If you watch Fox News, you might have seen 26-year-old Hilario Yanez.
The young conservative has been on air several times in the last year, discussing his support for President Trump’s $5.7 billion border wall and other aspects of Trump’s immigration policy.
Those aren’t unusual viewpoints for a conservative. But what is unusual?
Yanez is an immigrant himself. His mom brought him here illegally from Mexico when he was 1. Undocumented immigrants like him — who were brought to the U.S. as children — have sometimes been called “Dreamers.”
Yanez is now only able to work legally in the U.S. because of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Obama-era program gave Dreamers like Yanez the chance to apply for a two-year, renewable work permit and to live free from the fear of deportation.
The fate of DACA recipients has been a major point of contention between Republicans and Democrats, with the Trump administration calling for a complete end to the DACA program last year, a decision the courts overturned.
Recently, Trump offered Democrats a three-year extension of DACA — but not a path to citizenship for DACA recipients — in exchange for funding for the border wall. Democrats rejected the offer.
YR Media spoke with Yanez about how you can be undocumented but pro-wall.
YR Media: What opportunities has DACA given you?
Hilario Yanez: When I heard about DACA, I completely started crying and I knew it was going to be my only shot at living the American dream. I immediately applied for it. Having DACA allowed me to have a Social Security [card], a work permit and I was able to pay my way through college. Now I’m a first-generation college graduate and I worked for a Fortune 500 company. If it wasn’t for DACA, I don’t know how I would have had the opportunities I was able to have. So it was life changing and I’m always going to be forever grateful for DACA.
YR Media: As someone who really benefited from DACA, what do you think of it?
HY: We knew this was only temporary status and we knew that the next president or any other president could easily get rid of it. It wasn’t a permanent solution and so now, this is where we stand. You have President Trump trying to remove DACA. I think he has every right to do that and I think he should. [DACA] is unconstitutional and I think we need to find a permanent solution at this point.
YR Media: You’re saying that Trump should end DACA and that obviously would impact you a lot. Doesn’t that worry you?
HY: When he removed DACA, he said, “I want to take [DACA] because it wasn’t done correctly and I want Congress to fix it.” And right now, that’s exactly what I want. I want a permanent solution. I don’t want a temporary status where I have to plan every two years. It’s frustrating. That’s the issue you’re seeing with TPS [Temporary Protected Status] right now. TPS was supposed to be temporary status, but we kept renewing it, kept renewing it, and now we’re in this limbo where we don’t know what to do now. We need to find a permanent solution for DACA. The moment the Supreme Court rules on DACA and says it’s unconstitutional, everybody is going to run to the table and want to try to fix this, as soon as possible.
YR Media: What’s your stance on immigration in general?
HY: I’ll say this, in order to have immigration reform you need to have some kind of immigration control. I think that we need to upgrade our immigration and have more opportunities for people to come to the U.S. the right way and be here lawfully. I think right now there’s a perfect opportunity to have border security in exchange for a permanent solution for DACA recipients. I think that’s a quick win and it’s an easy win that most Americans agree with. Let’s talk about the rest of the immigration community because it’s also an issue there. People like my aunt, my mom, people who are good immigrants, who are contributing and are helping the economy grow and that have not broken a law. They’re law-abiding citizens, people that love this country. There’s always that misconception that the rest of the nine million, 10 million [undocumented] immigrants, [they] all want to be citizens tomorrow and I think that’s just a false idea. They just want peace. They want to remain here in this country without the fear of deportation.
YR Media: Why are you a conservative and what appeals to you about this administration?
HY: I believe in working hard. I believe in God. I believe in standing on your own two feet. Ronald Reagan said it best: “Government is not the solution. Government is the problem.” We need government less in our lives. I’ve gotten this far without handouts or at least [without] help from the government. I think the Republican Party needs to do a better job of reaching out to the Hispanic community. I’m so tired of seeing the Hispanic community being represented by Anglo-American people that really don’t understand our issues.
YR Media: Why do you think we need a wall?
HY: I think the president has emphasized [the wall] a little too much. I think at the end of the day there [are] some areas where we do need barriers. I think the Democrats have voted for this in the past. I think the key issue is that the president has made [the wall] his priority and his promise.
YR Media: Does Trump’s flakiness worry you? I say that because Trump has gone back and forth with an offer of citizenship to DACA recipients last year, but this year no offer like that is on the table yet.
HY: I think he’s a deal maker. I also feel strongly that in his heart he’s really for the DACA community. He really supports us. I think he’s a father first and I think he would love to get this fixed.
YR Media: What kind of response have you gotten after being on Fox, in particular from the Latino community?
HY: It is really surprising because there’s a lot of [conservatives] that are like, “Man, I used to be like anti-amnesty and I used to be, ‘All Dreamers are Democrats and all Dreamers want citizenship,’ and now I’m not.” I was able to open their minds and kind of touched their heart as well, so that’s one aspect. Now in terms of the Latino community, I’m getting called a traitor. I’m like, wait a minute, first of all, I’m trying to get a solution brought to the table.
YR Media: How would you answer people who might see you on Fox and say you’re being used by the right as a kind of token Latino who supports the conservative viewpoint on immigration?
HY: First of all, I’m not getting paid by anybody to say these things. No one is influencing my mind. I know there are real theories out there that I’m not getting paid under the table to say these things. I’m taking it all in as an opportunity to be at the table and to have my voice heard. I’m just grateful. I’m not being influenced. I’m not being used as a token. At the end of the day I can say, “I don’t want to do this,” but I think this is a perfect opportunity to change people’s lives.