In September, Democratic leaders assured 800,000 young immigrants that they would make use of their leverage in year-end spending battles to pass a clean Dream Act. On Thursday, Democrats folded on this promise without much of a fight, allowing a continuing resolution to pass both houses of Congress and heading home for the holidays while leaving thousands of immigrants in "legal limbo."
"This failure to pass a clean Dream Act before heading home for the holidays is unconscionable."
—Ilya Sheyman, MoveOn.org
"Quite frankly, it's a pathetic way for the Democratic Party's leadership to close out a year in which millions of Americans fought back and resisted the Trump regime's racist, xenophobic, and dangerous agenda with an inspiring wave of grassroots activism from coast to coast," CREDO political director Murshed Zaheed said in a statement following Thursday's vote. "This is a monumental failure."
But the ire of immigrant rights activists—who made their voices heard in the Capitol building ahead of Thursday's vote with sit-ins and mass demonstrations—was trained less on rank-and-file members and more on the Democratic Party leadership, who they argue failed to listen to the grassroots and punted on an issue that requires immediate action.
Renata Mauriz, a DACA recipient from Massachusetts who was arrested during a sit-in on Thursday, said she is "tired of seeing Democrats announce their support for Dreamers and not doing anything about it."
"I am risking arrest because I know that the fight is not over," Mauriz said. "My family and I need more than promises and tweets, we need actions. Every day where I don't know if I will lose my DACA is a day where my life is disrupted. I will continue disrupting politicians until they meet our demands."
Progressive groups joined activists in slamming Democrats for refusing to live up to their promises.
"Passing a clean Dream Act is a top priority of the progressive movement," Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, added in a statement on Thursday. "Democratic leaders have failed to keep the promise they made to the American people to use their leverage to pass a clean Dream Act by the end of the year and finally solve the crisis Donald Trump created when he cruelly ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September."
Congressional Democrats' decision to push the immigration fight to next month is no mere procedural delay, Sheyman emphasized.
"Every single day that Congress fails to act, 122 DACA recipients lose their status, putting them in direct danger of deportation," Sheyman said. "This failure to pass a clean Dream Act before heading home for the holidays is unconscionable and Democrats who supported the Republicans' continuing deportation resolution and failed to stand with Dreamers will be held accountable."
Many Democrats, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), expressed agreement with the outrage of immigrant rights groups. As the Washington Post reports, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus "angrily confronted" Schumer ahead of Thursday's vote and accused him of throwing Dreamers "under the bus."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote on Twitter late Thursday that she voted against the continuing resolution because "Congress shouldn't leave town to celebrate the holidays with our families while 800,000 Dreamers fear being ripped apart from their families."
"We must keep our promise," Warren concluded.
Watch the Massachusetts senators' speech outside of the Capitol building Thursday night:
I voted no tonight on a CR that does not include the #DreamActNow. Congress shouldn’t leave town to celebrate the holidays with our families while 800k Dreamers fear being ripped apart from their families & deported to a country they barely know. We must keep our promise. pic.twitter.com/wgG5Y2AuPo— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) December 22, 2017