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Scores of Democratic Lawmakers Join GOP to Back Budget Bill with No Protection for DREAMers

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In a pair of early-morning votes, the U.S. House and Senate approved bills to end a brief overnight shutdown of the government. The bill raises military and domestic spending by almost $300 billion over the next two years. But the bill failed to meet the demands of immigrant rights groups—and many Democrats—who wanted protection for young undocumented immigrants whose protections President Trump ended last fall. The House only passed thanks to 73 Democrats who joined Republicans backing the measure. We speak to Greisa Martínez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream. She is a recipient of DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

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

AMY GOODMAN: In a pair of early-morning votes, the House and Senate approved a bill to end a brief overnight shutdown of the U.S. government. The bill raises military and domestic spending by almost $300 billion over the next two years. But the bill failed to meet the demands of immigrant rights groups—and many Democrats—who wanted protection for young undocumented immigrants, whose protections President Trump ended last fall.

The government officially shut down at midnight, after Republican Senator Rand Paul temporarily blocked the Senate vote. Shortly before 2 a.m., the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 71 to 28. Then, around 5:30 a.m., the House passed the spending bill with a vote of 240 to 186.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had urged fellow Democrats to oppose the spending bill because it did not protect DREAMers. But 73 Democrats voted yes, helping the measure pass. Pelosi, who staged a record eight-hour speech on the House floor in support of immigration legislation, criticized the Republican leadership for blocking a vote on the DREAMers.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: There’s nothing partisan or political about protecting DREAMers. If DREAM Act were brought to the floor, it would pass immediately with strong bipartisan support. And I commend my Republican colleagues for their courage in speaking out on this. Yet our DREAMers hang in limbo with a cruel cloud of fear and uncertainty above them. The Republican moral cowardice must end.

AMY GOODMAN: House Majority Leader Paul Ryan vowed to open a discussion on DREAMers.

SPEAKER PAUL RYAN: I know that there is a real commitment to solving the DACA challenge in both political parties. That’s a commitment that I share. To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not. We will bring a solution to the floor, one that the president will sign. We must pass this budget agreement first, though, so that we can get onto that. So please know that we are committed to getting this done.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by Greisa Martínez Rosas. She is the executive director of United We Dream, a recipient of DACA herself, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Greisa, welcome to Democracy Now! What happened last night, early this morning, the votes in the Senate and the House to continue spending for the U.S. government, to stop the shutdown, but not dealing with immigrants?

GREISA MARTÍNEZ ROSAS: Thanks for having me. Good morning.

Yes, this morning we wake up devastated and determined to see that immigrant young people, like myself and millions of others, are protected from deportation, but devastated because Congress decided to not prioritize us and leave us behind and enable the mass deportation of Donald Trump. You saw, yesterday or this morning, Democrats, who vowed to stay with us and vote no on anything that did not include a DREAM Act, renege on that promise. And you saw the same thing—cowardice—from Paul Ryan and vulnerable House Republicans that did not stand up for the values and the beliefs of 86 percent of the American public, that people like myself and my little sister should stay in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: So, explain what transpired over the last 24 hours, what you understand actually took place behind the scenes. You had this record speech of Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, that she gave for eight hours on the floor, she voting no on the continuing spending for the government. And then, what do you make of what Paul Ryan, the House majority leader, the House speaker, said?

GREISA MARTÍNEZ ROSAS: You know, I think that everything was set in motion the moment that Chuck Schumer, on the Senate side, decided to end a shutdown without protection for immigrant young people and, at the same time, give in to the caps deal without the DREAM Act. And so, what you saw is then the Senate was able to move to send it over to the House, a caps deal, a CR, that did not include protection for immigrant young people. You saw Nancy Pelosi on the floor for eight hours talking about our stories, and that is in direct correlation with the power that immigrant young people have built from the community. But you also did not see her or other Democrats ask for a DREAM Act in exchange of the votes. In fact, 73 Democrats voted with Republicans to move forward on this. And so, we say to you, “We see you. We will not forget.” And to those Democrats—and some Republicans, like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen—that decided to elevate and to prioritize our lives and vote no on something without a resolution, we also see you, and we say thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly blasted young immigrants as “lazy,” telling reporters, “There are 690,000 official DACA registrants, and the president sent over what amounts to be two-and-a-half times that number, to 1.8 million. The difference between (690,000) and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up,” Kelly said. This is right before he’s come under fire for fully lauding the staff secretary in the White House, very close to President Trump, John Porter, for—who is now under fire for beating up his two wives.

