Will Racke, DCNF
Seven illegal immigrants who have received temporary protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program staged another protest in the U.S. Capitol building on Thursday, days after they were arrested during a similar demonstration last week.
Organized by the pro-DACA group Our Dream, the protests featured the so-called Dream 7, a group seven of young illegal immigrants who have become the prominent activists for an amnesty bill. The Dream 7 are calling on lawmakers to delay voting on a spending bill to force a vote on the Dream Act, a measure that would give legal status to 790,000 DACA recipients and potentially millions more illegal immigrants.
The Dream 7, plus one U.S. citizen “ally,” were arrested Friday after acts of civil disobedience outside the offices of Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida. They refused to cooperate with police and went on a hunger strike to draw further attention to their cause.
Three of the Dream 7 were released from jail on Tuesday, and the remainder were let go on Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for Our Dream.
Democratic lawmakers have come under increasing pressure from immigration activists and the left-wing of the party to use the threat of a government shutdown to get legislative protections for DACA recipients. Pro-amnesty groups say Democrats should use whatever leverage they have over a spending deal to wrest a DACA amnesty from Congressional Republicans, who generally prefer to address the issue in a separate bill that also includes border security enhancements and immigration reforms.
As the deadline approaches to fund the government nears, Democratic leadership has backed away from that aggressive strategy, conceding that a DACA amnesty is not likely to be a part of a spending deal this year. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin said on Wednesday lawmakers “have a long way to go” to arrive at a bipartisan agreement that combines DACA with immigration reforms demanded by Republicans.
The Dream 7 and other activists argue DACA recipients shouldn’t have to wait while lawmakers hammer out a compromise, noting that DACA holders will begin to lose their protections at a rate of about 1,000 per day after the program expires in early March.
One of the Dream 7, Erika Andiola, is a former staffer on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. In a statement made ahead of her release from jail Thursday, Andiola demanded that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer intervene to “ensure that no spending bill passes without a Clean Dream Act.”
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