Nearly 100 young illegal immigrants and their supporters shouted down House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at an event in San Francisco where she called on Republicans and the Trump administration to pass the DREAM Act. Pelosi was joined by fellow Democrats Barbara Lee and Jared Huffman of California. The DREAM Act is intended to provide a path to permanent residence for some 800,000 illegal immigrants who entered the US as minors. It has more than 200 Democrat co-sponsors and appears to be advancing in the Senate. By contrast, the Republican alternative, the RAISE Act, is languishing in the Senate and has only two co-sponsors.

Having begun her speech, the smiling Pelosi called the DREAMers courageous. “Our nation’s dreamers are an inspiration to all of us,” she said. “With their courage and their patriotism. They embody the promise of America… of the American Dream… Make America dream again,” Pelosi said to applause from the partisan crowd. She was speaking in advance of expected speeches by several beneficiaries of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) -- a policy put into place by Barack Obama that deferred the deportation of the so-called DREAMers and gave them work permits. The Trump administration rescinded DACA last week, while soon afterward both Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) met with President Trump to discuss the framework of legislation to protect DACA beneficiaries while also improving border security.

Democrats deport!

A group of some 40 protesters broke out in shouts of: “All of us or none of us!," “Democrats deport!”, “We are not your bargaining chip! Let us speak!" Carrying a banner and placards, the mob chanted, “We undocumented youth demand a clean bill … We undocumented youth demand that you do not sell out our community and our values …We undocumented youth will not be a bargaining chip for Trump.” Their banners read “Fight 4 All 11 Million,” a reference to the estimated number of all illegal immigrants, “Our Dreams Have No Borders.”

The protest went on for 25 minutes as Pelosi’s hand holding her microphone appeared to shake. Pelosi tried to regain control of the meeting, but then appeared to be on the verge of losing her composure. “Where were you when we asked to defend our parents?” the group chanted while resorting to a call-and-response cadence popularized by the Occupy movement. “And now you tell us — you have the audacity to tell us — you have been fighting deportation. You are a liar! You are a liar! You are a liar!” They called for Pelosi to advance a “clean bill” without making concessions to Trump. 

Pelosi is shouted down

“You’ve had your say, and it’s beautiful music to our ears,” Pelosi said. When the protesters interrupted again, Pelosi shouted “Just stop it now!” Seconds after issuing her appeal, Pelosi was forced to leave the event. “It’s clear you don’t want answers,” said Pelosi. Outside the venue, she addressed reporters. “This group today is saying don’t do the DREAM Act unless you do comprehensive immigration reform,” she said. “Well we all want to do comprehensive immigration reform. ... I understand their frustration — I’m excited by it as a matter of fact — but the fact is, they’re completely wrong.”

Pelosi said that Democrats continue to resist Trump’s plans to build a border along the US/Mexico frontier and his “assault on sanctuary cities.”

The interruption by the group showed that there are divisions among Democrats and leftists over immigration policy.  Luis Angel of The Immigration Liberation Movement said of Pelosi: “She forced us to do this. For eight years she didn’t protest the deportations. I hope that she heard us today.” He added that his group is a new voice for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

Illegal immigrants sue Trump administration

Meanwhile, in a federal court in San Francisco, six illegal immigrants who were brought to the US as minors sued the federal government over the rescission of DACA. Six illegal immigrants allege that the rescission violated their constitutional rights. They object to having provided information about themselves to the federal government so that they could participate in the program.

There are similar lawsuits elsewhere in the country. More than 12 states, including California, are suing the Trump administration over DACA. So is the University of California system. 

No Republican support for immigration alternatives

Introduced by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Senate bills 324 and 1720, the “RAISE Act” would amend federal immigration law so as to “establish a skills-based immigration points system, to focus family-sponsored immigration on spouses and minor children, to eliminate the Diversity Visa Program, to set a limit on the number of refugees admitted annually to the United States, and for other purposes.” A companion bill is in the House of Representatives. Introduced on August 2, it must now go to the Judiciary Committee for consideration. The legislation has been endorsed by President Trump. The Senate version of the RAISE Act have but two sponsors so far. The bills have languished after being introduced and have not been reported out of committee.

Detractors fear that the bill would scuttle the chances that a bill to codify as law Barack Obama’s DACA program. The RAISE Act would cut immigration by half because it would limit the number of relatives that citizens and legal aliens can sponsor for residence in the US.  

Cut immigrants by half

Every year, more than 1 million immigrants are granted permanent residence: “green cards.” Half are already living in the US and adjusting from temporary status. Family-based immigration makes up approximately about two-thirds of the annual total. To halve this 1 million legalized immigrants, the RAISE act would eliminate a number of categories for family-sponsored immigration, which is otherwise known as chain migration. American citizens can sponsor spouses, minor children, and parents without numerical limitations. They can also sponsor in capped categories adult children and siblings. Legal immigrants can also sponsor spouses, minor children, and adult unmarried children. The Cotton-Perdue bill would eliminate all family sponsorship beyond spouses and minor children of American citizens and legal residents by reducing the age limit for minor children from 21 to 18, and lower capped family categories from 226,000 green cards presently to 88,000.

Citizens of some countries would be more greatly affected than others. US citizens and legal residents from China, the Dominican Republic, India, the Philippines, Mexico, and Vietnam are the most frequent sponsors of family-based categories of sponsored immigrants. The majority of those sponsorships for all but Mexico and the Dominican Republic are for categories slated for elimination under the Senate bill—including more than 70 percent of green cards from India and Vietnam.

Democrats exuberant

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illi.) said on Monday that Democrats are close to making a deal on the DREAM Act, a goal he has pursued for more than a decade. If passed, the DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought to the country illegally. When the legislation failed in both Democrat and Republican-controlled Congresses, Barack Obama put his DACA program in place by executive order. 

Durbin said on Monday that the time for the DREAM is now so that young illegal immigrants gain serve in the military and otherwise obtain legal status and citizenship. In Chicago, the Junior ROTC program in the public schools have more than 10,000 participants, some of whom are illegal immigrants who would benefit from the DREAM Act. Even while Trump said last week that he had made no "deal" with Democrats Schumer and Pelosi over DACA and the border wall, Durbin showed confidence that there was a deal, saying that Democrats are putting together a border security measure that may meet with Trump's approval.

 



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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