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DACA Recipients’ Message to Democrats: Stop Playing with Our Lives, and Pass a Clean DREAM Act Now

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As Congress passes a massive rewrite of the U.S. tax code that could mean the largest transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top in history, it is also negotiating a stopgap spending measure that will not include the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. This comes as seven young DACA recipients and one ally were released from jail Wednesday after six days in jail on hunger strike. The eight were arrested Friday during nonviolent sit-in protests inside the offices of Democratic lawmakers, demanding they commit to voting “no” on the spending bill this month unless it includes a version of the DREAM Act without concessions for funding for the border wall or enhanced border security. We are joined by Erika Andiola, one of the eight activists just released and a nationally known immigrant activist who served as a spokesperson for Bernie Sanders and helped him craft immigration policy. She is the political director for Our Revolution. She is a DACA recipient who grew up in Arizona, where her house was raided in 2013 and immigration agents picked up her mother and brother.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Congress has approved a massive rewrite of the U.S. tax code that could mean the largest transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top in history and will end a central pillar of President Obama’s signature healthcare law. The tax bill cleared the Senate early Wednesday, then House lawmakers approved it 224 to 201, clearing the way for President Trump to sign it into law. House Speaker Paul Ryan praised Trump for, quote, “exquisite presidential leadership.” This is Trump celebrating his first major legislative victory.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We broke every record. It’s the largest—I always say the most massive, but it’s the largest tax cut in the history of our country, and reform, but tax cut. Really something special. … Records all over the place. And that will continue, and then some, because of what we did. But $3.2 trillion—just think of it—in tax cuts for American families, including doubling the standard deduction and doubling the child tax credit. The typical family of four earning $75,000 will see an income tax cut of more than $2,000. They’re going to have $2,000. And that’s, in my opinion, going to be less than the average. You’re going to have a lot more than that. … We are making America great again.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: But the Republicans’ massive tax overhaul faces overwhelming public opposition. An analysis by the Tax Policy Institute found that, by 2027, the tax bill would give the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans 83 percent of the tax cut. Experts estimate Trump will personally benefit from a tax cut of up to $15 million a year. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer denounced the measure Wednesday.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: Now, we know they’re popping champagne down Pennsylvania Avenue. There are only two places where America is popping champagne: the White House and the corporate boardrooms, including Trump Tower. Otherwise, Americans have a lot to regret.

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump reportedly may sign the tax bill at his ritzy private Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. Estimates are he stands to gain up to $15 million in tax—in the new tax bill.

Meanwhile, hundreds of DREAMers flooded Capitol Hill Wednesday, as Congress is negotiating a stopgap spending measure that will not include the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. This comes as seven young DACA recipients and one ally were released from jail Wednesday after six days in jail on hunger strike. The eight were arrested Friday during nonviolent sit-in protests inside the offices of New York Senator Chuck Schumer and Florida Republican Congressmember Carlos Curbelo. The activists were demanding the lawmakers commit to voting “no” on the spending bill this month unless it includes a version of the DREAM Act without concessions for funding for the border wall or enhanced border security. President Trump rescinded DACA in September, leaving DREAMers at risk of losing work permits and deportation protections they received under the program. Nearly 700,000 DREAMers will eventually be in danger of being deported as their two-year permits expire. Beginning early next year, a thousand young people will lose their protection from deportation each day.

For more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by Erika Andiola, one of the eight activists just released from jail late Wednesday after being arrested Friday. Andiola is a nationally known immigrant rights activist who served as a spokesperson for the Bernie Sanders campaign and helped him craft immigration policy. She’s the political director for Our Revolution. She’s a DACA recipient, she’s a DREAMer, who grew up in Arizona. In 2013, her house was raided, and immigration agents picked up her mother and brother.

Erika Andiola, welcome back to Democracy Now! You’ve just come off of a hunger strike. You’ve just been released from jail. Can you talk about why you were protesting on Friday, what happened and what you’re demanding now?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yes, of course. Good morning, Amy. You know, for us, the time is now. We have been waiting for too long to pass the DREAM Act. I started organizing in 2009 for the DREAM Act. And this bill was actually introduced in 2001. So it’s been 17 years, and we still have not been able to have a piece of legislation that has been supported by more than 70 percent of Americans. It is a bipartisan bill. There is absolutely no question of why, you know, it still hasn’t passed.

