Dreamers demand immediate passage of legislation
November 9 protest at Senate office building, Washington DC. | United We Dream.

WASHINGTON—Tamaris Gonzales is an organizer for UNITE HERE in Houston. She’s also an undocumented person, a DACA beneficiary whose work permit has expired.

But that didn’t stop her from traveling to D.C. on Nov. 28 to join more than 100 other Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries and their allies in demanding lawmakers and President Donald Trump immediately pass and sign legislation keeping them in the U.S.

Whether Trump was listening to their mid-afternoon rally in the sunshine in Lafayette Park opposite the White House is doubtful. Though Trump aides were observed listening from the mansion’s door, Trump himself issued an angry anti-Latino, anti-immigrant tweet that morning.

Some 800,000 DACA recipients now legally live, work, go to college or other schools, or serve in the military, beneficiaries of the five-year-old Obama-era program that lets them stay in the only homeland they’ve known. All were brought to the U.S. as young children or infants by their parents. And all, along with their parents, are technically undocumented people.

That led Trump to issue an executive order earlier this year ending DACA renewals after Oct. 5. He gave recipients no notice and said he’d order their eviction from the country starting this coming March.

His edict has led the DACA recipients, including Gonzales and allies, including unions, to D.C. to protest his action and lobby lawmakers to make DACA permanent, now. DACA beneficiaries and their allies have staged previous days of protests and have been lobbying nationwide for months.

“I started as a volunteer” for UNITE HERE and other social justice causes, Gonzales told the crowd. “And then I saw how many innocent families were being torn apart” by deportations “and losing parents and children,” she said. “So I came here.

“Even though my DACA may be taken away, I’ll still fight back and I’ll still protect my family,” Gonzales vowed. “That’s because the whole world can see that we are human beings—amazing human beings—and that we will keep fighting to live freely in the country we call home.”

Gonzales and other speakers, marshaled by a leading pro-DACA Latino organization, United We Dream, alternated between chants demanding immediate passage of legislation to keep the Dreamers here and listening to speakers describe how they’ve grown up in the U.S., live here, work here, contribute here, pay taxes here, and know no other nation.

The objective, United We Dream Executive Director Cristina Jiminez explained, is to convince lawmakers to override GOP leaders’ opposition and pass the legislation to keep all the DACA recipients here, permanently. It could either be a stand-alone bill or attached to “must-pass” legislation Congress needs to enact, such as a money bill to keep the government going after Dec. 8, speakers said.

The one thing the DACA recipients will not stand for, they warned, is being used as “a bargaining chip” for other legislative goals—an idea occasionally floated by GOP leaders, including Trump.

He once said he would go for extending DACA protections if Congress would enact eviction of all other undocumented people and build his wall against Mexico. He later retracted the DACA protection statement, though not       DACA evictions, or other evictions of the undocumented, or the wall.

The Dreamers drew support not just from unions, but from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Planned Parenthood, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, and other progressive organizations.

“We have been fighting for a big idea: Your body and your dreams are your own,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president. “No matter where you were born, where you live, or what your gender is.”

That includes legalizing the DACA recipients, many of whom “are our patients, whom we love and care for,” she added.

The fate of the DACA recipients “is not just a political crisis, but a moral crisis” for the U.S., said Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, head of the Jewish group. “We need not to oppress. Or will we, by our action—or inaction—create another ‘Pharaoh in Egypt’ right here in America?” he asked.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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