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  December 22, 2017

Do Democrats Have the DREAMers' Courage to Save DACA?

Democrats are backing off their pledge to risk a government shutdown unless Congress approves a new DREAM Act that protects undocumented youths. "We want Democrats to be as courageous as the DREAMers," says Our Revolution's Erika Andiola, who was just jailed for six days for a Capitol Hill protest
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Erika Andiola is the Government Relations Director of the DREAM Action Coalition in Phoenix, Arizona. She was brought to the U.S. at the age of eleven and does not have legal documentation; she lost her university scholarships when Arizona passed laws affecting immigrants. With employers afraid to hire the undocumented, she hasn't been able to find a job. Considering Arizona's aggressive push against Latinos in the state, Andiola has every reason to be fearful. But instead, she has taken a stand.

She got involved with Promise Arizona, a grassroots civic engagement organization with a mission to recruit, train and support a new generation of leaders from across the state and register Latinos to vote. She also dedicated herself to championing the DREAM Act . She spent countless hours camped in front of Senator John McCain's Phoenix office in the summer heat with the "DREAM Army," supporters who worked tirelessly to educate elected officials on the Act. She knew she might be arrested, and eventually she was.

On video, Andiola also confronted Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, a national figure behind anti-immigration legislation. Russell was clearly not happy about being surprised. He could have called security and demanded an arrest on the spot. Arrest is frightening for anyone, but as Andiola knows personally, arrest with the possibility of deportation is life-altering, especially for someone so young. Andiola's single-minded dedication to social justice comes before her personal gain.


AARON MATÉ: It's The Real News, I'm Aaron Maté.

The House has passed a stopgap funding measure that averts a government shutdown Friday night. But, the bill excludes a key issue the Democrats had promised to fight for. After President Trump rescinded DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in September, more than 100 undocumented youths have been losing their status each day. The number will jump to 1,000 a day in March unless Congress acts. Democrats had vowed to risk a shutdown unless Congress took action, but ultimately backed down.

Erika Andiola is a DACA recipient and political director for Our Revolution. On Wednesday, she was released from jail after six days on hunger strike. She and seven others were arrested in Congressional offices, demanding a new DREAM Act. Erika, welcome. Let's start with your response to the passage of this funding bill without the protections that you and so many others have been promised.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah, Aaron, definitely. Well, from what I know so far is that there was ... what we've been fighting for and what we've been pushing Democrats to do in the House was done. None of the Democrats actually voted for it, but they did have enough Republicans to do it. Five Democrats didn't vote, and so, I am glad that that happened and the policy to deliver that. Of course, I am not excited about the response but I do know that there's still a chance in the Senate for this to happen. And we're really hoping that Senator Schumer follows the leadership of Pelosi, or Speaker Pelosi, to be able to do this.

We have the time. We still have the rest of today, we still have tomorrow for Schumer to whip his own caucus in the Senate to make sure that the DREAMers get included as they still need Senate Democrats to vote. Some of them are still needed to be able to pass this spending bill so, we still have hope, and we're still keeping the pressure on Senator Schumer and the rest of the Democratic Party in the Senate to make sure that there's a DREAM Act in the Senate version of the government funding bill.

AARON MATÉ: And, what exactly had Democrats promised the DREAMers? It was my understanding that they had vowed to risk a government shutdown unless it was passed, and that they said they would force a vote.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Well, some Democrats did, and for us, we have been keeping the pressure on Democrats because we know that they have some leverage. They don't necessarily have the numbers in the House and the Senate. They don't have the presidency, but they do have the leverage in terms of how many votes they need. Republicans need to be able to pass the spending bill. And so, we have been keeping the pressure, especially on Schumer because ... although Senator Elizabeth Warren, Harris, Bernie Sanders, and now there's a couple of others who have come out pledging to do this. We still haven't had the majority of the Democrats in the Senate pledging this, especially we haven't had Schumer, who is key right now in making sure he's whipping his party in the Senate to be able to have enough votes to block the spending bill if the DREAM Act is not included.

