Thursday, June 24, 2021
Dreamer Chases DACA Dream to DC
Monica Carrilo-Casas shows off the butterflies made by two young friends during Saturday’s Earth Day party at Balmoral Park in Hailey. PHOTO: Karen Bossick
Tuesday, April 27, 2021



Monica Carrillo-Casas knows what it’s like to live in fear of being deported.

Born in Mexico, her parents brought her to this country when she was 1 in search of a better life. But life here has always meant looking over her shoulder, always being fearful that federal authorities would deport her or her parents.

“Dreamer are Americans, too. This is our home and we deserve to be here!” says one butterfly. PHOTO: Leslie Silva

“There’s always an underlying fear,” she said. “I am 21 now and this is the only home I’ve known. Yet I could be deported at any time, and I’ve never been to Mexico. I don’t know the culture there. I don’t know how to live there. If I were forced to go to Mexico, I would have no idea what to do.”

That’s why the Wood River High School alum and University of Idaho student is headed to Washington, D.C., this week. She’ll be joining hundreds of other Dreamers trying to persuade Congress to pass the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which would provide people like Carrillo-Casas with a path to citizenship and prioritize keeping families together.

And she’ll be taking hundreds of paper butterflies inscribed with such messages as “Si Se Puede/Yes We Can” or “There is no pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients” that were made by Idaho students.

The Butterfly Migration Project was launched following attempts by the federal government to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives nearly a million young people like Carrillo-Casas a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation.

Members of I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho were among those creating butterflies. PHOTO: Leslie Silva

The monarch butterfly was chosen as the symbol that best represents immigrants, given the treacherous 3,000-mile journey they make each spring to migrate to a place where they can thrive.

Each butterfly provides a visual demonstration of support for immigration reform.

“We hope to bring people together, to bring it all together in Washington, D.C., to hopefully make change,” said Carrillo-Casas who organized the first DACA Awareness Week at University of Idaho in late March.

Students will display their paper butterflies during the protest. They also hope to meet with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez while there.

Immigration researchers believe there are between 700,000 and 800,000 Dreamers who have applied for protection under the act that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Carrillo-Casas applied for protection in 2014 as she started Wood River High School.

But when President Trump said he would rescind DACA a couple years ago, Carrillo-Casas found herself again fearing she would have to leave the place she calls home.

She wrote a song about it:

“Futures stalled as we pray,

Mama said, ‘Don’t worry, He won’t make us go...’ ”

And she began to exercise her voice in other ways. Shs partnered with WRHS’s Nosotros United to give proceeds from her music to fund $1,000 scholarships for DACA recipients and undocumented students who aren’t eligible for federal student aid.

She began volunteering with groups like the Crisis Hotline and ProjecT.O.O.L.S for Success. She helped with the Census and she pressed for the passage of the Safe Communities Resolution in Hailey, which encourages local law enforcement to focus on keeping the community safe rather than assisting with  federal immigration law enforcement.

 She hopes the resolution will enable local Latinos to get more involved with PTA and volunteer work.

President Biden has said he wants to put Dreamers like Carrillo-Casas on a fast track to citizenship. But the idea is sure to face resistance in Congress.

As it stands now, DACA allows recipients to travel freely within the United States but does not guarantee they’ll be allowed back if they travel out of the country. It does allow them to get a Social Security number, a work permit, a driver’s license and qualify for in-state tuition at a public university.

Carrillo-Casas says she won’t press her luck traveling out of the country. But no one can stop her from traveling back to Washington, D.C., to plead for her cause.

“I have found my voice,” she said, “And I want to tell people that it’s okay to stand up for what they believe in.”


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