Mother of three Dreamers holds fast on Capitol Hill for passage of the DREAM Act
Dec. 6, 2017
US & World
Antonia Alvarez, the mother of three DACA recipients and one United States citizen, is fasting outside of the Capitol for 10 days to advocate for the passage of the DREAM Act, which would allow her children and 800,000 other Dreamers to remain in the country and gain a path to citizenship.
Alvarez is originally from Mexico City and said she immigrated to the United States 16 years ago because of the danger in Mexico. She currently lives in New Brighton, Minnesota, where she has done similar fasts throughout the past few years. But after President Donald Trump announced in September that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, there was added urgency to her work. She decided that in order to get the attention of members of Congress, she would need to travel to hold a fast right in front of their offices.
After traveling to Washington with a group of leaders from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to speak with congressional leaders, Alvarez, who is a parishioner of Incarnation Sagrado Corazon in Minneapolis, stayed behind to do a 10 day fast, starting on Dec. 4 and going until the passage of the DREAM Act or the end of the congressional session on Dec. 15. Every day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., she will sit in section 11 of the Capitol grounds, directly in between the House office buildings and the Capitol, hoping and advocating for Congress to take action on the DREAM Act.
“Sometimes I said, ‘God, I stay alone,’” she said, expressing fear about doing this by herself. “But I listen, [and hear] ‘You’re not alone.’”
Now, Alvarez really is not alone, since Daniel Galán, a 25–year-old electrician from Chicago, saw on Facebook what Alvarez was doing and decided to hop on a bus from Illinois to join her.
Galán, a parishioner of St. Paul Catholic Church in the south side of Chicago, was brought to the United States from Mexico City when he was 8 years old. He and his girlfriend are both DACA recipients, so he said he is doing the fast for the both of them, as well as for many other Dreamers he knows who couldn’t make the trip down to Washington.
“Our family is poor. My mom didn’t see any future for me in Mexico, so she brought me here so I could go to school, work, and become something of myself,” Galán said.
Alvarez’s three children who are also DACA recipients are 24, 25, and 28 years old. Her oldest child is a businessman, and the other two are in school, one getting her bachelor’s degree and the other pursuing her master’s degree. She also has a 12-year-old daughter who is a United States citizen.
“Every day she is crying for her brother and two sisters,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez, who has a house cleaning business in Minnesota, said her family has paid for all of her children’s education.
“We don’t want crumbs,” she said. “We are working for everything.”
Unlike herself, Alvarez’s kids are now in the legal system, she pointed out, since they had to give personal information and go through a vetting process in order to receive DACA. This would make it easier for them to get deported.
“ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has all of our information,” said Galán. “They know where to find us, know where we live and know where we work.”
Alvarez felt that God was telling her this is the time to come to Washington and fight for the protection of her children and other Dreamers.
“This is my gift for God,” she said.
Alvarez has caught the attention of several members of Congress who have come out to speak with her, some of them bringing her hot water or inviting her inside for a break. But Alvarez declines to go inside, and instead invites them to come visit her whenever they want a break.
As the two stood outside next to their table that supports a large cross, Galán spoke about his hopes for the future. He has not seen his dad since he left Mexico, but speaks to him frequently, and listens to him say that he is alone, since Galán’s mother and brother both also live in the United States. He hopes to someday get a green card so he will be able to travel back and forth to visit his dad, and maybe someday bring him here legally if he becomes a citizen.
In order to provide for himself and his aging parents, Galán hopes to start his own electric company, but he fears that he will lose his job once his deferred action expires, since the company he works for checks the status of their employees. Since he recently renewed his deferred action, he has until March 2019 before it expires. But until Congress passes a more permanent piece of legislation, Galán said he would “be contemplating the day I lose everything I’ve worked for.”
Noting her family’s situation, Alvarez said, “My kids are afraid, but I’m not afraid. I’m fighting for protecting my children …Always I pray to God, always I believe in God, always my faith is in God.”
With tears in her eyes, Alvarez said one of her daughters feels so afraid that she wants to leave the country and move to Ghana, where her boyfriend is from, because she thinks they would not be discriminated against there.
“That is why I am here,” she said. “I don’t want to lose my kids.”
Alvarez does not only pray for her own family and for Dreamers, but also prays for President Trump, asking God to bless him.
“Jesus said to turn the other cheek. If someone trespasses against you, pray for both of you so you both can be saved,” said Galán, acknowledging that it is a difficult thing to do.
“No, it is very easy,” responded Alvarez, saying that when she loves everyone, there is no room for hate. “I’m angry, but [I don’t] hate. That is not my position.”
The latest local and global Catholic news delivered to your inbox.