It’s one thing when family calls Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-Calif., asking if she can use her congressional connections to fix potholes in the neighborhood. It’s another when her young cousin calls asking what is she going to do to protect him from being deported.
"One of my cousins is a Dreamer," Barragán said. "And there is this constant concern when the call comes asking, ‘What are you going to do to help save me.’ It’s a huge burden that I feel not only personally, but in my district that is 70 percent Latino."
As hundreds of Dreamers and other undocumented youth converge on Washington this week to lobby Congress to protect young immigrants brought here illegally as children, Barragán joins us on this week’s episode of Majority Minority to discuss her work to protect 800,000 young immigrants who could soon lose their special status after President Donald Trump announced the end of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program.
Barragán shares her story growing up in a working class immigrant family with White House Correspondent Franco Ordoñez and Congressional Correspondent William Douglas. Her father fixed televisions for a living and her mother did odd jobs taking care of children, cleaning house and working in a factory. She grew up at times on government assistance. She remembers her family buying the block cheese and visits to the salvation army.
"I have found that when you’re talking to your colleagues, your personal story is the most moving part of it especially if you have a personal relationship with them. It has been moving for some,” she said. “Others don’t say much. So you just have to assume you know what that means."
Barragán is not sure how soon Congress will be able to fix the immigration system or when lawmakers will come up with a solution to protect her cousin. But she sees growing support on both sides of the aisle.
In the meantime, she’s telling her cousin as well as thousands of constituents who are worried about their loved ones to remain vocal.
“I tell him I’m fighting as hard as I can to get legislation passed,” she said. “In the meantime, you need to make sure your application is up to date and renewed. You need to make sure you stay out of trouble. You’re totally clean. Make sure you continue to do all the things that you already doing. Pay your taxes. Go to work.”