"Dreamers" helping mobilize anti-Trump votes for Clinton

"I grew up just like an American. This country is my home," Henry Lopez says.

The dark-eyed, dark complected 21-year-old speaks Spanish with an American accent, and his grammar is littered with errors, compared to his native-sounding English.

Lopez has lived in the Atlantic Coast state of Virginia since arriving with his parents from Guatemala, but he will not be allowed to vote in the November general election because he is not a citizen and lacks even legal status to be in the United States.

Instead, ahead of election day, Henry plans to mobilize friends and classmates from the university to go out and support Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton against Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has repeatedly insulted Latino immigrants and vowed to build a wall at the Mexican border and expell all people in the US illegally.

"Donald Trump is not a responsible candidate, what he says does not mesh with the values of this country," Lopez says.

Henry is what people refer to as a "Dreamer": young people without legal residence who entered the United States as children, usually brought by their parents.

They are outsiders, inside the system: They cannot legally work in the US or access most government assistance to pay for higher education.

Democratic President Barack Obama in August 2012 decreed a programme specifically geared to the "Dreamers" to ensure that young, undocumented immigrants are not deported.

In four years, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has afforded 700,000 people with temporary work permits and opened up access to aid for university students, including the money that helps Lopez pay for his courses to study information technology.

Natalia and Alejandro Rodas Calderon have lived in fear since arriving in the United States when they were 4 and 2 two years old, respectively.

"A lot of us never told anyone that we didn't have our papers," Natalia said. "That meant 16 years of living in isolation, since our parents told us to keep the secret to ourselves."

Hillary Clinton and her left-leaning Democratic Party are seeking to leverage the popularity of DACA in the Latino community, in which even native-born or naturalized US citizens are not always registered to vote.

"It can't be easy to have to listen to a presidential candidate demonize the families of immigrants and accuse them of causing the problems of this country," Clinton said of Trump.

Clinton's campaign this month launched "My Dream, Your Vote," a voter registration drive led by "Dreamers" and their stories. The campaign is hopeful this will mobilize Latino communities to take action.

Ingrid Vaca of Bolivia has lived in the United States for 16 years. She has two children, ages 23 and 21, considered "Dreamers," and DACA allowed them to attend university and find work.

"I fear my children could lose the opportunity to go to university, to live a free life with hopes for a better future," she said, choking with emotion, while wearing a shirt proclaiming "No human being is illegal."

"I hate to hear people say it's a waste of time to vote, because if they don't vote than they are giving Trump an extra point."

Last update: Thu, 18/08/2016 - 10:22
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