SAN JUAN, RGV – Immigrant groups in the Rio Grande Valley have never looked to U.S. Sens. John Cornyn or Ted Cruz for help.

In fact, meetings between the senators and leaders of groups such as La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), ARISE and Proyecto Juan Diego are few and far between.

All that may be about to change after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the popular Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was being phased out. The White House has put the onus on Congress to come up with a legislative fix if lawmakers want DREAMers to be able to stay and work in the United States.

John-Michael Torres

That means people like Cornyn and Cruz become important to community groups in the Valley that help undocumented immigrants.

The importance of Cornyn, in particular, was noted at a LUPE meeting on Tuesday evening.

“We need Republican leaders to stand up and to choose sides. Will they side with Trump and the White Supremacists in this Administration or will they side with the humanitarian and just thing to do, which is to push for a legislative solution?” asked LUPE Communications Coordinator John-Michael Torres.

“The DREAM Act of 2017 is bipartisan, it has bipartisan support in the House and the Senate. It is ready move and we need Senator Cornyn to stand up and co-sponsor it and push it forward in the Senate.”

Torres urged supporters of DACA in the Valley and Texas to call Cornyn’s office.

“People can call him and ask him to support the DREAM Act of 2017 and share their stories. We have to talk to each other, to take action. We need everyone working together,” Torres said.

Cornyn appears ready to move on the issue. He issued this statement immediately after Sessions’ statement on DACA.

“This policy (DACA), while well-intentioned, was implemented without the approval of Congress by a President who exceeded his authority under the Constitution. This President now has the chance to work with Congress towards finding a solution to this issue where his predecessor failed,” Cornyn said.

“These children who were brought here illegally through no fault of their own continue to make positive contributions to Texas and the nation, and it’s important for us to achieve a long-term resolution.”

Many young immigrants in the DACA program came to the LUPE event. They were given advice on what to do next. Lawyers who specialize in immigration issues have also been giving advice, such as Efrén C. Olivares, racial and economic justice director at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Here is Olivares’ video message:

DACA Cancellation, Explained

The cancellation of DACA will have enormous effects on the lives of over 124,000 immigrant youth in Texas. Our Racial & Economic Justice Director explains the announcement and what it means for DACA beneficiaries. Please share! #HereToStay

Posted by Texas Civil Rights Project on Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Asked how the immigrant community had taken the news that DACA was being eliminated, LUPE’s Torres said:

“Even knowing this was going to happen, it was pretty devastating. Those of us who have been in this struggle for a long time are saying, we are not going to go back into the shadows. We have had a taste of freedom and we are going to continue going forward. Those that have been standing on the sidelines, this is hitting them like a ton of bricks. People are asking, what can I do now? What can I do to fight for some form of protection that is permanent?”

Asked what groups like LUPE and its membership do next, Torres said:

“We have to continue the fight. There is no other option. We have close to 800,000 young immigrants in this country who have given the government their information, who have come forward and who have benefited from this (DACA) program for five years. We can’t let the administration start to deport young folks in mass. It is time for all of us to step up.”