Thousands of Dreamers and their supporters rallied across the street from the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, Dec. 6, and were followed by the arrest of approximately 200 individuals who engaged in civil disobedience on the Capitol steps.
The protesters, estimated at more than 10,000, came from as far away as Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin. They were demanding action for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after President Trump announced an end to the highly successful program, which shields from deportation nearly 800,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The protestors were also demanding continuation of the Temporary Protected Status designation, extended to immigrants who fled violence and/or natural disasters. Many immigrants with TPS status have been in the U.S. for decades. The Trump administration ended the TPS program for Nicaragua and many African nations, and may also end TPS for Honduras, Haiti and El Salvador.
“Over the years and decades, Salvadorans, Hondurans, Haitians and many others with Temporary Protected Status have built thriving lives here, buying homes, starting businesses, serving in the military, raising young Americans,” said Jaime Contreras, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU. “As an immigrant from El Salvador who carries the memory of civil unrest and brutality with me, I fear for the grim fate that awaits thousands of TPS holders and Dreamers if Congress fails to act.”
“They praised dreamers, they sympathized with those who had to flee their countries but now they stand by as these same immigrants lose their status one by one,” said CASA’s Executive Director Gustavo Torres. “There is still time to fix this for immigrant families but it has to be done now.”
Near the end of the rally, those volunteering to be arrested marched across the street to the U.S. Capitol, chanting, “No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!” Among those arrested were at least one member of Congress, migrant youth, Dreamers, clergy, union members – and CHN’s own Deborah Weinstein.
In a statement headlined, “Why I Will Sit Down on the Capitol Steps,” Weinstein explained her willingness to face arrest:
“America’s greatness has always resided in its welcome to immigrants. And no nation can aspire to greatness if it does not nurture its children.
“So I will sit down on the Capitol steps to protect the Dreamers, engaging in civil disobedience because protecting them is required to preserve our nation’s great promise. The Dreamers, who came here as children and grew into fine members of our communities, are the embodiment of America’s promise. It is essential that they remain part of our communities. Their contributions are helping to build our future.
“It is unthinkable that some of our leaders are seeking to rip the Dreamers from their communities. That must not be allowed. I am proud to be among so many who understand that in fighting for them, we are defending the very idea of America. Getting arrested for sitting down here today is our way of demanding that all of the children in our communities share the opportunities to grow, thrive, invent and contribute. All our community members deserve to be free from fear, united with their families and secure in their home. We simply cannot allow those who have grown up among us to be cast aside. That would be un-American.
“Fortunately, a majority in Congress recognizes how important it is to protect the Dreamers. Thirty-four Republican members of Congress just put their commitment to a permanent solution for DACA beneficiaries in writing. That means, with the support of Democrats, there is a bipartisan majority for Congress to act. Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell must respect that majority will and ensure that real and permanent legal status is enacted for the Dreamers before the holidays.”
Dreamers and their supporters in Congress are pressing for legislative action this month to protect Dreamers as part of a budget deal. A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted in September found that 86 percent of the U.S. public supports allowing Dreamers to remain in the country. And in Congress, despite recalcitrance by Congressional leadership, 34 House Republicans have signed a letter calling on House Speaker Paul Ryan to allow a vote on a permanent solution for Dreamers by the end of this month.