AARON MATÉ: Explain what the reality has been ever since President Trump rescinded DACA in December. That meant that nobody can apply for renewal, and already, as I said, hundreds of people have lost their status. What kind of threats do they live under with DACA no longer being authorized?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: First off, the reality in communities is people are already losing their DACA. Every day, there's undocumented youth who are already losing work permits, they are losing their protection. When we demonstrated with this action when we were in that jail, not giving our names as a form of protest, what we're demonstrating is that that's actually what happens to the undocumented community every single day. People are picked up on the street but because of a traffic violation, and they are taken into this jail, and they're basically in danger of being deported or detained every single day. And so, that's already happening. And, a lot of us haven't lost our DACA but we are in danger of losing it really soon.

And, not only that, it's also psychologically it's just so draining to start thinking about how you're going to be able to protect yourself. How you're going to be able to stay with your family. And it's not ... it's just, it's a reality that we have to now live with, and we are not giving up. It's about understanding that this is a reality but also understanding that we have the power to push Congress to do the right thing.

AARON MATÉ: As someone who is undocumented, when you were in jail over these past six days, just released on Wednesday, was ICE called to speak to you?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yes, I was called the very first day and it was, for me, very disappointing to see that, you know, that was happening. We didn't have to be in that jail. I didn't wanna be in that jail. It's a place where nobody wants to be, but it's shameful to see that, even though Senator Schumer and the other Democrats in the Senate were watching, literally undocumented youths being in there saying we're risking everything basically to push you, they still didn't come out. Senator Schumer didn't say anything. Then he started tweeting about DREAMers. He put up a profile picture saying, you know, "I support DREAMers", but that's not enough. That's not going to protect us. He has the power. He has the ability to move his caucus to the right thing before the end of today or tomorrow to be able to get the DREAM Act in the spending bill in the Senate.

AARON MATÉ: And, in terms of Senator Schumer and other Democrats, can you talk about the voting angle here? It seems that they tend to float this call to fight for the DREAMers when they need Latino votes, but then when it comes down to it, as we're seeing right now, we're seeing Democrats saying, "Well, we don't wanna risk those so-called moderate Democrats in swing states. We don't wanna risk their votes to Republican voters whose support we might be able to win."

ERIKA ANDIOLA: But, that's been the same issue over and over again. The fact is that voters, people are not going out to vote just because they're against the DREAM Act. That's not the reality. People are waiting for, sorry, for political leaders to actually fight for them. To go out and really say what we need to do in this country, which is ... I was working for the Bernie Sanders campaign, and for me, very important that there's leaders out there that are supportive of the undocumented community, and they're also saying is what we do need is to fight for working class people. We need leaders who are out there really making sure that we are fighting for people and not necessarily for corporations and the wealthiest in this country. That's what voters want to hear. They're not gonna go out there and vote against someone just because they supported the DREAMers. That's not a reality.

And so, we want, again, Schumer and Democrats to be as courageous as the DREAMers who went into that jail. And take that step forward because they have nothing to lose. They have a lot to gain. And just, plain and simple, we're just really tired of being political football for so many years for the Democratic party, for the Republican party. This is something that we've been fighting for for literally 17 years. I was a little kid when this introduced, and now I'm a 30-year-old adult who is just really tired of fighting for this bill that has, and has been supported by the American people, and has been bipartisan, and is just literally the lack of will from both parties to get it done.

AARON MATÉ: Erika, finally, because DACA doesn't officially expire until March, you have some in Congress from both parties saying that this issue can wait. That it's not urgent that we pass something before the end of the year. What's your response to that?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Their views ... they probably say that this issue can wait because they don't have kids who could be deported. They say it can wait because they're not in danger of deportation themselves because they will be with families this Christmas. Because they will be with families next Christmas. But, I don't know if that's gonna happen with me. I don't know if that's gonna happen with my family members and my friends. And so, they have the privilege to say that, but we don't. And so, we hope they have again, like I said, the courage of the young people ... you know, one of the amazing, inspiring young ladies went into the jail with me, she was literally three years old when the DREAM Act was introduced, and now she's 20 years old, going into that jail as a 20 year old young woman, saying I have the courage to do this and these men and women who have run political campaigns on our backs, on our stories, trying to get Latino votes, don't have the courage to stand for us? That's just a shame. It's a shame, and I hope that voters in Latino districts and places where our communities really care about us, when they go vote, I hope that they understand that if they stand with us, we'll make sure that those people know about it.

AARON MATÉ: Erika Andiola, DACA recipient, political director of Our Revolution, just released from six days on hunger strike, protesting for a new DREAM Act. Erika, thank you.


AARON MATÉ: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.


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