There’s lots of talk but little progress toward a deal on the soon-to-expire Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has sparked outrage from immigrants and supporters of the Obama-era initiative.
President Donald Trump ended the program — known as DACA — in September, essentially removing deportation protections and work permits for nearly 700,000 unauthorized immigrants — commonly referred to as Dreamers — who came to the United States as children.
On Wednesday, Feb. 7, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spent more than eight hours on the House floor in a filibuster for the ages, speaking in opposition of a budget deal to avoid another government shutdown because the plan did not include protections for DACA recipients.
Reportedly, Pelosi’s speech was the longest on record on the House floor.
“We have to be strong as a country to respect the aspirations of people who are our future,” Pelosi said. “The young people are our future and these dreamers are part of that. They’ve been enriched by the greatness of our country.”
Lawmakers have until March to decide the fate of those immigrants and Trump has appeared unwilling to bend to the various proposals put forth by Democrats to save the DACA program, which include a number of Black immigrants who have proven themselves as successful citizens.
Instead, in his State of the Union address, the president spoke of tougher immigration laws and how “chain immigration allows immigrants to bring virtually unlimited numbers of family members” into the country — a claim various fact-checkers found false.
Trump also spoke about a lottery system for those wanting to enter the U.S. and the border wall he wants to build to keep immigrants out.
“We’re tired of our lives and future being used as political bargaining chips. The end goal Trump’s white supremacist agenda is not for the prosperity of our people,” said DACA recipient Marisa Piña Rodriguez, 28. “Hyper-militarization of the border, the elimination of the immigration lottery system, and severe reductions in the ability to petition family members is too high of a price to pay for a path to citizenship for Dreamers. A bill of this nature would end up harming us as a community in the long term. We refuse to settle for any deal that is not humane and inclusive.”
All over the country, immigrants are growing increasingly uneasy with the March deadline approaching and no viable deal apparent.
The resistance to a Trump agenda and the fight for immigrant rights needs to go beyond the halls of Congress, Rodriguez said, adding that strategy is needed to also bring down the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“We cannot afford to make deals with a white supremacist that has shown from day one that our community’s best interest is not his priority,” said Karla Rojas, a 23-year-old DAA recipient. “[U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] has gone rogue and is actively terrorizing our community and the DOJ is attacking cities like Philadelphia for standing up for the rights of immigrants. This proposed plan is just an extension of this administration’s white supremacist values.
“It is our moral duty to oppose any form of deal that makes a target out of a majority of our family members and is essentially an attack on communities of color.”
Black immigrants are an integral part of the U.S. population and a critical part of the discussion over policies such as the DREAM Act, said Nicole Prchal Svajlenka, a senior policy analyst with the Immigration Policy team at the Center for American Progress in northwest D.C.
In an email, Svajlenka said this isn’t the first time the nation finds itself in the midst of an uproar sparked by Trump’s incendiary and racially charged comments about immigration.
In December, it leaked that Trump had reportedly made inflammatory remarks about Nigerian immigrants not wanting to “go back to their huts” and that Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS,” drawing widespread rebukes, including from the Haitian ambassador to the U.S.
Then, in the Oval Office, Trump reportedly referred to Haitian and African immigrants — among others — as coming from “s—hole countries.”
However, reality does not reflect the insensitive and incendiary comments of the president, Svajlenka said, noting that Black immigrants comprise a significant and important part of the U.S. population.
There are 3.7 million black immigrants in the United States — who comprise 8.4 percent of all immigrants in the country and who come from a diverse set of places. Nearly half — 48 percent — of all Black immigrants come from the Caribbean, 43 percent from African countries, and 3.6 percent from South America.
The largest individual home countries of Black immigrants in the United States today are Jamaica (693,000), Haiti (654,000), Nigeria (304,000), Ethiopia (237,000), and Trinidad and Tobago (171,000). Black immigrants make up more than one-quarter of all Black residents of the Boston, Miami, Minneapolis, New York City and Seattle metropolitan areas.
Black immigrants have high rates of education and employment and well over one-quarter (29 percent) of black immigrants 25 and older hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree, similar to the rate for all immigrants (30 percent). Additionally, Black immigrants are more likely than all immigrants to have some college education or an associate’s degree (29 percent compared to 19 percent).
These education attainment rates for Black immigrants are similar to those for native-born Americans at 32 percent and 31 percent, respectively.
Black immigrants are more likely to be active in the labor force than all other groups of immigrants. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of black immigrants 16 and older are in the labor force compared with 67 percent of all immigrants and 64 percent of native-born Americans.
“Given the number of Black Dreamers, it is all the more imperative that Congress comes together and passes the bipartisan Dream Act to allow these Dreamers permanent protection from deportation and the ability to live full and free lives in the United States,” Svajlenka said. “Now is the time for Americans across the country to call on their elected officials to reject the mistaken and racist comments of the president by taking action to protect immigrant families, which includes passing the Dream Act without further delay.”