Immigrant advocates arrested as they urge Congress to support legal remedies for Dreamers

"My father has always been the breadwinner...he's definitely a big part of our nuclear family."

Immigrant advocates marched from the National Mall to the Capitol building on Monday, March 5, 2018 calling on Congress to pass permanent legal remedies for Dreamers. (Photo: Esther Y. Lee)
Immigrant advocates marched from the National Mall to the Capitol building on Monday, March 5, 2018 calling on Congress to pass permanent legal remedies for Dreamers. (Photo: Esther Y. Lee)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Capitol Police arrested multiple immigrant advocates after they blocked an intersection near the Capitol building Monday, following public calls urging congressional lawmakers to pass permanent legal remedies for young immigrants known as “Dreamers.”

Police used bolt cutters to split apart protesters shackled together with plastic tubing before leading them away for arrest. Earlier in the day, hundreds of immigrants and supporters marched from the National Mall to the Capitol building, calling attention to the White House’s deadline to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Monday.

Advertisement

The DACA program, which provides limited legal protections for undocumented Dreamers, was set to end Monday but court injunctions have allowed current recipients to continue renewing their statuses. Back in September 2017, the White House phased out DACA by Monday, March 5, 2018. The Obama-era initiative provides deportation relief and work authorization to certain undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children. Court injunctions in January and February kept the program on life support, allowing DACA recipients to continue to renew their statuses. But the injunctions also honored the White House’s request to prohibit first-time DACA-eligible applicants from applying to the program. The injunctions are temporary and could be subject to another challenge by the Trump administration.

Immigrant advocates marched from the National Mall to the Capitol building on Monday, March 5, 2018 calling on Congress to pass permanent legal remedies for Dreamers. (Photo: Esther Y. Lee)
Immigrant advocates marched from the National Mall to the Capitol building on Monday, March 5, 2018 calling on Congress to pass permanent legal remedies for Dreamers. (Photo: Esther Y. Lee)

Angel Romero, a 19-year-old DACA recipient who lives in Virginia, was one of hundreds of people who took part in the D.C. rally. Donning a set of monarch butterfly wings — which advocates have symbolically used to represent the dignity and resilience of immigrants — Romero held one corner of a rainbow banner while chanting “undocumented, unafraid” and marching with other advocates.

Walking alongside this ThinkProgress reporter, Romero called attention to congressional inaction on a “clean” Dream Act bill, which would provide a permanent and earned pathway to citizenship for Dreamers without extraneous funding for immigration enforcement to detain the rest of the undocumented population. DACA has opened up the world to a more equal playing field for Romero, who is still financially struggling to even think about attending college. The program has also given him a means to stand up for vulnerable populations.

“DACA has allowed me to get a driver’s license,” Romero said. “It’s allowed me to get a job. It’s allowed me to be civically engaged and stand up for my rights and the rights of others.”

Advertisement

Romero criticized Congress for reneging on “a promise they made to us. They promised us they would give us a clean Dream Act but they haven’t acted upon that promise and they just keep on lying to us.”

Diana Sanchez, a 31-year-old DACA recipient, came to Washington, D.C. to call on Congress to help immigrants. (PHOTO: ESTHER Y. LEE)
Diana Sanchez, a 31-year-old DACA recipient, came to Washington, D.C. to call on Congress to help immigrants. (PHOTO: ESTHER Y. LEE)

Diana Sanchez, a 31-year-old DACA recipient, was also at the rally to call attention to immigration legislation for people like herself. But she also marched to bring awareness to the impact immigration detention has on family members. Her father is currently held at an immigration detention facility in New Jersey.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent arrested Diana’s father Dario last August near Albany, New York. After a biometrics check, the officer found that Sanchez had entered the United States without permission after he was removed three times prior in 2001, according to a Department of Justice press release. Illegal reentry is considered a criminal felony that can carry a fine or imprisonment for no more than two years. About 77 percent of all criminal convictions for immigration violations during the first year of Trump’s presidency came from illegal reentry.

Although the DOJ press release makes Dario’s illegal reentry sound scary, Diana told ThinkProgress that her father had been a “big part of the community” when he lived in Yonkers, New York. He also has a pending U-visa, a nonimmigrant visa meant for victims of crime.

“He has a folk dancing group and opened a community center there,” Diana told ThinkProgress as she marched and held a sign in support of immigrants. “He’s been teaching children there [and offering] free dance classes.”

Advertisement

Diana said police arrested her father as he dropped off a friend’s daughter at Albany College, on suspicion of committing a traffic violation. Holding back emotions, Diana said her father was the family breadwinner for four children and five U.S.-born grandchildren. His lawyer has filed a stay of removal, a legal action that would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from executing an order of removal, but Diana is afraid that he will get deported regardless.

“My father has always been the breadwinner…he’s definitely a big part of our nuclear family,” Diana added. “He’s been a big inspiration.”