“They have to put their feet down,” Calderon said. “Our communities are done taking the back burner. We are not going to allow this government to keep on burning our communities, keep terrorizing our communities.”
Cristina Jimenez, United We Dream co-founder and executive director, said that the fact that the government is on the brink of a shutdown in part because it failed to come together on immigration, “speaks to the power of immigrant youth and our movement and the power of the progressive and labor movement that has coalesced together around this fight.”
In addition, said Jimenez, the Democratic Caucus is staying together and is insisting that Dreamers, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and other priorities are included in spending negotiations, “a testament to the power we have as a movement and a constituency that has gotten people to this point.”
Some 200 people were participating in the latest round of protests, which also were held throughout last year. Organizers said they took their protests to all 435 House member offices and all 50 senators.
Calderon’s support for Dreamers was shared by about 62 percent of Americans who wanted Congress to continue the DACA program, according to a December NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Split by party, 39 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Independents wanted it continued, the poll showed. Other polls showed support of over 80 percent.
Many activists have wanted Congress to go beyond DACA and provide a path to citizenship for thousands of other immigrants without status who were brought to the U.S. by their parents who also came to or stayed in the country illegally.
Among the supporters is Wendy Lerma Guerrero, 16, of Des Moines, a U.S. citizen, who also was outside the Capitol Thursday night with a group of other students. Their schools had allowed them to miss classes to participate in the democratic exercise. Guerrero said she was there on behalf of friends who she feared could be deported.
“They keep saying they are here for us but I don’t think they are doing enough because we are still in the same position we were years ago and people have been fighting for over 20 years for this same thing and nothing has permanently changed,” she said.
Carlos, who did not want to give his last name, previously had DACA but has been granted a U-visa because he was abandoned as a child. U-Visas are for crime victims. Although that visa allows him to eventually apply for legal residency, he said he was fighting for others. He said before he got the visa he was working 80 hour weeks to pay his community college tuition and continue his studies.
He said he’d rather not see the government shut down because he knows others will be affected, particularly those working in government.
“There’s people who want to fight for DACA and shutting down the government will make them lose their jobs too,” he said. “We have to be concerned about that too. We have to be concerned about each others’ consequences."
Jimenez, however, said the shutdown may be what immigrants demanded, but she said Trump created the crisis.
"He did not have to terminate the DACA program," she said.
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