Evelyn Rivera is a "DREAMer." Her family came to the United States from Colombia when she was 3 years old and, for much of her childhood, Rivera didn’t know that she was an undocumented immigrant.
Rivera tells “Power Players” that although she was born in Colombia, she feels “very American in blood, in my language [and] in saying the pledge to the flag of the United States.”
Rivera now lives in the United States legally under a program started by the Obama administration in 2012 that grants temporary legal status to DREAMers -- children who were brought to America by their parents and whose cases would fall under proposed federal immigration legislation called the DREAM Act. She is campaigning as part of the pro-immigration reform group United We Dream for a path to citizenship for the entire undocumented community.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, recently made headlines by claiming many DREAMers are drug runners, telling Newsmax that “for everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds, and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Rivera says she was “shocked” by King’s remark.
“I didn't think that that would come from a legislator,” Rivera says. “That is not who we are. We are Americans, we are students, and we work and contribute to this country.”
Rivera says that King’s comment reflects negatively on the entire Republican Party.
“It just shows that they don't really want to work on this issue,” she says. “I'm hoping, and I'm sure the rest of my community is hoping, that the Republican Party will actually start working towards this instead of talking about us as drug dealers who are smuggling drugs over.”
As the House of Representatives approaches immigration reform piece by piece, there has been general consensus on Capitol Hill in favor of offering a path to citizenship to DREAMers. But Rivera says that a path to citizenship for the DREAMers isn’t enough.
“My parents were courageous enough to come to this country, and they deserve to live out the American Dream as much as I would on an earned pathway to citizenship,” Rivera says. “Everybody talks about the DREAMers contributing to this country, being respectful, being very American -- and the reason we are like that is because of our parents.”
While Rivera’s father became a legal permanent resident and is eligible for citizenship in January, her mother was deported to Colombia several years ago after being arrested for driving without a driver’s license.
“She was taken to the local jail and then from there is when they saw she had no immigration status … and she was transferred to a detention center about four hours from our house. She was there for over four months, and then eventually deported back to Colombia,” Rivera says.
Rivera’s mother has not been allowed to return to the United States but, she says, her family is “still pushing to make sure that my mom can come back to her home.”
To hear more of Rivera’s story, including what she’s able to do now as a temporary legal resident that she wasn’t able to do before, check out this episode of “Power Players.”
ABC's Serena Marshall, Betsy Klein, Michael Conte, Gary Westphalen, Melissa Young, and John Glennon contributed to this episode.
- Politics & Government