In a pointed message to lawmakers in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a group of faith leaders and young immigrants gathered at the U.S. Capitol Building, as clergy washed the feet of DACA recipients and rallied in favor of the Dream Act.
Among the many young immigrants present was Deyanira Aldana, a DACA recipient from New Jersey who came to the U.S. when she was 4 years old.
“[DACA] allowed me to get a job that did not mistreat me and did not under pay me. It helped me support my family financially and protected me from deportation,” Aldana said. “But I worry that without protection for immigrant youth, my younger brother and sister will now be deportable and that our family will be torn apart.”
After a number of DACA recipients spoke to the crowd, they sat to have their feet washed by clergy as Nina Fernando sang the hymn “Here At Your Feet, Lord.”
“The Bible says that which we do to the most marginalized among us, we do to Christ himself,” Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life, said. “To turn your back on the Dreamers is to turn your back on Christ.”
Two weeks ago, Trump rescinded the Obama-era action that offered work permits and protection from deportation to young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the program would be ended within six months, with Trump tweeting to urge Congress to act on the program within that window.
The Dream Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), would do just that — but action on the bill already seems to be tenuous as multiple efforts on the issue have stalled in both the House and the Senate.
That’s where today’s action came into play. Following the gathering in front of the Capitol, during which faith leaders and DACA recipients called for congressional action, a group marched into a House office building to request a meeting with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
The group told their stories to a Ryan staffer, closing their impromptu meeting with the Our Father outside a closed door.
"My mom, dad, and my U.S. citizen sister are not negotiable," said Valeria Ruiz Lira, a DACA recipient and organizer at Voces de la Frontera and Youth Empowered in the Struggle, at the rally. "If it means we have to have a five-day hunger strike outside of Ryan’s office again, then we will do that. If we have to flood D.C. with 800,000 DACA recipients, we will do that.”