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Mayor Peduto, Local DACA Recipients Urge Lawmakers To Grant Path To Citizenship For 'Dreamers'

Kathleen J. Davis
90.5 WESA
Fan Ding speaks outside City Council Chambers in support of DACA. Ding is a DACA recipient who came to the U.S. two decades ago seeking medical treatment for a rare genetic condition.

Members of Pittsburgh's immigrant community and Mayor Bill Peduto are urging residents to ask their Senators to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. 

The program shields undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children with their parents from deportation.

DACA was established under President Barack Obama's administration in 2012, but is set to expire in March unless President Donald Trump renews it, or Congress passes a path to citizenship for "Dreamers."

Fan Ding of Shadyside, 34, is a DACA recipient. She came to the U.S. from China with her parents when she was 12 years old, seeking medical care for a genetic disorder. Chinese doctors said she would not live to adulthood.

"I think any parents would have made the same decision," Ding said. "For us, there was no other choice, and looking at me today, I think they made the right decision."

Ding said her parents returned to China voluntarily after she received protection under DACA. She has been unable to go back to China in over two decades because she must receive treatment at UPMC every two weeks.

Eighteen year old Hortencia Ortiz of Beechview came to the U.S. from Mexico with her parents and siblings when she was three years old. She graduated from high school last year, but said she has delayed her college plans because of the uncertainty of the DACA program.

"And my parents right now are seen as criminals, when to us, they're heroes," Ortiz said. "They decided to come over and move to a country where they didn't know the language, didn't know anything, just for their kids."

There are an estimated 800,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. The Mayor's office believes there are fewer than one thousand in the city.

Peduto has spoken out in support of Pittsburgh's Dreamers in the past. Last October, a month after Trump announced he would end the DACA program, Peduto said he would do whatever he can to protect Dreamers.