Young undocumented activists disrupted a press conference held by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other congressional Democrats Monday, in which the lawmakers had planned to advocate for passage of the DREAM Act.
The legislation, first introduced in the Senate in 2001, is similar to DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Former President Barack Obama created DACA via executive action in June 2012, and President Donald Trump ended the program on Sept. 5, passing the buck to Congress to “legalize” the program.
DACA, like the DREAM Act, provides protection from deportation and other benefits for certain qualified undocumented young people. But many advocates for undocumented immigrants argue that it creates that smaller, protected class of undocumented people “worthy” of legal protections at the expense of others left vulnerable to expulsion.
That was the protesters’ message Monday: Holding signs reading “Fight 4 All 11 Million” and “Democrats Are Deporters,” they chanted “All of us or none of us,” seemingly demanding that Democrats fight to protect all undocumented immigrants from deportation, rather than just those eligible for DACA.
“We want protections for our parents and us,” one protester was overheard on a microphone telling Pelosi on stage.
Earlier, according to MSNBC footage, the protesters used the so-called “human microphone” technique, in which a crowd repeats in unison the statement of a single speaker, to announce: “Democrats created an out-of-control deportation machine and handed it over to Trump. We demand accountability. We are immigrant youth, undocumented and unafraid. We are an immigrant liberation movement.”
RawStory reported that protesters “chanted and yelled for more than 30 minutes.” Pelosi, unable to respond to the crowd without being drowned out by their response, eventually left the event.
“This group today is saying don’t do the DREAM Act unless you do comprehensive immigration reform,” Pelosi told reporters after the event, according to a transcript provided to TPM by her staff. “Well we all want to do comprehensive immigration reform – that has been our fight.”
“But a long time ago the groups all decided that it was okay to go with the DREAM Act,” she added. “We passed the DREAM Act when we had the majority, we didn’t have 60 votes in the Senate. So now we’re revisiting that. The public supports it and we think it’s a giant first step. I understand their frustration, I’m excited by it as a matter of fact, but the fact is they’re completely wrong.”
ASPIRE, an activist group that describes itself as the “First Pan Asian Undocumented Youth led organization in the Nation,” posted a livestream of the disruption, with the hashtag #All11Million, seemingly a reference to estimates of the total number of undocumented people in the United States.
Afterward, ASPIRE tweeted that it was demanding Pelosi stop deportations, stop the funding of immigrant detention centers, and introduce “a clean Immigrant Youth Bill w/o criminalizing us.”
Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Jared Huffman (D-CA), and “Bay Area DREAMers and Immigration Rights Advocates” were also scheduled to attend the interrupted event, according to a press release from Pelosi’s office.
The umbrella advocacy group California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA) later wrote of the disruption that “Pelosi moved forward with the negotiation without consulting immigrant youth and community members who have been frustrated by her lack of support for immigrant justice in California.”
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently announced that they had agreed to pursue a deal with President Donald Trump with the aim of protecting DACA recipients from deportation once the first work permits from the program begin expiring after a six-month delay.
“Do you trust the president of the United States?” a reporter asked Pelosi of the promised deal on Thursday.
“Now is that a fair question?” she responded, before saying that she trusted Trump “is sincere in understanding that the public supports, overwhelmingly supports, not sending these young people back.”
Reached by phone Monday, CIYJA statewide coordinator Sandy Valenciano called the DREAM Act a “stepping stone,” but said she could not support it at the cost of more deportations, harsher immigration enforcement mechanisms or the increased militarization of the border.
“Yes, we’ve tried for over a decade to pass the DREAM Act, this being a stepping stone to something greater,” she said. “But we also don’t want to give the ammunition to the administration to be able to carry out its mass deportation plan.”
“We want to make sure that the protection of DACA recipients doesn’t come at the expense of our families and other community members,” she said.
Watch below via ABC News:
This post has been updated.