Appearing to blame congressional Democrats for the lack of a permanent solution for the approximately 700,000 recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, a group of about 12 activists protested outside the Washington DC headquarters of the Democratic National Committee on Monday. Shouting through bullhorns and hoisting placards, the young protesters criticized Democrats for not passing new protections for so-called DREAMers. They refused Democrats entry or exit to the building while occupying the intersection of Washington and Canal streets in southeast Washington.
Protesters shouted, “If you won’t let us dream, we won’t let you sleep!” Some of them wore white wigs and brandished canes as a way to show that they had aged during the 17 years for any national Democrats to take action on DREAMers legislation. Some of the protesters referred to Democrats as “fake allies” who have never been on the side of DREAMers. The group said they were part of an activist effort called "The Seed Project." When fellow protesters barred entry to the DNC headquarters, the same young woman used a bullhorn to tell her story in Spanish.
One of the protesters identified herself as Maria Duarte from Durango, Mexico, and as "undocumented." She was wearing pink pajamas on a chilly morning in the District of Columbia. She said she is 24 years old and walked 250 miles, only to be arrested at the U.S. Capitol. Saying that her parents have been "criminalized" while she has been "idealized," the young woman credited her "community" for allowing her to achieve a college education. "The Democratic Party has never been on my side," she said, adding, "I have advocated for them. I have helped and campaigned. I've heard countless time that if I help them get elected, they would help my community. What we got in 2012 left us hanging by a thread."
Elsewhere in Washington, protesters marched from the National Mall and to Capitol Hill, holding signs and banners, while some dressed up as butterflies to signify the beauty of migration. They are demanding that Congress take action to prevent the deportation of DREAMers.
DACA was originally an executive order issued by Barack Obama in 2012, which has been challenged ever since by Republicans on constitutional grounds. On September 5, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his plans to allow DACA to expire and gave Congress six months to find a legislative solution on Monday. The Trump administration argued that Obama’s DACA program is unconstitutional, predicting that it would not stand scrutiny by the courts. The Department of Homeland Security was renewing permits for DACA recipients that expired before the March 5 deadline, while permits expiring thereafter would not be eligible for renewal.
It’s March 5th and the Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA. Gave them 6 months, they just don’t care. Where are they? We are ready to make a deal!
However, Obama’s DACA policy has been upheld by courts in California and New York, which ruled that the Trump administration had acted illegally to terminate the program and could not allow DACA to expire. Also, the Supreme Court declined to hear the administration’s appeal of those decisions.
President Trump has sought to blame Democrats for not making Dreamers a priority. On Monday he tweeted that Democrats “just don’t care” about DREAMers. He wrote, “It’s March 5th and the Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA. Gave them 6 months, they just don’t care. Where are they? We are ready to make a deal!”
On Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters, “The fact that they can’t actually come together and get something done is pathetic,” adding, “I think it’s absolutely terrible that Congress has failed to act. The president has given them six months, and he also gave them a plan.”
“I love the DREAMers,” Trump said on Sunday to reporters at a dinner. “I really believe the Republicans want to solve this problem — DACA — more than the Democrats and certainly faster. So we’re all working together, and I hope that something’s going to happen. I really do.”
When the next spending bill is due in Congress on March 23, some lawmakers may revisit the DACA issue. Democrats, and conservative Republicans, are reportedly not willing to make a deal at the middle ground set by Trump. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) told reporters recently, "I have a feeling that anything that goes with the omnibus is going to be a punt, so I'm not excited about that. That's not my goal." Curbelo has been of the most notable in his party for demanding a fix for DACA recipients.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.