And for me, my only—my only answer is that it’s just been played as a political football by both parties, Democrats and Republicans. And so, for us, it was important to go to Senator Schumer’s office and give him a very, very important demand, which is for him to use his power as the leader of the minority in the Senate and to make sure that everybody who he actually is able to whip votes “no” on the spending bill if the DREAM Act is not added. Unfortunately, we went to jail for six days. It was definitely not a place where I wanted to be. And we risked all of this because we had the courage to do so. And, unfortunately, I just came out of jail last night and heard that Senator Schumer didn’t even have the courage to meet our demand. And so, we’re still pushing, and there’s still time. They still have time to do this.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Erika Andiola, do you have any idea, because, of course, you protested there at Schumer’s office, why the Democrats didn’t in the end vote “no,” despite initially pledging or giving the impression that they would?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: You know, I think, for me, I know that Democrats actually, you know, say they support the DREAM Act. Every time they go and, you know, try to get re-elected in their elections, they always use the DREAM Act as a way to get Latino voters and other folks who support it. But when it comes to actually trying to pass it, there is no will. And it’s been years. In 2010, it failed by five votes in the Senate. Guess how many Democrats didn’t vote for the bill or voted “no.” Five Democrats. And so, the fact is that they—the party could do this if they wanted to right now. You know, they don’t have a majority—Republicans do—but they do have the leverage of how much, you know, of the votes that they need to pass a spending bill. And so, we’re asking Senator Schumer to step up and do that, to stop playing with our lives. And the fact is that DREAMers are already getting deported.

As soon as we got into the jail, ICE was called on me. And I didn’t—nothing happened to me, because there was so much pressure from the outside. But the fact is that this will happen to DREAMers if we don’t pass the DREAM Act. And it’s on Schumer, and it’s on Republicans, to make sure that, you know, there is a fix now and that we’re not waiting for more people to get deported. And to wait until 2018 does not work, because elections are going to start happening, and you know how that changes everything in America.

AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to turn to Senator Dick Durbin being asked about the Democrats’ position on DACA. Durbin was interviewed earlier this week by CBS host John Dickerson on Face the Nation.

JOHN DICKERSON: A number of your Democratic supporters, colleagues, would like you, as a Democrat, to basically make funding of the government, to keep—to keep the government running, would like you to make it contingent on doing something about DACA. Will you?

SEN. DICK DURBIN: Well, I can tell you this: We don’t want to see the government shut down. We want to move forward in a bipartisan fashion to solve our problems. We believe that DACA is central. The president is the one who made this the issue. September the 5th, he eliminated the DACA program and put in doubt the future of over 780,000 people in America. And we want to get this done and accomplished.

AMY GOODMAN: So that was earlier this week. AP is reporting, just as we went to air, that House Republicans, early Thursday, unveiled a new stripped-down spending bill to prevent a government shutdown this weekend and allow quarreling lawmakers to punt most of their unfinished business into the new year. It would stave off a government shutdown ’til January 19th to allow the congressmembers to go home for the holidays. Meanwhile, what is the number? Something like 122 young people, DACA recipients, every day lose their DACA status and suffer job loss. Erika Andiola, so what now, as Congress is in the last throes of this and you are pushing for them to include the DREAM Act in the spending bill, will you do? And also explain the DREAM Act you want to see passed.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Absolutely. And I want to also clarify, in just hearing Senator Durbin: We don’t want a government shutdown. That’s not what we’re working for or towards. Nobody wants to see the government shut down. What we want to see is the DREAM Act be included in this bill. And the reason for that is that, you know, we think that being able—passing the DREAM Act in that bill makes the likelihood of it passing a lot more—it can actually pass. And not only that, you know, we want it to be clean, meaning that we cannot have something in there that’s going to push our families and our parents and our communities deeper into the shadows, like more enforcement, like more funding for ICE, like less funding for cities that have sanctuary policies.

