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At heart of government shutdown, Dreamers call on Congress to protect young immigrants

For months, lawmakers have negotiated to extend legal protections of the Obama-era program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. (ABC7)

In orange hats and butterfly wings, they chanted for change in the shadow of the Capitol on Sunday night.

They are Dreamers – young undocumented immigrants whose plight is at the heart of the government shutdown.

“We have 122 DACA recipients that lose their protections every day. That’s five an hour. And their lives are turned upside down in a blink of an eye, so this is an urgent matter,” said Dreamer Alondra Gomez, from Tennessee.

For months, lawmakers negotiated to extend legal protections of the Obama-era program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Democrats say they will block any funding measure that does not include a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

While Republicans argue immigration should proceed separately from the budget.

The disagreement led to the shutdown.

Many blame Dreamers like Antonio Jauregui.

“The Republicans control the House, Senate and White House," he said. "It is ultimately their leadership that has resulted in what we have now."

This candlelight vigil was a call – one supported by several representatives in the crowd – on Congress to reach a breakthrough to protect young immigrants.

“I’m from one of those districts that’s out in the heartland. It voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, but my neighbors are good people. I know that,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.).

And the Dreamers aren't ready to quit.

“We still have to fight for our right to be here. We have to fight for our communities,” Jauregui said.

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