People For the American Way

PFAW Joins Immigrants and Activists for a Day of Action on Capitol Hill

People For in Action

Donald Trump has made hostility toward immigrants a central component of his propaganda and policies. Since day one of his presidency, he has sought to undermine the immigration laws we currently have in place and push an agenda that includes a racist border wall, an anti-Muslim travel ban, and the revocation of many protections such as DACA and TPS. These developments have left many immigrants feeling alienated and unsure of their futures in the United States.

To help combat these draconian policies and encourage Congress to act to secure needed protections for immigrants, PFAW joined a coalition of activists on March 6 for a “day of action.” The other groups included United We Dream, Center for Popular Democracy, MomsRising, CASA, and many immigrants who have been personally affected by changes under the Trump administration.

The day started with two congressional hearings to review Trump’s immigration policies, where activists split up into two groups to “pack the room” of each hearing. The first hearing, convened by the House Judiciary Committee, reviewed TPS and DACA. Many individuals who are protected by these programs testified about how having legal status in the United States has enabled them to lead fuller lives, and what could happen if hundreds of thousands of American workers suddenly become undocumented after living virtually their entire lives in the United States.

The other hearing, convened by the House Committee on Homeland Security, was an investigation into Trump’s family separation policies and whether an emergency declaration at the border was truly called for. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen testified in front of the committee, repeatedly claimed in her testimony that no separation policy exists despite clear documentation presented at the hearing proving otherwise. Rep Lou Correa, D-Calif., stated that framing the gang issue in Central America as a border issue was myopic at best, and discussed how the entire region is experiencing a very real humanitarian crisis that requires larger examination and assistance. Rep Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., also asked Nielsen about the mental health issues that have been documented in young children after experiencing family separation, and questioned whether the agency is taking the long-term negative effects of their policies seriously.

After the hearings, groups of immigrants and activists then met in front of the Capitol for a press conference and rally. Speakers included leaders in immigration policy, immigrants whose legal statuses are threatened by the Trump administration, and several members of Congress who are fighting for legislative protections. Rep Yvette Clark, D-N.Y., discussed how congressional Republicans can no longer use people’s lives as pawns, and stated that she’s cosponsoring a bill to protect Dreamers. One TPS holder named Brenda described how getting TPS saved her life, in that she was able to get health care coverage and treat a tumor that was found in her eye last year. She worries that if she loses legal status, she will no longer be able to get treatment. Finally, activist Ingrid from Moms Rising discussed what it’s like to have two sons on DACA, living in fear that at any point their entire lives could be turned upside down if they become undocumented.

After the press conference, PFAW assisted in leading a petition delivery of over 760,000 signatures of individuals who strongly disagree with Trump’s decision to declare an emergency to build a wall on the border. Signatures were delivered to Sen. Tom Udall’s office, D-N.M., who made a speech about the importance of constituents calling their senators now to block Trump’s power grab, and how his blatant disregard for checks and balances is breaking down our constitutional norms.