RICHMOND, Va. -- Over a pizza lunch, three Virginia DACA recipients voiced their stresses and worries over the failure of Congress to act on permanent solution for the people known as DREAMers.
DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama era program that allowed people brought to the US illegally as children to live here without fear of deportation. The Trump administration decided to end the program, which is set to expire March 5, 2018.
At the district office for Congressman Donald McEachin (D-4), the three DACA recipients said they feel their situations are being used as "bargaining chips" by politicians and the continued uncertainty of their future is frightening.
"I'm just scared of what will happen once my DACA ends," said Milenia Rojas, a high school senior whose DACA permit expires early next year. Rojas will be a college freshman in New York and is concerned by the heavy presence of immigration agents near the Canadian border. Rojas' parents brought her to the US from Bolivia when she was a child, and the student is worried she will be deported if Congress fails to act.
"Everything I've done since 7th grade will be for nothing, and I don't even really remember Bolivia," she said.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 80 percent of Americans surveyed think DACA recipients should be allowed to stay. The current Congressional stalemate on DACA hinges on the fact the two major parties disagree on how to accomplish that.
Both McEachin and Congressman Dave Brat (R-7) said they want to find a way to allow DREAMers to stay in the US.
Brat said he supports legislation by Congressman Bob Goodlatte that would provide legal protection for current DACA recipients coupled with limits on so-called "chain migration" and enhanced boarder security funding. Critics say the Goodlatte plan does not include a path to citizenship for DACA recipients.
"You don't get immediate citizenship, but [DACA recipients] will get citizenship, they just have to get to the back of the line. Most people don't want to see someone cutting in front of them. We have other immigrants coming in legally," Brat said.
McEachin said he doubts the Goodlatte plan has the votes to pass through the Senate if it even passes the House.
Sowing even more uncertainty into the conversation, a federal judge has blocked the Trump administration's end to DACA. After the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal, the case is back to the lower courts, according to reports.
For Andreas Magnusson, a DACA recipient at the lunch, the prospect of nothing happening once again is frightening.
"Everyone wants to use everything as a bargaining chip," Magnusson said. "I could lose my entire life that I've worked so hard for. I'd have to start over completely, which is terrifying."
More than 25,000 people in Virginia have filed DACA applications since it's inception. Advocates estimate there are more than 30,000 people in Virginia who qualify.