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Central Ohio DACA recipients wants to stay in America

(September 19, 2017) — Elvis Saldias grew up hiding a secret.

He came to the United States from Bolivia with his mom when he was nine years old on a visa that would expire a couple months later, making him undocumented.

“Undocumented meant illegal, meant unwanted, it meant being unrecognized,” Saldias, 25, said.

When former President Barack Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012, Saldias was completing his associate’s degree at Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Ohio.

“It was honestly a gift for me,” Saldias said. “I was finally able to come out of the shadows. It provided me with a social security number and a work permit and protection from deportation.”

DACA protects young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents from being removed from the country.

Saldias’ future, however, has been on hold ever since Sept. 5 when the Trump administration announced the DACA program will end in six months unless Congress is able to come up with a legislative solution. The U.S. contains an estimated 800,000 DACA recipients.

Saldias, along with a fellow DACA recipient and central Ohio leaders, urged Congress on Tuesday morning to prioritize enacting a legislative solution for DACA. Two bills offering solutions, Recognizing America’s Children Act, and the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, have been introduced in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

“I’m here today to urge Congress to take action toward a bipartisan solution that will protect our youth,” said Claudia De Leon, vice president of TSJ Media.

An alumnus of Ohio State University, Saldias has made a life for himself in central Ohio working at Nationwide Insurance.

“As a young professional, it makes it very hard to plan for the future,” he said.

Revv Enterprises & Brands CEO Andrew Martinez urges Congress to look closer at the people who benefit from DACA.

“These are individuals that are not only some of our best and brightest, but some irreplaceable members of society,” Martinez said. “They’re the embodiment of the American Dream.”

The grandson of immigrants, Ohio Dominican University President Robert Gervasi, was the target of ethnic slurs growing up.

“As humans, for some reasons, we are afraid of people who are different,” he said.

The law, Gervasi argued, should not be used to keep away people who are different.

“If we really want to make America great again, let’s key on what made America great in the first place,” Gervasi said.