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Michiana students continue push for immigration reform

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Voices all across Michiana are calling for comprehensive immigration legislation ahead of Monday, the original deadline President Donald Trump set to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA).

“It felt necessary to put a face to a problem that we are human beings and we aren’t just illegals as some put it,” said Juan, a graduate of Holly Cross and a DACA recipient. “We will continue to apply the pressure because we’re left in limbo.”

Students unite for a cause

A fight for national reform is happening on a campus near you.

“We wanted to make an impact nationally not just locally,” said Marlen, a student at Holy Cross and a DACA recipient. “We have to stay this is our country as well.”

Marlen and Juan met with ABC 57 News along with two other DACA recipients Jose and Luis.

They are all members of an intercollegiate student activist group known as Indiana Dreamers in Action (DIA).

The organization is made up of 15 dreamers all fighting for the opportunity to stay here.

“DIA has given all of us a community where we have been able to strengthen each other and support each in anything that we’re going through,” said Jose.

Back in October, President Donald Trump rescinded DACA giving Congress until March 5 to pass legislation before the program would end.

Recipient students here at home knew then they were studying on borrowed time.

“We ran a social media campaign a few months ago where we quite literally put the days we had left of protection from deportation, from losing our employee authorization cards, our licenses and what we know now as our livelihood,” said Juan.

Uncertainty about their fates inspired them to share their stories with their peers.

And with the help from folks on their campuses they’ve led a few rallies across Michiana bringing immigrant rights to the offices of their elected leaders.

“We went to Washington several times to meet with [Senator Joe Donnelly] and we did not receive that support we were looking for,” said Luis. “We’re marching to demand action, to demand him to stick to his community.”

Deferring the dismantling of DACA

As they rallied Friday, rumblings of what will happen to the program continued in Washington.

Two federal judges ordered key aspects of the program be maintained, but the Trump administration sought a higher decision.

In late February, the Supreme Court declined that appeal.

But Dreamers and their allies say the fight isn’t over.

Their representatives in Congress agree.

“I believe the only way we will address these issues is by working together, and I will continue working with my colleagues, republicans and democrats to find a resolution,” Senator Joe Donnelly said in part in a statement to ABC 57 News.

U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski said she was also committed to reform.

“I am committed to working with my colleagues and the president to find a long-term, commonsense solution,” she said in part in a statement.

The many faces of support

Many people on IUSB’s campus wanted a long-term solution as well.

Thanks to a partnership with the Emerson Collective, the campus was able to display just how many people wanted it.

“It put a visible and a visceral image up for people to connect with,” said Cynthia Murphy-Wardlow the Recruitment/Retention Counselor at IUSB.

The Inside Out/ Dreamers project is demonstrated on the outside wall of Wiekamp Hall.

It served as a platform to amplify the voices of supporters for Dreamers and their push for immigrant rights.

“You never sure how much support you will have on such short notice because I think we had less than a week turnaround notice,” said Wardlow. “Nearly 300 people turned out.”

 Just over 60 portraits were posted on a building on campus and it evolved to the now digital projection, shown on the every night.

They’re all hoping for some type of resolution from national leadership.

Lottery winner’s new life

But part of that resolution for the president would have to include funding a wall at the Mexico border and pulling the plug on the Diversity Visa Lottery Program.

Both things are a cause for contention for Democrats.

“If I get a chance to meet the President of the United States, I wish I could tell him not to stop those people from coming from outside,” said visa lotter winner Bella.

Bella received her green card through the program President Trump is looking to end in 2015.

She’s a nursing student navigating classes at Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend and an immigrant from Rwanda.

“In 1994, I lost all my family in genocide,” she said.

Bella says she was alone for many years after her family was slaughtered.

She even had to hide in a forest for refuge before being rescued.

“I was thinking, ‘No my dad didn’t die. Maybe he would come back to see me, maybe he he’s hiding somewhere,’” she said. “After 18 years, I still had that hope he would come but after they told me he died, I said there’s ‘no hope,’ he isn’t coming back.”

Bella is now looking forward to moving on in America.

“I have to start a new life,” she said.

It’s an opportunity she wants for other immigrants as well.

That’s why she shared her story with her campus.

And it’s also why Juan, Marlen, Jose and Luis shared their stories with theirs.

They say when it comes to the fight for their rights; they no longer want to hide in the shadows.

“We are the students in the universities; we are your neighbors, the teachers, the workforce and equal contributors to this economy,” said Juan.

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