Approximately twenty youth immigration activists interrupted a speech by Hillary Clinton in Maryland on Thursday demanding that she take a more aggressive stance on national immigration reform. Shouting over her speech in a series of coordinated statements, individuals were escorted out of the event one after the other by police officers.
As the Guardian reports, the protest took place during "a rally for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown" and "involved about two dozen students dotted around the audience who intermittently shouted at Clinton and held aloft placards that read 'Put Families Over Politics'."
The young activists—who call themselves "Dreamers" are either undocumented themselves or have parents who are undocumented—were demanding that Clinton stand with those facing the unnecessary threat of deportation that divide families. They say Clinton should use her influence within the Democratic Party and urge President Obama to use his executive authority to provide deportation relief for their family members and the millions of other immigrants who live in constant threat of arbitrary expulsion.
"My mother lives in fear of deportation every single day," yelled one protester from the crowd as Clinton was speaking.
"We are very clear on the fact that [Clinton] has not take a clear stance for our families," said twenty-year-old Carlos, who participated in the action, in a video statement after being ejected from the rally. He said he was not impressed with Clinton's reaction on stage and said he and other "[Dreamers] will continue to organize, build, and escalate" their efforts to put pressure on President Obama, Hillary Clinton and any other politician who refuses to make a firm commitment to address the crisis immigrant families are facing.
Thursday's protest in Maryland was organized by members of United We Dream, which has been holding similar protests at Clinton events over recent months.
Following one in North Carolina earlier this week, Oliver Merino, a Dreamer from Charlotte, explained why. “Our message was clear: If Hillary Clinton hopes to be President, she should know that we will not allow her to use our parents as pawns in a political game. Instead, she must do everything within her power to protect them. My mother sacrificed everything for me, and she shouldn’t have to continue living in perpetual fear of being torn from her family.”
On Thursday's protest, the Guardian adds:
Political analysts expect immigration reform to be one of the key political issues that will shape the 2016 election cycle. It is likely to be most problematic for Republicans, who are sharply divided over what to do with America’s estimated 11 million undocumented migrants.
In Maryland, the former secretary of state was interrupted six consecutive times during her 17 minute speech; mostly the hecklers were inaudible, and on each occasion the protesters refused to move until they were escorted out of the gymnasium, at the University of Maryland.
The first interruption of Clinton’s speech – roughly five minutes in – was the most disruptive. Eleven students near the front of the audience began shouting at Clinton before marching out of the room.
She initially engaged with the activists, telling them: “You know, immigration is an important issue.” As they were ushered out of the auditorium, she added: “You know, if they had just waited a little while I was getting to the Dream Act.”
“As I senator I was proud to co-sponsor the national Dream Act and to vote for it. I am a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. And I believe that we have to fix our broken immigration system.” She added she was in favour of “bringing millions of hardworking people out of the shadows”.