By Anthony Jackson
WASHINGTON – Hundreds of protesters flocked to the steps of the Capitol Wednesday afternoon to support a permanent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) fix.
Protesters marched to the Capitol carrying banners and signs with pictures of undocumented immigrants. Demonstrators chanted “si se puede” – Spanish for “yes we can” – and “this is what democracy looks like.”
Capitol Police arrested scores of protesters, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).
Earlier in a speech to the crowd, Gutierrez said he wants a budget that he can support.
“I will not vote for a budget that does not include a clean Dream Act,” he said, adding that he will vote for “an American budget.”
A clean Dream Act means one that does not include compromises for other immigration legislation such as a border wall.
Former President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2012 to implement the DACA program, which supporters said prevented the deportation of most undocumented immigrants who had come to this country as minors and who met certain criteria. Shortly after taking office in January, President Donald Trump said the program would end in 2018.
The Dream (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act is bipartisan legislation that would protect DACA recipients by providing them a pathway to citizenship. But the legislation has been stuck in Congress.
Protesters want to see a DACA fix before the year ends, but Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is willing to wait until after January to address the bill.
Ben Johnston, 28, is a social studies teacher at Brooklyn School for Social Justice and rode five hours with his students to support a clean Dream Act.
“To me, having more community that is diverse, hearing more people’s ideas and being able to support people from wherever they come from always makes a place stronger,” he said.
Tony Guardad, 43, is a home improvement worker in Washington, D.C., who came across the protest on his way from work. Guardad said he wants to see a path to citizenship in a provision to the Dream Act.
“You, as a human being … want to make sure that you’re not being separated from your family and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
Congress must pass a temporary spending bill to avoid a government shutdown by Friday.
The Republicans’ House majority of 240 can surpass the vote threshold of 218 to pass a stopgap funding bill without Democrat support.