduced the Dream Act—bipartisan legislation that would give undocumented immigrants who grew up in this country a chance to become American citizens.  In 2010, Durbin sent a letter, joined by the late Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN), asking then-President Obama to stop the deportation of Dreamers.  Ten years ago today, President Obama responded by announcing the DACA program.  More than 800,000 Dreamers have since come forward and received DACA, which has allowed them to contribute more fully to their country as teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, and small business owners.

“It was ten years ago today President Obama walked into the White House Rose Garden and said he had an announcement to make.  He made an announcement, which changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living in America.  He announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, now we call it DACA.  And with that announcement, I joined with, I guess, thousands of young leaders across this country and breathed a sigh of relief,” Durbin said.  “Over the past decade, DACA has allowed more than 800,000 Dreamers to remain in the only home they’ve ever known – America.”

During his speech, Durbin told the story of Dr. Yazmin Irazoqui-Ruiz, who is in her third year of her general surgeon residency at the University of New Mexico.  Her story is the 130th Dreamer story Durbin has told on the Senate floor.

Yazmin arrived in the U.S. at the age of three—alongside her twin sister and her mother.  When Yazmin was 16, the family suffered a tragedy that ignited her passion for medicine: her mother had a stroke.  Yazmin studied hard in high school, graduated with honors, and made her way to the University of New Mexico, where she earned a bachelor of science in Biology and Spanish.  Yazmin then matriculated into UNM’s School of Medicine—but promptly hit a speed bump. She discovered that her immigration status would preclude her from receiving a professional license to practice medicine. Yazmin joined a coalition of like-minded students and rallied support in the New Mexico legislature to change the state’s laws on licensure.  

Now, Yazmin is fulfilling her childhood dream: every day, she delivers care and support to families like her own.  Yazmin is in the third year of her general surgery residency at the University of New Mexico.  And at the height of the pandemic, she was deep in the trenches of our health care system.

“Back in the summer of 2020 when COVID was new and basically unknown, Yazmin was working 80 hours a week providing care to COVID-positive patients, providing CPR, wearing protective gear from head to toe.  Like so many Dreamers, Yazmin’s commitment to serve her community was unshakable.  Even when her own family members came down with COVID, she didn’t stay home and take care of them.  She went to work.  Day after day, she put her life on the line to save the lives of others.  And she’s continued that journey as a health care professional against improbable odds,” Durbin said.  “I want to thank Yazmin for her service on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.  She is an immigrant health hero.  She is a DACA health hero.  She’s put herself and her family at risk to protect American lives.  She shouldn’t also have to worry about whether she’s going to be deported tomorrow.  And whether her family will be deported as well.”

Durbin concluded, “These brilliant young people are still waiting on us, on Congress, to finish the job that President Obama started with DACA.  This program was always supposed to be a temporary solution.  The permanent solution was enacting a piece of legislation that I introduced 20 years ago called the Dream Act… I can think of no better way to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of DACA than passing this legislation, offering every one of our Dreamers the path to American citizenship, which they deserve and have earned.  An overwhelming number of Americans want Congress to pass the Dream Act.  They know it will strengthen our economy and the nation.  Most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.  It’s time for Congress to step up and meet our responsibility. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike, let’s get this done.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.