Phoenix Dreamer Tony Valdovinos Meets with President Obama Ahead of Americano Performance in NYC

NEW YORK, NY — President Barack Obama recently held a roundtable discussion hosted by the Obama Foundation with five recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to mark the program’s 10th anniversary, highlight its participants’ contributions over the last decade, and discuss the work that remains to offer Dreamers a permanent solution to their status.

Recorded on the stage of ¡Americano!, a musical that recently premiered Off Broadway and tells the story of DACA recipient Tony Valdovinos, the conversation highlighted the uniquely American stories of Valdovinos, Jessica Astudillo, Devashish Basnet, Josue de Paz, and Sumbul Siddiqui, five Dreamers who grew up in the United States as undocumented immigrants. Reflecting on his experience meeting Dreamers throughout his 2008 presidential campaign and in the White House, President Obama likened Dreamers’ stories to that of his own daughters, noting they “were as American as Malia or as Sasha were in terms of their values, their upbringing, their experiences. They loved this country deeply, and yet because of a piece of paper their lives were extraordinarily vulnerable.”

On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced DACA to offer “a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.” Aimed at undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, DACA was announced as an executive action that provided temporary protection from deportation and access to other opportunities, including work eligibility. Since 2012, more than 800,000 people have been enrolled in the program.

Through DACA, these five Dreamers and many more across the country have been able to work, attend school, and contribute to their communities without the threat of deportation.

“DACA has just been that safety, that security…” Josue de Paz, a DACA recipient and incoming 2022-2023 Obama Scholar at Columbia University said. “It’s just been really powerful for me to be able to hope and to not live in fear.”

Their discussion touched on themes ranging from the unique challenges faced by children with undocumented status to experiences giving back to their communities that were made possible by DACA. “Given my experiences growing up in an undocumented family that made me more passionate about health disparities,” said Jessica Astudillo, who credits DACA with making it possible for her to now work as a practicing physician in the same public hospitals she grew up visiting.

The conversation comes at a time when the future of protections offered under the DACA program remain uncertain. While the more than 600,000 active DACA recipients can currently continue to renew their temporary protections, Dreamers still lack a permanent solution to their immigration status and many young people who might have been previously eligible for the program have not been able to enroll due to ongoing court challenges.

In his conversation with roundtable participants, President Obama encouraged them to continue sharing their stories and being advocates in their communities, referencing the urgent need to reform the immigration system and the work that remains to provide a more permanent solution for all Dreamers. “I hope all of you continue to be advocates in whatever your professional lives are,” President Obama said. “I think that it is going to be a long road for us – and so the more voices like yours are out there, the better chance we have of changing people’s attitudes. Part of the reason why we feel like it’s important on this 10th anniversary to highlight it, is because it’s not done.”

Reflecting on their stories, President Obama noted, “Having seen the remarkable things that this group of DACA kids have done with their lives, what an asset they are to this country, I hope it inspires us to redouble our efforts to permanently resolve their status.”

“I could not be more honored that President Barack Obama chose the set of ¡Americano! as the place to mark the 10- year anniversary of DACA,” says Tony Valdovinos. “It was truly inspiring to sit down with President Obama and these incredible Dreamers. We were grateful to share our personal stories, our challenges and the successes, which were made possible because of DACA. Thank you President Obama for the opportunity.”

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