Our dreams can’t wait for Congress

February 12, 2018

Joan McKiernan reports from New York City on a protest of hundreds calling for the passage of a bill to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

AS MEMBERS of Congress worked to pass a spending bill that once again failed to include protection for undocumented DREAMers facing uncertainty as the March 5 expiration for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program looms, hundreds of people turned out in the bitter cold in the New York City's North Bronx to demand a "clean" DREAM Act.

DREAMers, Jewish activists and City University of New York students, as well as members of the Yonkers Salvation Movement, the Bend the Arc Riverdale Taskforce, NW Bronx Indivisible, NYCD 16 Indivisible, the Yonkers Sanctuary Movement and more turned out in front of U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel's office to demand passage of a DREAM Act not tied to other provisions, like funding for Trump's border wall.

Members of Bend the Arc have been campaigning for DACA in Congress, and many have been arrested for their actions. Speakers from the group reminded the crowd of the immigration quotas imposed on Jewish people fleeing from the Holocaust during the 1940s.

Immigrant rights activists rally in defense of DREAMers in the Bronx
Immigrant rights activists rally in defense of DREAMers in the Bronx (Yonkers Sanctuary Movement | Facebook)

One woman spoke of her family, who got to the U.S.--only for her grandparents to be barred from entering. Such stories are a reminder that discrimination against immigrants by the U.S. government is not new.

The protesters are determined to fight Trump's bigotry. Their signs said it all, including, "This is what Never Again means" and "Let my people stay!"


"OUR DREAMS can't wait" was the theme of the many of the DREAMers who spoke, and several shared their experiences with the crowd.

Marisa Santiago explained that she has two children who are American citizens and faces the horror of her family being split up. "I am not a bargaining chip," she declared, urging a clean DREAM Act.

Maria Guzman, from Lehman College, said her DACA status expires on August 19. She and other DREAM activists at the protest argued against bargaining with people's lives. Others explained the difficulties they have had getting to college, not being able to drive legally or get a job and the difference that DACA has made to their lives.

Theresa Lee, the daughter of Korean parents who emigrated to escape the impact of the Korean War, was born in Brazil as her family made their way finally to the U.S. Lee has been fighting for a DREAM Act since 2001, and was the first DREAMer. She and others pointed to the history of U.S. immigration policy. It's been over half a century since the last revision of policy.

Lee placed the blame for the current crisis not just on the current racist policies of Trump, but on his predecessors in the White House who escalated the attacks on immigrants: George W. Bush, who promoted police action against immigrants; and Barack Obama, who expanded a massive private detention center network and deported record numbers of immigrants.

Several clergy spoke at the demo, including one who announced that he was adding his church to those offering sanctuary to immigrants who face the threat of deportation.

Earlier in the day, public defenders protested outside the Bronx Criminal Courthouse when Aboubacar Dembele was arrested by ICE agents. Aboubacar came to the U.S. from the Ivory Coast when he was 3 years old. His wife told the New York Daily News: "He goes to work and comes home. He's a good person making an honest living. He's a family man. He's just like everybody else."

At the Bronx protest, speakers called for a rejection of the spending bill that was being considered by Congress and asked people to contact their representatives and get involved in local immigrant support groups.

Despite the fact that the spending bill passed--with the support of Democrats--the fight to win justice for the DREAMers, and all immigrants, is far from over.

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