Asian-American and black activists took to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, calling on Congress to move quickly to address immigration reform.
An estimated 150 protesters, led by nonprofit UndocuBlack Network and Asian-American coalition AAPI Immigrant Rights Organizing Table, rallied to ask Congress to pass a clean Dream Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants with no strings attached, along with a permanent solution for temporary protected status (TPS) holders.
“I stand in solidarity with Dreamers. I stand in solidarity with folks with TPS,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said at the rally. “We are making it known that this is a rainbow movement.”
“We will not let anyone divide us, whether it’s crazy 45” ― referring to President Donald Trump ― “or our Republican colleagues,” she added.
Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) also spoke. They all stressed the importance of finding a solution for young undocumented immigrants following the termination of Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The futures of some 800,000 so-called Dreamers hang in the balance; they could face deportation if a DACA replacement isn’t passed before March 2018.
The lawmakers also called for an end to the terminations of TPS programs until a legislative solution is found. TPS designation is typically given to countries that have conditions preventing its nationals from returning. Among the 10 countries with TPS, most of them have majority-black populations. But the Trump administration had terminated the program for several countries including Haiti.
“The cruelty of the situation is very anxiety-provoking for me. To think that young people would be subjected to this kind of treatment is horrific.”
“The cruelty of the situation is very anxiety-provoking for me,” Chu told HuffPost. “To think that young people would be subjected to this kind of treatment is horrific.”
Activists say they also collected about 300,000 signatures on petitions in support of Dreamers and TPS holders. After the protest, which is part of a week of advocacy events, they delivered it to the offices of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
A protest with Asian-American and black activists lets people see how many communities are affected by immigration legislation, Chu said.
There are about 430,000 TPS holders in the U.S., according to estimates from the Congressional Research Service. The Center for Migration Studies estimates there are about 1.7 million undocumented Asian immigrants in the U.S.
Asians represent the fastest growing demographic among undocumented immigrants. And although most Dreamers hail from Latin American countries, around 16,000 undocumented Asian youth were protected under DACA.
“Through coalitions, we are stronger. By joining together, we increase our power tremendously,” Chu said. “That’s why it’s important to make sure every community is recognized, that they are seen for who they are and the whole span of Dreamers is acknowledged.”
“Black and AAPI immigrants are joining hands on this historic day of action to reject the lie that our people are disposable and that we are each other’s enemies.”
Activists said they hoped their rally would help destroy the stereotype that the black and Asian-Americans communities are at odds.
“Black and [Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders] immigrants are joining hands on this historic day of action to reject the lie that our people are disposable and that we are each other’s enemies,” Jonathan Jayes-Green, co-creator and national coordinator for the UndocuBlack Network, said during the rally.
“We are centering and uplifting our own voices, holding elected officials accountable and demanding a clean Dream Act and a permanent solution for TPS holders together,” he said. “The time is now, and Congress needs to act on both before the end of the year.”
Chu said she thought the Dream Act would pass if brought to a vote, as the bill has so far received bipartisan support. She said she believed Ryan may not have brought the bill to the floor because of pressure from hard-right members of the Freedom Caucus, who strongly oppose it.
There’s increased urgency to make moves before the year ends, Chu said, addressing the House speaker: “Give us a chance for a fair vote.”