WASHINGTON, DC — The DREAM Act must be passed immediately to protect the nearly 800,000 Dreamers whose lives are in limbo pending congressional action, Dreamers, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-AZ, and Jewish and Latino faith and community leaders said during a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday.
A 150-member delegation of Dreamers from 10 states and the District of Colombia, whose trip to Capitol Hill this week was sponsored by the Hispanic Federation and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and Congressman Grijalva, were joined at the news conference by American Jewish Committee (AJC), Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), Hispanic Federation and LULAC.
“I believe in the Dream Act because I believe in the 800,000 students out there with aspirations like mine. Even though we weren’t really prepared for this, we made the best out of a hard situation. I want to encourage every Congressman and every Congresswoman to pass the Dream Act. We did our part and now it’s time for them to do their part,” said Dreamer Joseph Trujillo, of Dallas, TX, who serves as President of Texas A&M LULAC chapter.
Like Trujillo, Monica Sibri, who is active with LULAC in Brooklyn, NY, received a permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) permit, which allowed her to attend college and begin a professional career. She warmed up the Dreamers delegation and advocates who stood outside the U.S. Capitol in below freezing temperatures. Pointing to Congress, Sibri said, “They have the power to create change. They are acting up,” during the negotiations. “What do we want?” she called out to the crowd. “Dream Act!,” they shouted back.
Noting the unity between the Latino and Jewish communities, Rep. Grijalva noted the moral imperative to pass the DREAM Act.
“With over 122 Dreamers losing their DACA status each day, congressional inaction that keeps them in limbo is cruel, heartless, and contrary to American values,” the congressman said. “The Dreamers who are here today are teachers, students, young professionals, and integral members of communities across the country. I urge my Republican colleagues to stop using Dreamers as a bargaining chip, and pass meaningful legislation that protects them.”
His message was echoed by Tammy Gilden, senior policy associate with JCPA. “We believe it is our moral imperative to ensure that Dreamers can continue to live, work, and study in the United States, the only country—the only home—many of them know. The fate of over 800,000 immigrant youth should not be used as a bargaining chip. Every day Congress delays action an additional 122 Dreamers lose their status and risk deportation and detention. That is why we are calling on members of Congress and the President to support the immediate passage of a clean Dream Act,” Gilden said.
Immigrants’ rights advocates also noted the administration’s decisions to cancel Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for those who sought refuge after devastating natural disasters and civil unrest. When combined with the Dreamers, there are more than one million immigrants who face uncertain and perilous futures because of the anti-immigration debate.
“When elected leaders fan flames of fear into a firestorm of prejudice and hostility, we recall other demagogues who made the powerless scapegoats for society’s ills. We know these demagogues; we’ve heard their dog whistles before,” said Rabbi David B. Cohen, Congregation Sinai, Milwaukee, WI. “If the Bible demands our care and concern for the stranger how much the more so we should care about those who have lived among us almost their entire lives. Particularly when DACA signaled their acceptance and encouraged them to step forward,” Rabbi Cohen added.
Richard T. Foltin, director of National and Legislative Affairs for AJC, addressed the dismantling of the DACA program without a backup plan. “The decision by the administration to end DACA without a ready alternative was deeply distressing. Dismantling DACA will be a devastating blow to hundreds of thousands of young people who have benefitted from the program and who, in turn, have contributed to communities across the country in which they live. Embracing, not penalizing these young people, who, as children, did not knowingly violate any law, is consistent with our nation’s long tradition of welcoming immigrants who want to make the United States their home,” Foltin said. “It is imperative that Congress act immediately to enact the DREAM Act, which will end the uncertain status of these many young immigrants, protect them from deportation, and give them an opportunity to obtain permanent legal status and ultimately a path to citizenship if they meet reasonable requirements,” he added.
With the must-pass government funding bill scheduled to expire this Friday, Dreamers and their advocates, including members of Congress in both parties and the public, strongly support passing the DREAM Act and there is still time to get it done this week.
“There is a consensus that the only way to provide a permanent solution for Dreamers is for Congress to enact legislation, and to do it now. Hispanic Federation supports a bipartisan deal that protects Dreamers, their parents, and TPS holders, that is balanced and free of poison pills such as interior enforcement or an ineffective and absurdly expensive border wall that will militarize communities and negatively impact the environment,” said Laura Esquivel, director of National Advocacy for Hispanic Federation. “If President Trump decides to go down a path and insists on a wasteful wall or shuts down the government by refusing to agree to a bipartisan deal, he and Republicans, who have full control of the federal government, are entirely to blame for not keeping their promise to protect Dreamers,” Esquivel added.
“We cannot have brothers and sisters that are Dreamers be deported every day. For members of Congress to let that happen is shameful,” said Roger C. Rocha, Jr., President of LULAC. “You all are the next generation. You are the best and the brightest,” Rocha told the Dreamers.
While in Washington, the Dreamers’ delegation from the Dreamers from California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington, D.C., will visit every congressional office.