A Dreamer from Glen Cove plans to be in the United States Capitol’s House chamber on Tuesday evening among members of Congress and Supreme Court justices, watching as President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address.
Nelson Melgar, 27, was invited by Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) — part of an effort by the two to show support for protecting immigrants brought to the country illegally as minors.
Trump’s address will come in the week when the administration is expected to unveil its proposals for young immigrants such as Melgar, after deciding to phase out protections against deportation put in place under former President Barack Obama.
“To me, this is an opportunity to bring to light who it is that we really are,” said Melgar, who came from Honduras and across the U.S.-Mexico border when he was 13. He graduated from Glen Cove High School and worked his way through college to pay for his studies.
Melgar, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations from Hunter College, said he wants “for the people assembled there to see in me a person that not only deserves to live in the U.S., and to make a life in the U.S., but also wants nothing more than to form part of this great society.”
Dreamers, as they are dubbed after the DREAM Act, are immigrants who grew up in the United States, often embracing American culture, but find themselves limited by lack of legal status.
Suozzi issued a statement Friday afternoon praising Melgar as a worthy pick. He plans to announce more details at a Monday news conference.
He took a jab at Trump for putting young immigrants at risk of deportation in phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, executive action granted by Obama in 2012 to exempt many Dreamers from enforcement.
“After growing up here in Glen Cove, working hard, attaining excellent grades and becoming an integral part of the fabric of this community, Nelson is being threatened with deportation,” Suozzi said in the statement. “Nelson’s story is a real-life story. We must fight for Nelson and for other DREAMers like him.”
Melgar said if he could make a point to elected officials, he would discuss his concerns about Trump’s immigration reform framework, which would offer legal status to DACA recipients like him while bolstering enforcement against others, such as the parents of Dreamers.
“How on earth do you make that decision?” Melgar said, adding of the president: “I don’t think it’s humane for him to give me a pathway to citizenship if doing so means he’s going to persecute my parents.”