Just a week after the Trump administration announced the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Asian-American members of Congress came together to speak out for Dreamers.
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) hosted a press conference on Tuesday, urging lawmakers to pass the Dream Act, which would give legal status to undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children. The push comes as DACA is set to officially end in six months and Congress is tasked with finding a solution in the meantime that’d protect nearly 800,000 Dreamers.
CAPAC Chair Judy Chu ((D-Calif), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi ((D-Calif), and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) were among several speakers at the event who touched on why rescinding DACA has huge consequences for the country.
“I was brought to this country when I was almost 8 years old. I cannot imagine any other country where I could have dreamt the dreams that enabled me to become a United States senator,” Hirono said at the event. “There’s a reason they’re called ‘Dreamers.’ Because they want to dream the dreams that I got to dream when I got to this country as an immigrant to this country.”
The legislators were joined by three Asian-American Dreamers, who shared their stories about how DACA provided them with opportunities and why passage of the Dream Act is necessary. Some pointed out that the Act already has strong support among the public, with the majority of Americans supporting Dreamers becoming citizens. Other speakers brought up the impacts that the termination of DACA has on the Asian-American community.
The majority of DACA recipients hail from Latin American countries. However, a significant amount of dreamers come from Asian countries as well and even more are eligible for the program. South Korea, China, India and the Philippines were among the top ten countries of origin of DACA-eligible populations in 2016.
But as Hirono pointed out during the press conference, some undocumented Asian-Americans may have been hesitant to expose their status due to previous discriminatory policies targeting the minority group. Referencing the forced imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during World War, Hirono explained that undocumented Asian-Americans may have a deep mistrust of the government.
“We know that many, many of them have not stepped forward. Why? Because they may have a greater fear of the government having the information that would enable government to find them,” she explained. “The experience of the totally unjustified discriminatory targeting of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II may cause the Asian community particularly to have these kinds of fears about giving the government information.”
Pelosi, who also touched on the subject of Japanese-American internment, said that many of those imprisoned had had family members who were fighting for the country at the same time. Now, she said, Dreamers are being targeted, regardless of their contributions. Pelosi hopes to pass legislation to protect Dreamers far before the six-month period is up, and certainly before the winter recess.
“In doing so, we will not only be protecting the Dreamers, we will be protecting the integrity of the country,” she said, thanking the Dreamers at the conference for their patriotism.