In Texas, DREAMers and their parents were ready. In fact, they were boarding yellow buses on the way to Washington, DC. The destination is Congress, where over 500 of them plan to hold “citizenship classes” in the halls of Congress, culminating in a mock citizenship ceremony Wednesday afternoon.
“This country is ours — we have grown up here, we have gone to school here, our parents have given up their blood, sweat and tears in this land — and it is in this land we will realize our dreams,” says United We Dream‘s Managing Director, Cristina Jimenez, who spoke to reporters in a telephone press conference with other organizers.
On Wednesday House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is expected to hold a meeting with the House Republican caucus and DREAMers say it is important to show the House Republicans they “are American.”
UWD’s Evelyn Rivera was with her mother when she was taken away by the authorities in 2007 and eventually deported; Rivera was finishing high school at the time. The Florida DREAMer recently was able to “hug her through the border,” and says her goal is to bring her mother back from Colombia.
Apart from making the case for supporting an immigration reform bill, the DREAMers swiftly denounced the added border security measures in the Senate immigration bill – measures still considered too lax by many Republicans in the House. “Enough is enough – with this story and this narrative that the immigrant community needs more out-of-control enforcement,” said Jimenez.
These coming weeks are crucial as proponents of immigration legislation look to the House to continue the process started by the Senate, which recently voted in favor of a comprehensive bill. While leaders in the House such as Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan have publicly expressed the need for the GOP to support some form of legislation, this is not the case for a contingent in the House which has made their opposition very vocal. Already four bills have passed the House Judiciary Committee that are moving in the opposite direction of reform. One bill, sponsored by Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King, seeks to eliminate deferred deportation for Dreamers (DACA), and the SAFE Act calls for more local and state power to increase deportations.
Apart from DREAMers, other groups such as evangelicals, business and tech sector groups, and moderate Republican leaders are exerting pressure on the House to support the Senate bill or come up with a similar version. The question is whether House members with few Latino voters in their districts and sizable conservative constituencies will be swayed.
Carlos Rojas, a UWD New England coordinating committee member, said Republicans ultimately have to answer to DREAMers and voters “if the GOP wants to see the inside of the White House again.”
Apart from the actions in Washington, DREAMers plan to scale up mobilizing efforts in Florida, Arizona and Texas.
DREAMers were asked how they would be able to influence Republican members if they did not have direct voting power.
“We have an incredibly important role to play,” said Carlos Rojas. “We do have a lot of power to mobilize voters.”