DACA backers turn up heat
With future in jeopardy, wide range of supporters join fight
HOUSTON — Before Thanksgiving, Busy Philipps, an actress with a large following among millennial moms, urged her fans to bring up a “really important topic” at the holiday dinner table.
“Dreamers,” she said as she plopped food on her plate, in a video viewed 1.7 million times on Facebook. “Remember to call your member of Congress and tell them to pass that DREAM Act, and encourage your family members to do the same.”
IBM is parading young immigrant employees through the halls of Congress. Television commercials are running in key districts. On Tuesday, evangelical Christians supporting the immigrants were arrested after demonstrating outside the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-wis.
Years of protests and lobbying by immigrants persuaded President Barack Obama in 2012 to create Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the program that has let 800,000 young immigrants in the country illegally, who are known as Dreamers, legally stay and work in the United States.
With their future now in jeopardy, a wide range of well-organized, well-financed supporters are lining up behind the young immigrants, including celebrities, philanthropists, religious groups and pillars of corporate America.
“Hundreds of thousands of young people’s lives are on the line,” said Laurene Powell Jobs, whose organization, Emerson Collective, paid for some of the television commercials and arranged the celebrity involvement. “That requires us to find new ways to engage audiences that don’t understand the threat these young people are facing.”
In September, the Trump administration, saying that Obama had abused his authority and circumvented Congress to create DACA, announced it would begin phasing out the program in March. President Donald Trump also urged Congress to find a legislative remedy to replace it.
Those who support relief for the immigrants have turned up the pressure this month as Congress tries to avert a government shutdown with a spending bill. On Wednesday, more than 4,000 DACA recipients and supporters rallied in Washington and in cities around the country, staging sit-ins at congressional offices and blocking the entrance to the Capitol, where around 200 people were arrested. Organizers vowed to escalate the protests Thursday.
Republicans control Congress but cannot keep the government running without Democrats, and several Democrats have said they will not vote for a spending bill unless it also resolves the plight of the immigrants. On Thursday, the Senate and House minority leaders, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Nancy Pelosi, D-calif., met with Trump and Republican leaders to discuss various issues, including the spending bill and immigration.
The multipronged campaign to help the young immigrants underscores how much the country has come to identify with them and how extensively they have been integrated into the economy. Many Republicans have joined Democrats in supporting DACA beneficiaries, and polls show overwhelming support for them. It is no longer politically risky to get behind them.
At the same time, many of the ads, videos and demonstrations are sidestepping the major sticking point, an issue that has divided some immigrant groups themselves. Leading Republicans have said any relief for the young immigrants must be paired with bolstered border security, more restrictions on legal immigration, or both, a trade-off that is usually left unmentioned in the advocacy.
The mobilization began in September, as soon as the Trump administration announced the repeal of the deferred-action program.
The following month, some 60 businesses, trade associations and other groups representing virtually every major industry formed the Coalition for the American Dream. Among the participants are Coca-cola, Western Union, Ikea, Hilton and Marriott.
The companies, which have a substantial lobbying presence in Washington, began leveraging relationships with lawmakers from districts where they have major operations. In midNovember, officials from 40 large companies introduced DACA recipients who work for their firms to lawmakers.
Evangelical Christians supporting immigrants protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals were arrested as they demonstrated outside Speaker Paul Ryan’s office on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
A traveling exhibition in which large-scale photographs of young immigrants and others are plastered on buildings is displayed at the University of Houston.