Oregon DREAMer Esli Becerra and younger brother Kevin Becerra-Segura attended President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address on Jan. 30 in Washington D.C. as guests of Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Wyden said he invited the brothers in part because they have both pursued their educations and financially supported each other since they were old enough to work. Because of that, Wyden said, Becerra does not deserve to be sent back to Mexico if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is rescinded under Trump.
“[Becerra’s] story of success in Oregon and sacrifice for his brother exemplifies how much he and his fellow DREAMers have contributed to our communities and earned an opportunity to stay in the country they know and love,” Wyden said in a statement.
Becerra’s parents brought him to Oregon when he was 8 years old and now works as a visual effects artist. Becerra’s younger brother Kevin was born in Springfield shortly after their parents immigrated, and now attends Portland State as a triple political science, criminology and Russian language major. In addition, Kevin completed an internship at Wyden’s office.
Becerra was one of six DREAMers Oregon representatives invited as guests or sent in their place to the SOTU address. The address occurred less than two weeks after the weekend-long government shut down, a consequence of an impasse between bipartisan leaders regarding an immigration bill.
Trump has since proposed a path to citizenship for 1.8 million DREAMers, several hundred thousand of whom are DACA recipients. The plan, which might grant citizenship to individuals after 10–12 years, includes a conditional $25 billion for a border wall on America’s southern border and a nearly 25 percent reduction in legal immigration. “If you don’t have a wall, you don’t have DACA,” Trump said on Jan. 24.
DREAMers would also have to prove their good moral character while pursuing their education and employment. Becerra-Sagura argued his brother fits that model perfectly.
“At his employment [Becerra is] considered a very very important individual,” Becerra-Sagura said. “Many American citizens including myself depend on him.”
Both brothers began their educations in a Japanese immersion school but started helping support the family as children by helping their parents clean apartments, houses and parking lots. When Becerra reached high school, he realized he wasn’t like everyone else.
“I grew up with all these friends having these dreams of what they were going to do out of high school and all the sudden realizing I wasn’t going to go into higher education,” Becerra said.
Undocumented students, including DACA recipients, do not qualify for federal financial aid. However, Becerra was able to get a one-year scholarship at Lane Community College. After LCC, Becerra-Segura said he worked up to 80 hours a week to support his older brother through college.
Support for DACA followed partisan lines at Trump’s SOTU address. Greg Walden, Oregon’s only Republican congressman, was the only state legislator who did not bring a DACA recipient to the address. Trump himself invited parents of children killed by the MS-13 street gang to the address as a case for stronger border protection.
Becerra-Sagura said terrorists who enter the country illegally and DREAMers cannot be compared. “On our side we’re presenting the example of the American dream through these kids who come into this country and [are] trying to better themselves,” Becerra-Sagura said. “This is all they know, and they are trying to become hard-working members of society…this is what makes America great.”
If Capitol Hill does not make a decision before DACA expires March 5, the program’s future is unknown.
Referring to his brother, Becerra-Sagura said, “If this is not an American I don’t know what is.” He added, “This is the life we got. I have no other option but to fight for my brother.”