Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi smiled as she stood at a podium in San Francisco last week and described young, undocumented immigrants as “our VIPs.”
But the House Democratic leader wasn’t even finished speaking when dozens of very loud young people walked in. They shouted demands and took over the press conference.
Her smile gone, Pelosi appeared shaken.
“For a long time, we’ve been fighting the fight for the Dreamers,” she tried to interject.
“We are not Dreamers!” some shouted back, drowning her out and forcing the news conference to end in chaos.
Young and undocumented, yes. Just don’t call them “Dreamers.”
That moniker, say many undocumented youth, has helped create a narrative of the “good immigrant vs. the bad immigrant,” pitting younger, better-educated immigrants against other unauthorized immigrants – especially their parents.
As the Obama-era DACA protective program for undocumented youth nears its end, many of those who have been helped by the program insist they do not want to be pawns in a political debate over who should stay and who should go.
“We will not be bargaining chips for Trump’s agenda,” said Adrian Reyna, an Oakland resident and a leader in United We Dream, the nation’s largest immigrant youth-led organization.
Not everybody protected by DACA agrees with the tactics of the protesters at Pelosi’s news conference. Social media has buzzed in recent days with debate between those who thought it a necessary call to arms, and others who viewed it as disrespectful to a reliable ally.
But what immigrant-rights advocates do agree on is this: They want Congress to adopt a “clean” DREAM Act law that would pave the way for citizenship for those brought illegally to the U.S. as youngsters. They don’t want that law to include language that will help deport more of the estimated 11 million people living in the United States illegally, or funding that would help build a border wall.
As Reyna put it: “We want to make sure our community is not thrown under the bus.”
‘The imagery of the cap and gown’
President Donald Trump is phasing out DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Obama created by executive order in 2012.
The program was meant to be a temporary measure to provide relief from deportation, with a work permit, to people brought into the country illegally before the age of 16 and who meet other criteria.
Nearly 800,000 people signed up for the two-year…