DACA recipient is Merkley’s State of the Union guest

WASHINGTON – Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., announced Thursday that his guest to the 2018 State of the Union address will be Leonardo Reyes, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient from the Salem area and co-founder of the Oregon DACA Coalition.

Merkley said he voted “no” on a series of continuing resolutions to temporarily fund the government because, in addition to other shortcomings, they failed to provide a solution for DREAMers.

“The senator has condemned the president’s divisive, hateful actions and statements toward immigrants, including his attempt to end the DACA program,” the news release stated.

“President Trump’s move to go back on our promise to DREAMers is not only heartless, it’s shortsighted. Since DACA was implemented, 11,000 Oregonian DREAMers like Leonardo have strengthened our local economies and the fabric of our communities,” Merkley said.

“Now, instead of doing our jobs actually solving problems for the American people, Congress has kicked the can down the road, allowing more than 100 DREAMers to lose their status every day and putting young people who have lived in the United States most of their lives at risk for deportation. That’s unacceptable. We cannot turn our back on nearly 800,000 courageous young leaders. As President Trump addresses Congress next week, he will look up and see the young leaders he has promised to treat ‘with great heart’—and he will see that we are determined to hold him to that promise.”

“It’s an honor to attend the State of the Union as Senator Merkley’s guest. I wish it were under more celebratory circumstances that I would be at our nation’s Capital,” Reyes said. “I am one of 800,000 DACA recipients whose life is in the balance. I have spent most of my life here, from attending Davis Elementary School to attending Western Oregon University.

“Oregon is my home, and I cannot sit by and watch the government tear apart my family and the families of hundreds of thousands of other people. I am here because time is running out—Congress must act and give us our opportunity to fulfill our American Dream.”

Reyes is an Oregon DACA recipient who works for the State of Oregon as a bilingual eligibility specialist, helping assess medical needs and determine seniors’ and disabled adults’ eligibility for programs.

After President Trump announced he would end the DACA program, Reyes organized Salem-area youth to form the Oregon DACA Coalition. The coalition not only awarded scores of $495 scholarships — the cost of renewal — for young people racing to renew their status as the deadline for the program’s end approached, but also organized rallies and events up and down the West Coast to advocate for long-term immigration reform.

Merkley invited Reyes to be his guest to the State of the Union to highlight the urgent need to pass a DREAM Act that would support the hundreds of thousands of young Americans being left in limbo by the president.