As the White House mulls DACA, a DREAMer died saving people in Harvey’s floods

The flooded bridge over I-45 that capsized Alonso Guillen’s boat.
The flooded bridge over I-45 that capsized Alonso Guillen’s boat.
Image: Reuters/Richard Carson
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On the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 3, the body of yet another Hurricane Harvey victim was pulled out of the water in Texas.

It belonged to Alonso Guillen, a 31-year-old man from Lufkin, Texas who had taken to the flooded waters of Cyprus Creek on Wednesday, Aug. 30 for a midnight rescue mission. The boat that he and two others were in capsized after colliding with the I-45 bridge, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Guillen was known as DJ Ocho for 101.9-FM in Lufkin, according to the New York Daily News. The station said that he had left work to help people trapped or at risk—against his father’s warning, given the dangerous flooding.

Guillen had moved to the US as a child with his parents from Mexico, graduated from high school, registered for selective service to be potentially drafted by the US military, and as his last act affirms, was clearly of good moral character.

Those are the qualities that made him eligible for temporary protection from deportation under president Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. He was eligible to renew his status every two years. The act protects nearly 800,000 immigrants, known as DREAMers after the bill (never passed in Congress) called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors act.

Later on the same evening that Guillen’s body was found, sources in president Donald Trump’s administration said he had decided to repeal DACA, a program Obama created by executive action, with a six-month delay, according to Politico. Trump’s position on the policy has appeared to shift back and forth as he has promised that he’d do away with DACA, then shortly after said that those covered by the policy “shouldn’t be worried.” White House officials say that Trump will make a formal statement on the matter on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

The repeal of DACA would mean that, absent any new legislation, those who applied for protection under the policy will again face deportation. There have been at least two bills introduced to Congress that may protect the DREAMers: the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act and the Reorganizing America’s Children Act (RAC). However, it’s not clear that either of these would have enough support from Republicans to pass in the six-month window before the repeal kicks in.

Guillen’s father is a permanent resident of Texas and his mother lives in Piedras Negras, Mexico, where she is in the process of applying to come to the US. When she heard the news of her son’s death, she tried to re-enter the country at the border at Eagle Pass, Texas to attend his funeral. She was denied by US Customs and Border Protection.

Only one of the three men in the boat that evening was rescued. Tomas Carreon Jr., a 25-year-old man, was also found dead two days later on Sept. 1. The death toll from Hurricane Harvey has now reached 60.