Washington – As Senate Republicans pushed for approval of a bill that would block implementation of President Obama’s immigration policy changes, Quinnipiac student Maria Praeli traveled to the White House to help put a human face on the issue.
Praeli, 21, was one of six “Dreamers,” undocumented children brought to the United States by their parents, who were invited to the White House Wednesday to meet with Obama and help him fight one of the most bitter political struggles of his administration.
“He was aware of our stories,” Praeli said of the president. “He said we were great role models.”
Republicans say Obama overreached with his 2014 executive order shielding from deportation the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, as well as a 2012 order that gave undocumented child immigrants, like Praeli, provisional legal status.
Praeli said she had been disappointed that Obama did not go further to help immigrants. While Praeli’s mother will be able to apply for provisional legal status through a sister who has legal status, Obama did not shield most Dreamer parents from deportation.
“But he looked us in the eye and said he went as far as he legally could and I believed him,” Praeli said.
Praeli was born in Peru and came to the United States at the age of 5. She grew up in New Milford, graduating from New Milford High School in 2012 and Gateway Community College two years later.
She is now a junior at Quinnipiac, working toward a degree in political science.
Obama said the Dreamers told him about “parents who aspired to a better life for their children” and said they were often unaware of their undocumented status.
The House has approved a bill that would bar the Department of Homeland Security from spending any funds to implement the president’s executive actions — including deferred deportation of Dreamers.
That bill has been blocked twice by Democrats in the Senate. But Senate Republican leaders have scheduled another attempt to move to a vote on the bill on Thursday.
Obama promised the bill would not become law.
“I will veto any legislation that got to my desk that took away the chance of these young people who grew up here and who are prepared to contribute to this country that would prevent them from doing so,” he said. “ And I am confident that I can uphold that veto.”
The Department of Homeland Security will run out of money on Feb. 27 if Congress cannot agree to a way to fund its $40 billion budget.