WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she respects young immigrants who shouted her down at an event in San Francisco, but said their call for a comprehensive immigration overhaul was premature.
Instead, lawmakers must focus on protecting young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, Pelosi said.
“We are not in a position where we can say all or none. We have to save the Dreamers now,” Pelosi said at a news conference at the Capitol.
“Dreamers” is a term used for young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children or by parents who overstayed visas.
On Monday, dozens of protesters disrupted an event in Pelosi’s hometown of San Francisco, showing their displeasure over her recent meetings with President Donald Trump over ways to continue the program that protects young immigrants from deportation. The protesters called for reform that gives legal status to all immigrants in the country, not just young people.
While she said she respects their concerns, Pelosi said she disagreed with the protesters. “There are some who say all or none. We don’t have that opportunity” in a Republican-led Congress, Pelosi said.
The nationally televised embarrassment was a warning shot to Democrats everywhere that cutting a deal with President Trump to keep the 800,000 Dreamers here may come at too high a price.
“Trump wants to use dreamers as a bargaining chip,” said Luis Angel Reyes- Savalza of the Immigration Liberation Movement.
Reyes-Savalza said the Monday confrontation with Pelosi was just the beginning.
“We are launching a campaign across the country to not only pressure and hold her [Pelosi] accountable, but also other Democrats and obviously the Republicans” explained Reyes-Savalza.
The response of activists has hit a cord with some, like San Francisco County Democratic Party Chair David Campos
When asked if he thought this was something that could put Democratic politicians on the hot seat, Campos replied, “I think it could. This is the time for Democrats to stand on principal and to stand for what we are as a party.”
Santa Clara Representative Ro Khanna said that while he admires the passion of the activists, what he is hearing could backfire.
“I mean if we just say we want the Dream Act — and we are not even going to talk to the President — and then we play political football with this issue, which scores points,” said Khanna. “But six months later the Dreams haven’t been protected and that is going to on all of our consciences.”
Last week, Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer met with Trump twice and discussed a deal to provide legal status to young immigrants. Trump said earlier this month he will halt the program instituted by former President Barack Obama if Congress does not act to continue it. Trump gave Congress six months to fix it.
Schumer and Pelosi said they reached a deal with the White House on legislation that would offer eventual citizenship to the immigrants in question. Republicans say talks focused on making permanent the protections offered under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly referred to as DACA.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was booed last month in San Francisco after she called for patience in dealing with Trump, saying she hoped he would change for the better.
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