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Group Heads To Capitol To Talk About Immigration Issues
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A group from south Mississippi is heading to the capitol today for a civic engagement day organized by the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports.

Deina Banuelos came to the United States from Guadalajara, Mexico, when she was 8 years old. Like many children brought to the United States by their parents, she didn’t realize until she got older that she didn’t have legal citizenship status.

“Especially in high school that’s when you see things," she recalls, "because kids are starting to drive to school. You want to drive to school, but you can’t even get an ID because you don’t have a documents, you don’t have a social.”

A few years ago, Banuelos was approved to be a part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which provides temporary relief from deportation. It also offers the chance to get a driver's license and a work permit. 

Banuelos is now working as a medical interpreter at a clinic in Biloxi. She'll be one of about 38 people heading to Jackson today and says she wants to urge legislators to let everyone, regardless of status, get a drivers license or ID.

“Those are documents that are needed everywhere nowadays," she says. "You can’t go to the hospital without an ID."

Another issue on the minds of the young people heading to Jackson is tuition at community colleges, where even those with deferred action say they've been asked to pay out-of-state rates despite being long-time Mississippi residents.

Jackie Castro-Cooper is a youth minister at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Biloxi and has worked closely with many of the kids she calls "Dreamers," after the yet-to-be-passed legislation that would have offered them a chance at permanent residency. She is also going to the capitol.

"These are Mississippi kids. They’re not different," she says. "And it breaks my heart, when the graduate from high school, they see all their friends going to USM, JD, and they’re just left behind."

She adds; "It’s really catastrophic because when we don’t continue educating our Mississippi high school graduates, no matter who they are, the whole state falls.”

The group plans to meet with legislators today and hold a press conference at the capitol.