WASHINGTON — Nearly 20 protesters who want to allow so-called “DREAMers” to be protected against deportation were arrested Thursday in the Hart Senate Office Building, but about 1,000 others marched around the Capitol demanding that Congress pass a Dream Act to keep and allow young immigrants to stay in America.
Chanting “Paul Ryan show your face” and “Congress act now,” the protesters called on Congress to pass a bill by December to reinstate the protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals an executive order that President Barack Obama issued.
President Donald Trump rescinded the order and no new DACA applications were allowed, tossing the decision on what to do about DACA to Congress.
DACA provided that children brought to the U.S. illegally through 2007 could receive two-year permits to avoid deportation and to be allowed to get work permits. They also could apply for two-year extension of the original permits. Trump administration officials said no current DACA beneficiaries will be affected before March 5.
Democrats’ efforts to turn the executive order into law through a DREAM Act have been unsuccessful.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday at his weekly press conference that legislation will not be passed before the end of the year.
“We have until March, that is the deadline with the president so I don’t think there’s really any need to have artificial deadlines,” Ryan said “We have a working group on this issue.”
But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she does not expect leave Washington in December without voting on legislation to fix the DACA problem.
“I fully intend we will not leave here without the Dream Act, without a DACA fix, and I made that very clear,” Pelosi said.
Protester and DACA recipient Luis Otero was brought to the United States when he was 1 year old.
“We want to send a clear message to Congress and Speaker Paul Ryan that we need to pass a clean Dream Act now,” Otero said. “Dreamers are not bargaining chips that they can use to promote their own political agenda.”
The protest organized by United We Dream was part of a nationwide efforts, with protesters leaving work and school to rally in support of DACA and a DREAM act. United We Dream’s Facebook page said, “Young people from across the country are claiming our space, expressing ourselves and rising up to demand a clean Dream Act by the end of the year. … We will not back down while our immigrant community is being threatened.”
Washington protester Ingrid Vaca is an undocumented mother of two DACA recipients, who were at school instead of the protest.
Vaca fears that she may be separated from her children through deportation, but she wants them to have a better life than she had in Mexico.
“President Obama gave Dreamers a light, and [Republicans] are turning off the light,” said Vaca.
Vaca said she is mostly scared for the children of undocumented immigrants who will lose DACA protections.
“We support this country,” the part-time babysitter and housekeeper said, “I am a part of them [America],. I am praying every day for a miracle, we want this miracle.”
Capitol Police did not respond to a call asking how many protestors remained in custody.
One protester who was arrested and released, Abel Valladares Flores, said he is a DACA recipient whose status is set to expire in 2019. He said that getting arrested was about to sending a message.
“We need a clean Dream Act,” he said. “People can’t live, we can’t live having the knowledge that we have an expiration date.”