WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered a speech on the Senate floor today to highlight the success of the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program President Obama announced three years ago that has offered temporary deportation relief and work authorization to more than 660,000 undocumented young immigrants, including more than 7,000 in New Mexico. Among the qualifications for the deferred action program, an applicant has to be a student or an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.
Below are Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery:
Three years ago, the President announced that DREAMers--young people who were brought to the United States as children--would have the opportunity to apply for temporary protection from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program--or DACA.
Today, more than 660,000 young people across the country have benefited from DACA, including more than 7,000 from my home state of New Mexico.
These are some of our brightest students and veterans who no longer have to fear deportation.
Not only do DREAMers want to earn an education and work, they want to give back to their communities and their country.
In fact, I would suggest that DREAMers don't know how to be anything but American.
We hear again and again of the remarkable stories of immigrants overcoming very difficult challenges in the genuine pursuit of a better life.
Across the country there are DREAMers working to become doctors, scientists, lawyers, and engineers. They want to start businesses, teach in our classrooms, and contribute to America's success.
I had the privilege of meeting these twin sisters, Jazmin and Yazmin, earlier this year. They immigrated to the United States with their mother from Mexico when they were just three years old.
As students at Del Norte High School in Albuquerque, Jazmin and Yazmin worked hard to earn good grades. And as juniors and seniors they took dual credit courses at Central New Mexico Community College.
Jazmin would go on to graduate magna cum laude from the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of Business Administration, concentrating in finance. She earned an Interdisciplinary Studies Distinction from the UNM Honors College.
And Yazmin would go on to graduate magna cum laude from UNM with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Spanish, a minor in chemistry, and completed the University Honors Program. She received departmental Summa cum Laude honors.
These two young women are working tirelessly to ensure they have a better future for themselves and for their mother.
In August, Jazmin will begin her second year at the University of New Mexico School of Law and Yazmin will begin her first year at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.
Given their immigration status, the journey for Jazmin and Yazmin to get to where they are today was anything but easy. They've overcome many hardships, including homelessness and hunger.
After their mother--who is a single mom--suffered a stroke, it was up to them to find work to support their family, cover her medical costs, and pay for their education.
To this day, there's another heavy burden these young women carry with them. It's living with the fear that at any moment their mother, who they love dearly, will be deported because of her immigration status.
Under these circumstances, you have to ask what drives these two bright young women. What keeps them going? It's simple: they want to give back to their communities.
Jazmin, who's currently a summer law clerk at New Mexico's Center on Law and Poverty, wants to be a lawyer to ensure every person has equal access to the law.
Yazmin, who's currently a medical assistant at the Casa de Salud Medical Office in the South Valley, wants to be a primary care physician so she can help families gain access to quality health care.
This is who DREAMers are and their stories are inspiring.
This young man's name is Cesar. He is 26 years old and a DACA recipient.
Cesar and his family moved from Ciudad Juarez to Las Cruces, New Mexico, when he was in fifth grade.
As a middle and high school student, he earned good grades. And through local scholarships, he enrolled at New Mexico State University--earning Bachelor degrees in biology, microbiology, and Spanish; not to mention minors in chemistry and biochemistry.
When he graduated from college in 2011, Cesar couldn't put his degrees to work because of his immigration status. So instead of working in a lab, he worked as a landscaper.
When the President made his DACA announcement, Cesar immediately applied and was approved for deferred action.
Because of DACA, Cesar was able to work and earn an income to help pay for graduate school.
This year, Cesar earned his Masters degree in biology and a minor in molecular biology from New Mexico State University where he focused his research on bioinformatics.
Cesar makes it a point to get involved in the local community. He's volunteered at La Casa, and helped with the biology graduate organization.
He said, "Once you start volunteering, you wish you had more time because you begin to love it so much. It can improve your outlook on everything you're doing."
Cesar's dream is to become a doctor so he can work on disease prevention.
Soon, he'll take a major step toward that goal.
This coming school year, Cesar will be a medical and Ph.D. student at Loyola University in Chicago.
"DACA changed my life," he said. "Within two to three years, I went from working in landscaping to becoming a medical student."
The stories of Cesar, Jazmin, and Yazmin represent what makes America great.
They are inspiring, and there are hundreds of thousands of DREAMers like them across the country.
Immigrants make the United States a more prosperous nation. In New Mexico, our state's remarkable spirit is rooted in our diversity, our history, and our culture, which has always been enriched by our immigrant communities and family members.
My own father is an immigrant who came to America from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. I'm sure many of us in this chamber have immigrant roots in their own families, which have contributed to America's success story.
We are not a country that kicks out our best and brightest students. And we're not a nation that tears families apart.
The current DACA program is only a temporary solution. DACA recipients have to renew every two years in order to maintain their deferred status.
But that's no way to live. It's unfair for these DREAMers to live their lives by two-year increments.
We desperately need robust, immigration reform.
Now, let's step back for a moment and remember that the Senate passed a comprehensive, bipartisan immigration bill almost two years ago.
That bill would have modernized our immigration system to meet the needs of our economy, provided an accountable pathway to earned citizenship for the undocumented workers currently living in the shadows--including making the DREAM Act law--and it would have dramatically strengthened security at our borders.
Accountable immigration reform received 68 votes in the Senate, and demonstrated the kind of legislation we can pass if we work together.
As a nation, we value the twin promises of freedom and opportunity. Those ideals are important no matter where you were born.
However, too many of my Republican colleagues don't see it that way.
Several of them want to rescind or defund DACA, and rollback the progress we've made over the past three years.
Why would we end such a successful program?
What I would say to those who do is this: come back to the table and work with us to pass immigration reform.
We need pragmatic solutions to fix our broken immigration system.
And we need them now.
Let's make the dream a reality.