CENTRAL COAST, Calif. - Hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants are still watching and waiting for lawmakers to take action on the DACA program including many dreamers on the Central Coast.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allows young immigrants like 22-year-old Emmanuel Gomez to live and work in the United States.
Emmanuel Gomez was brought to the U.S. when he was five-years-old and has called Salinas home for 17 years.
“Obviously I was born in Mexico, but it’s hard to remember. I don't really remember much because at the time I was only five.”
Gomez says he does remember crossing the border feeling scared and confused.
“At the time I really didn't know what was going on. My parents just told me that we were moving away from our family in Mexico. I didn’t want to leave because obviously I didn't want to leave my family. They made me a promise they would take me to Disneyland and that's how they kind of convinced me,” Emmanuel Gomez explained.
Gomez faced many challenges over the years including learning a new language and getting used to new schools.
“It was hard, but I learned and graduated from high school."
Through the DACA program, Gomez was eventually able to go to college and is now hoping to get into law school, a dream his mother encourages.
“I tell them to work hard because I don't want to see them working in the fields making minimum wage. I don't want them to go through the sacrifices we made barely having enough to pay rent and being financially limited.” Said Gabriela Garcia.
Like Gomez, at the age of five, Ricardo Garcia also came to the U.S. He came with his father and uncle, but his father was deported twice when he was a teenager.
"And that was the only family I had here,” said Ricardo Garcia.
Despite not knowing anyone, Garcia continued to go to work and school fighting for the American dream in the only place he calls home.
“I just don't see myself starting over."
But that is exactly what many dreamers might have to do if Congress doesn't act soon.
“It's hard to imagine. You have to imagine the worst situations and be prepared because you never know what could happen. Maybe one day we could get deported and our family they'll be left alone. It’s hard to imagine you have to be prepared for the worst, but at same time have hope,” said Emmanuel Gomez.
Dreamers such as Emmanuel Gomez and Ricardo Garcia continue to cling onto hope. Gomez told KION watching his Congressman Jimmy Panetta recently speak out for dreamers gave him hope once again.
“He told me he was fighting for us not only him but other senators and congressmen and congresswomen across the country. He said that they wanted to get something done and that they would get something done.”
KION sat down with Congressman Panetta and showed him what Gomez said.
"I appreciate what this young man had to say and it obviously gives me motivation to continue to fight, but I’m not satisfied with that. I want to see the video the next time when he says I want to thank Jimmy Panetta and other representatives back in Washington D.C. for giving me the chance to not only stay here, not only live here, but to be an American,” said Congressman Jimmy Panetta.
Congressman Panetta said both Democrats and Republicans are talking about immigration right now. If the March 5th deadline rolls around and they still haven’t voted on a bill, Panetta said he will continue to fight for legislation to help dreamers stay here.
“These are people who don't just want to stay here, they don't just want to live here, they want to give back not just to their families, but they want to give back to their country, they want to give back to this community and every dreamer I’ve talked to, that’s the attitude I get and that’s why it’s so important for us to continue to fight for them.”
Fighting for young people who may not be Americans on paper but consider themselves Americans in every other way.