GREISA MARTÍNEZ ROSAS: You know, I think that this is yet another signal of the pattern of racism, honestly, and disrespect to young people, people of color, immigrants in this country. I think that General Kelly has seen, or may not have seen, the thousands of immigrant young people that have taken over the Hill and that have been in action for the last couple of months.

But I want to say one thing very clear: This Donald Trump administration, they have a clear agenda of wiping immigrant young people and our families from this country. They have a concerted strategy to either deport us or lock us away for profit. And anything and anyone that does not stand in the way of that is an enabler of a white supremacist agenda, and we will not forget.

And I want to talk directly now to immigrant young people that might be hearing this and the 86 percent of the American public that is with us, and to say that at United We Dream we are committed to defending our democracy, we are committed to win, and we are committed to making sure that Donald Trump does not continue to separate families.

AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, Capitol Police arrested immigrant rights activists who held a nonviolent civil disobedience action inside the Senate rotunda. Members of the United We Dream coalition were demanding Congress pass a “clean DREAM Act”—without additional funding for President Trump’s expanded border wall or other anti-immigrant measures. This is one of the activists speaking after the arrests.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I saw a marvelous display of family values and what I would refer to as American values. And it was a shame. It was a shame that that display resulted in the arrests of over 14 DREAMers or immigrant youth. And it was just awe-inspiring for all those young people to make a stand and put their lives at risk for the people that they love.

AMY GOODMAN: Greisa Martínez Rosas, what next for United We Dream activists and others, now that the House and the Senate have voted?

GREISA MARTÍNEZ ROSAS: We continue on. Our lives are at stake. And so, March 5th is a deadline that Republicans have set themselves to ensure that this happens. We are looking to you to make sure that you stand in the way of enabling Donald Trump. But you also will see and continue to see immigrant young people working with folks at the state and local community to make sure that there are protections for immigrants, because there’s a lot of things that governors and mayors can do to ensure that families stay together. But one thing is clear: United We Dream has a proven record—proven track record of ensuring that we transform devastation and fear into action and into change. And so, I think you will see immigrant young people continuing to lead the way in defending our democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Greisa, I want to turn to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer speaking yesterday.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: So I say to Speaker Ryan: Allow a fair and open process to debate DREAMers on the floor of the House, just as we are allowing in the Senate. Leader Pelosi shouldn’t have to stand and speak for eight hours—I respect her for doing it—just to secure a vote, on an issue as compelling and pressing as DREAMers. What Leader Pelosi is asking for is the same thing we got here in the Senate—no more, no less: a vote and an open process. That is undeniably fair.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I wanted to get your response, Greisa, to both what Senator Schumer said and also the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to bring up immigration next week in a rare Senate floor debate. What are you expecting from this?

GREISA MARTÍNEZ ROSAS: Look, I think we understand that Senator Mitch McConnell set in motion a process for the first floor debate on immigration in a long time. I think that you’ll see a lot of partisan positioning, a lot of people putting up amendments that are going to make each other uncomfortable. And in the balance hangs my life and the life of immigrant young people all across the country.

And so, you know, our response to Republicans is that there has been a firm pushback against the White House framework that aims to dismantle our immigration system. It aims to add more enforcement into our communities, and that has been clearly rejected by immigrant rights communities. I think that at United We Dream, we are clear that we continue to demand a DREAM Act that does not harm people, to help us. We continue to be committed to this country and to our—again, our democracy. And we will not allow ourselves to be used as bargaining chips in this process. And so—

AMY GOODMAN: Greisa, what does this mean personally for you? You are a DACA recipient. What does that mean right now? Now that Trump has ended DACA, it’s—is it ending in March? Everything is so unclear at this point.

GREISA MARTÍNEZ ROSAS: It started—Trump killed DACA. And my little sister’s DACA expires in August of this year. I don’t have anything to bring to her right now to bring her comfort and to tell her that she’ll be able to be OK and safe. She lives in the state of Texas, where there are racist policies, like SB 4, that track young brown people like my little sister. And so, I think that what is at stake for me is my heart. What’s at stake for me is my belief in this democracy. And hopefully—I know, for sure, that we shall overcome and that my little sister and I will live safe. And I’m not going to stop until we get there.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Greisa Martínez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to the Olympics in Korea. Stay with us.

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