Benito Costilla

Benito Costilla

Benito Costilla is trying to keep his head above water as he attends college, works in a Scott & White Medical Center laboratory and stay abreast of the maneuverings in Congress in regard to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Costilla, local advocate and organizer for Dreamers and a DACA recipient, was in Washington, D.C, a couple of weeks ago when Congress failed again to come up with a plan for Dreamers that could pass both Houses.

Monday was the deadline set by President Trump in September for Congress to come up with a plan to continue DACA. The date passed with no action.

Courts in California and in New York have blocked the president from denying DACA renewals. Until those cases are decided DACA recipients are allowed to seek renewal.

The DACA program protects undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation.

DACA recipients and advocates want to keep the pressure on the White House and Congress to come up with a program to replace DACA.

Costilla sees the deadline come and go without any action as a failure of the president, Congress and activists like himself of not being able to get a deal.

Trump announced in September the program, which protected DACA recipients from deportation, would be ended. He set the March 5 deadline for Congress to come up with new legislation, but that didn’t happen.

“My message today is to continue help Dreamers and pass some new laws,” Costilla said.

U.S. John Carter, R-Round Rock, said in a release last year that he agreed with President Trump not renewing the DACA legislation.

Carter said he wants to work on a legislative solution that benefits the country and provides for a pursuit of the American Dream.

During his visit to Washington, Costilla spoke at a LULAC function, and met with lawmakers.

“There is genuine desire to get something passed and to protect the Dreamers from deportation,” he said. “I’ve heard it from Democrats and Republicans.”

Castillo’s documents are not up for a renewal for several more months.

If Costilla is unable to renew his documents, he’ll lose his job and he’ll have to drop out of school.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to live here,” he said.  

Costilla is setting up meetings with lawmakers in Texas and trying to start discussion with them.

“I urge other advocates and activists to begin discussing solutions with community leaders, congressmen and legislators,” he said.

A clean Dream Act will be hard to get through, Costilla said.  The president wants the bill to include a pathway to citizenship and funds for border security. He wants to end family-based immigration, Costilla said.

Border security, including the wall, has a price tag of $25 billion. This is neither popular with activists or members of Congress, he said.

“We’ve come too far to just walk away,” he said.

The typical DACA recipient came to the country when they were young, Costilla said. They are usually students who are working.

“They are American in every way,” he said. “They are worth keeping.”

Costilla has been working on this effort for some time, having made numerous trips to Washington, D.C.

It’s taken away his focus on school, yet he knows he needs a secure future, he said.

As a biology major, he’s taking classes that require his attention, including organic chemistry II, cell biology, research methods and marketing, all requiring written papers, Costilla said.

“I’ve always been an good student, making 105 in calculus II, 105 in anatomy,” he said. “It’s hard for me to get to a 90. This is just so distracting.”

If everything goes Costilla’s way, his papers are renewed and he’s working toward citizenship, his first goal is to finish school and get a job.

“I want to help my family, right now they are struggling financially, in part because of immigration issues,” he said. “I hope to continue to work in the microbiology lab, where I’m working right now, just to get more experience. “I’d like to go in to the genetic engineering field.”

Crispr — Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats — is a tool for editing genomes and interests Costilla.

Costilla said he thinks discussion on DACA will start back up and in the meantime individuals need to start talking to lawmakers and discussing what will meet the approval of the legislative bodies and the president.

“I think in the summer we’ll be seeing another vote,” he said. “Eventually, they’ll have to come back to this, because those court cases are the only thing keeping DACA alive.”

Zubari Ashraf, an international student from Bangladesh, started taking classes at Temple College about the same time as Costilla. Both are science majors at Texas A&M University–Central Texas. 

Ashraf has watched his friend tackle the DACA issue and said it has been depressing.

“I don’t think I could have dealt with all the ups and downs,” he said. “He worries about his family, he’s working and going to school, all the while focusing on a piece of legislation.”

It has to be difficult to keep it all together,” Ashraf said.

“He’s done nothing wrong, yet he’s forced to help find a solution for this problem,” he said.