Three Santa Cruz “Dreamers,” or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, have joined a week of actions in Washington D.C. leading up to Congress’s Jan. 19 deadline to pass a “clean” DREAM Act, rather than compromising with more conservative immigration stances.

The DREAM Act would grant legal status to certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as young children. Initially proposed in 2001 and re-introduced several times since then, the DREAM Act has never been passed. Currently, many individuals who would be granted legal status through the DREAM Act are protected by DACA, which grants them two-year periods of residency without threat of deportation.

The future of DACA is unclear. On Sept. 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced it would discontinue DACA starting in March. Current recipients are now allowed to renew based on a ruling last week by a San Francisco judge, but the Trump administration has since appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and will petition the U.S. Supreme Court later this week.

DACA negotiations are now part of larger negotiations of the national budget. A bipartisan approval of the budget is needed by Friday at midnight or the government will shut down.

DACA recipient and community member Gabriela Cruz organized the trip to Washington for herself and two Cabrillo College DACA recipients, Cinthia García-Benítez and Margarito Rodriguez, to demand Congress pass a DREAM Act to continue DACA by Jan. 19.

“My heart broke because I was here and I couldn’t do anything about it and I saw my fellow Dreamers out there fighting for something that meant the same thing to me,” Cruz said. “I needed to take action and I needed to be a part of that.”

The Santa Cruz community played an important role in helping the Dreamers get to Washington. The three students fundraised over $2,700 to support their trip by selling about 700 tamales over one weekend. They also received additional donations. On Jan. 10, they shared their stories with about 50 Santa Cruz community members who attended a Meet the Dreamers event.

“I felt a responsibility to share with them why this is so urgent and so important,” Cruz said. “There’s so many people out there looking to support us but they don’t really know us and they don’t know our stories, so I thought that would be an important thing to share with them.”

In Washington D.C., Cruz, García-Benítez and Rodriguez will join actions, sit-ins and protests with United We Dream. They joined the Dr. Martin Luther King Day March and will join the Women’s March.

“We just want to make sure that Congress and every politician who’s in Washington right now who’s trying to fight for this DREAM Act knows that we’re not just a number,” Cruz said, “that we are people, that we have lives. We matter and I want them to see that.”