U.S. ‘Dream­ers’ un­afraid to march

Un­doc­u­mented stu­dents protest in­side Se­nate build­ing to raise aware­ness of plight

Toronto Star - - WORLD - PERRY STEIN

WASH­ING­TON— They ditched school and marched to Capi­tol Hill en masse, then filled four floors of bal­conies in the vast atrium of the Hart Se­nate Of­fice Build­ing. Silent at first, fists raised in the air, they soon erupted into bel­low­ing chants that echoed through the mas­sive mar­ble­clad room. “Dream Act. Dream Act.” “Si se puede. Si se puede.” The demon­stra­tion Thurs­day in­volv­ing high school and col­lege stu­dents from the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., re­gion and beyond was the lat­est at­tempt by un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants and their ad­vo­cates to keep Con­gress fo­cused on their plight.

In Septem­ber, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­nounced that he would kill the Obama-era De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals (DACA) pro­gram, which grants work per­mits and de­por­ta­tion pro­tec­tion to nearly 700,000 il­le­gal im­mi­grants brought there as chil­dren.

If Con­gress can’t pass leg­is­la­tion to re­place the pro­gram, work per­mits will be­gin ex­pir­ing in March.

Com­pet­ing bills have been pro­posed to of­fer DACA re­cip­i­ents, known as “Dream­ers,” a path to cit­i­zen­ship, and a group of Repub­li­can law­mak­ers held a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day to urge ac­tion on that leg­is­la­tion this year. But the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship — cur­rently con­sumed with plans to cut taxes — has said no vote is likely be­fore Jan­uary.

“It’s been two months since DACA has been re­scinded, and we have no so­lu­tion yet,” said Bruna Bouhid, com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager for United We Dream, the or­ga­ni­za­tion that helped plan Thurs­day’s protest. “Im­mi­grant youth are hon­estly fed up, and they are tired of wait­ing.”

Stu­dents wore orange shirts that said “Clean Dream Act,” a ref­er­ence to leg­is­la­tion that would of­fer a path to cit­i­zen­ship with­out adding tough new anti-im­mi­gra­tion mea­sures. They came from lo­cal high schools and col­leges.

Groups also trav­elled from states as far as Wash­ing­ton and Arkansas. Kristina Sac­cone, a spokesper­son for D.C. Pub­lic Schools, said the protest was not a sanc­tioned school event and stu­dents who par­tic­i­pated re­ceived un­ex­cused early dis­missals.

A U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cer used a mega­phone to warn the crowd that it is il­le­gal to demon­strate in the build­ing.

“Stop chant­ing if you do not in­tend to be ar­rested,” the of­fi­cer said.

Most peo­ple be­came quiet and raised their fists in the air, but a hand­ful of pro­test­ers con­tin­ued their re­frain.

Eva Malecki, a spokesper­son for U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice, said 15 peo­ple were ar­rested, all of them were adults.

On Wed­nes­day, Kirst­jen Nielsen, Trump’s nom­i­nee to lead the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity was asked about DACA re­cip­i­ents dur­ing her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing.

Nielsen said par­tic­i­pants in the pro­gram would not be an en­force­ment pri­or­ity for Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment if Con­gress fails to act, an as­sur­ance that drew crit­i­cism from anti-im­mi­gra­tion groups on so­cial me­dia.

She also told Demo­cratic Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, one of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fiercest crit­ics, that the gov­ern­ment would not use per­sonal in­for­ma­tion it has com­piled through the pro­gram to track down in­di­vid­u­als whose DACA per­mits ex­pire and de­port them.

No matter. The young pro­test­ers who came to the Se­nate a day later said they would not stop demon­strat­ing un­til Con­gress passed firm leg­is­la­tion.

As they ex­ited the Hart build­ing Thurs­day, again with their fists raised, they chanted once again.

“Un­doc­u­mented,” they yelled. “Un­afraid.”


"Dream­ers" in high school and col­lege filled the halls and atrium of the Hart Se­nate Of­fice Build­ing dur­ing a protest Thurs­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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