And so, you know, it’s not—like right now, the American public supports the DREAM Act by itself. There’s no reason to add anything else and use undocumented youth as bargaining chips. This is not a game. And like I said, we’ve been waiting for so long. We’ve been fighting for so long. And this is a time for both parties to, you know, do what they have been saying for so many years, that they support this bill, that they support us DREAMers. And this is a time to do what is right.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Erika Andiola, you said earlier that ICE called on you. Could you explain what that means and what the implications of that are? And how many people are at risk of that happening?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah, I mean, the fact is that, you know, when you’re undocumented, you can get out of your house, maybe drive, do anything that any other American would do, and get stopped by the police. You end up in their custody. And what happens is that, many times, the police calls ICE on you, even if, you know, they might not even know you’re undocumented. But you’re a brown person, or you’re a person of color. Or, you know, there’s many other reasons why, you know, they think that you’re undocumented, and they will call ICE on you. I did not give my information. I didn’t say anything. And next thing you know, there was already a call placed from the police to ICE, asking them about me and asking if, you know, I was undocumented.

And so, this is something that happens every single day. This is something that’s already happening with DREAMers and everybody else in our communities. And so, what we’re telling Chuck Schumer—and I did this action at his office, telling him, “Do you want us—do you want that to be your future? Do you want people like myself to continue to go through that? Do you want people, who are not even a public figure or who are not activists, to go through this without anybody seeing it? That is going to be the reality if we don’t pass the DREAM Act.”

AMY GOODMAN: Before we go—and we’re going to go to an exclusive jailhouse interview with a Mexican journalist who is fighting deportation back to Mexico—Erika, you were a major spokesperson for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Massive historic legislation was passed yesterday, as you were in jail protesting around the issue of the DREAM Act. And that is the tax bill, which will be the largest transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top in U.S. history. And I’m wondering your thoughts on this, also President Trump, I guess you could say, revealing, saying that with taking away the individual mandate on the healthcare, on the signature Obamacare, that he has killed Obamacare within the tax bill.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah, I mean, it was something that I thought it was probably going to happen. And I am really—it’s just upsetting to come out of the jail and see that this actually did happen.

But what gives me hope is that before I went inside of the jail, a couple of days before that, I saw that Alabama had a huge win, and also that next year is election time. And I see that people are awake. People are ready to go out to vote. And I hope that that’s the case in 2018 and that we can really turn this around. This is really about, you know, stop complaining, all of us. We need to—even myself, I need to stop complaining and actually, you know, take the streets, take the polls, go vote and make sure that we are having people running for office all over the nation, just like Bernie Sanders told us to do. I can’t run for office. I can’t vote. But, look, I decided to go into a jail to fight for what I believe in. And I think this is the moment that everybody should be doing everything you can to turn this around, because this is not going to last forever. We can’t let it last forever, and it’s in our hands.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Erika Andiola, very quickly, before we go, you’re going to be speaking at a press conference later this morning. Can you talk about that? What’s your message to Democrats?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: You know, our message is what I’ve been saying previously, is that we are having DREAMers deported now. We are having DREAMers losing DACA. And we cannot—you know, we don’t even know how else to ask Democrats to actually not just speak about us and tell our stories, but actually act and do what needs to be done, use their leverage. We don’t want a government shutdown. What we want is for the DREAM Act to be in the spending bill. And they have the power to do it. They have the leverage. And this is the time to show that they really care about our communities.

AMY GOODMAN: Erika Andiola, we thank you for being with us, DACA recipient—

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: —nationally known immigrants’ rights activist, served as spokesperson for Bernie Sanders, helped him craft immigration policy, released Wednesday after being arrested last week with seven other DACA recipients and an ally peacefully protesting at the offices of New York [Senator] Chuck Schumer. We are going to continue, of course, to cover this story day by day.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, our exclusive jailhouse interview with a Mexican journalist, fearful, if he’s deported, he will die. Stay with us.

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Next story from this daily show

Jailhouse Interview: Denied Asylum, Mexican Reporter Emilio Gutiérrez Faces Death If ICE Deports Him

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