Soon after announcing the contours of a deal with Donald Trump to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation, Republican Nancy Pelosi appeared on her home turf of San Francisco to tout Democrats’ efforts toward an immigration accord.
Instead of getting plaudits, she got lambasted.
Protesters shouted down Ms Pelosi, accusing her of selling out the wider world of immigrants by seeking to cut a deal with Mr Trump. A frustrated Ms Pelosi scolded the demonstrators, and in the aftermath critics expressed dismay at the spectacle of pro-immigrant activists blasting a powerful political ally who shares their goal of shielding immigrants who were brought to America as children and now live there illegally.
“I wish they would channel some of that energy into the Republican districts so we can pass the DREAM act”, Ms Pelosi told reporters afterward, referring to a bill that would prevent deportations of young immigrants who are in the country illegally and have not committed serious crimes. “That’s an area of disagreement that we have in terms of tactic”, she added.
But the confrontation reflected the conviction among a new generation of activists that public pressure on Democrats prodded Barack Obama to create the program Ms Pelosi is now striving to preserve. It also illuminates the forces tugging at Democratic leaders as they seek to revive immigration talks with Mr Trump, who inspires deep animus and distrust in their base.
“Immigrant youth has been at the forefront protesting, heckling, and carrying out direct actions against Obama and the Democratic Party, regardless of the unpopularity of such tactics”, Sandy Valenciano, who was among those protesting against Ms Pelosi, wrote in an op-ed, warning that “the Democratic Party plays into Trump’s tactics while pretending to put up a fight”.
“DACA was achieved through fearless organising and resistance by undocumented people”, Ms Valenciano wrote, referring to a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, that allowed immigrants under a certain age to secure deportation reprieves and work authorisation. Initiated by Barack Obama, the program is set to lapse barring congressional action after Mr Trump said he would not extend it.
Immigrant activists who came of age during the Obama era, galvanised by a record-setting wave of deportations and accustomed to publicly proclaiming their lack of status, acquired experience with political organising…