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Archive for January, 2018

A call to action and statement by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC)

CALL TO ACTION:  Between now and February 8, we urge you to contact Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith to demand that they stand firm and refuse to vote for a budget unless and until Congress and the President pass a clean Dream Act.

Contact them to say: “Senator, I want you to use your leverage by refusing to vote for a budget until there is a CLEAN Dream Act that provides permanent protection for immigrant youth without being linked to the border wall or other attacks on immigrants.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar
Washington office: 202-224-3244
Metro Office: 612-727-5220
Email: https://www.klobuchar.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-amy

Senator Tina Smith
Washington office: 202-224-5641


Analysis and background

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Last September, President Trump cruelly announced the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a temporary status won through struggle that shielded around 800,000 immigrant youth from deportation and allowed them to get work permits and drivers licenses. Without DACA, they will all be subject to deportation.

A mass movement of immigrant youth and their communities and friends have responded to this threat by meeting with and pressuring politicians, and organizing vigils, marches, and sit-ins. The movement is demanding that Congress pass a Clean Dream Act to give immigrant youth permanent protection. The “clean” part means that it should not be bundled in with measures that would oppress other immigrants – a clean fix for DACA youth should be passed on its own.

Trump, whose racist and anti-immigrant politics have been crystal clear from the day he launched his presidential campaign with vicious attacks on Mexican immigrants, set an arbitrary March 5 deadline for Congress to act to legislate protection for DACA. He said if Congress sent him a bill he would sign it. Trump has not suddenly had a change of heart and decided he likes immigrant youth. What he’s doing is engaging in the most cynical gambit possible. He is holding 800,000 immigrant youth hostage, and demanding as ransom that the Democrats give in to the entire immigration wish list of the most extreme white supremacists. In exchange for protection for DACA youth, he is demanding that Congress pass his obscene border wall and dramatic increase of militarization of the border, end the decades-long policy of family-based migration (what the racists call ‘chain-migration’), and end the diversity visa lottery, which is responsible for more than half of the migration from Africa.

The effect of these policies would be nothing less than wide scale ethnic cleansing targeting Mexican and Central American people most directly, but also hitting hard against people from all of Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Since the Republicans have the presidency and a majority in the House and Senate, if they were united as a party they should be able to pass all the anti-immigrant laws they want without any Democratic Party votes. But they are internally divided. And due to U.S. Senate procedural rules, 60 votes are needed to pass a budget, but there are only 51 Republican senators. So even if all Republicans stick together, they still need at least 9 Democrats to vote with the Republicans to pass a budget to keep the government open.

This is one of the few pieces of leverage the Democrats have in the current Congress to demand things they want in exchange for their votes on the budget. After pressure from mass immigrant rights protests at the Capitol and around the country, on January 19 the Democrats announced they were withholding their votes on the budget because Republicans would not agree to a permanent fix for DACA youth. The Republicans therefore couldn’t pass a budget, so the government shut down.

Since the Republicans control the whole government, a prolonged government shutdown would be blamed on them. The Democrats had all the leverage to demand a Clean Dream Act as the price for giving their votes to end the shut down. It was the best shot they had at wringing a concession to defend immigrants from Trump and the Republicans.

But for that to work, the Democrats needed to stand firm.

They didn’t.

Three days later, 81 senators voted to end the shutdown, among them 33 Democrats, including both of Minnesota’s senators – Amy Klobuchar, and newcomer Tina Smith. In the deal to end the shutdown, there was nothing concrete for Dreamers; just serial liar Mitch McConnell’s word that he would let the issue come up in the Senate. First, his word is worthless. Second, such a process is guaranteed to produce a flurry of harsh anti-immigrant amendments, which will pass with the Republican majority in the Senate producing a toxic anti-immigrant bill. Third, this ‘deal’ did not include any commitment from House leader Paul Ryan to deal with a DACA fix in the House, or from Trump that he would sign such a bill if Congress passed it. In short, the Democratic leadership caved, needlessly handing over their best bargaining chip of withholding their votes on the budget until Dreamers are protected.

And not only that. In the negotiations to try to end the shutdown, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer put funding for Trump’s border wall on the table, offering to support that if Dreamers were protected. House Rep. Luis Gutierrez made the same offer, even offering to help build the wall himself (!) if Dreamers were protected. That negotiation stalled so it didn’t happen. But by showing that they are willing to agree to fund Trump’s wall under the right conditions, the Democrats have signaled to the Republicans that they are willing to go there, so now it is much more likely that the Republicans will force the Democrats to give in on the border wall to get anything for Dreamers. If the Democrats themselves had held firm and not put the wall on the table, they could have increased pressure on the Republicans to agree to a clean Dream Act. Now that will be all the more difficult with the Republicans smelling the blood in the water. After the vote to end the shutdown, President Trump gloated that the Senate Democrats had caved in, even as the Democrats feebly said they hadn’t.

So what was negotiated to end the shut down after only 3 days?

As it turns out, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was a key player in a group of ‘centrist’ politicians who forced an end to the shutdown after just one weekend, before it really even had much of an impact.

In December, Senator Klobuchar’s staff had assured members of MIRAC and other immigrant rights groups that she was ‘on our side’ and was taking a principled stand to withhold her vote on the budget until there was a solution for Dreamers.

She didn’t. And neither did new Minnesota Senator Tina Smith.

What happened?

Not only did Amy Klobuchar do a 180 and give her vote to end the shut down with nothing tangible for Dreamers in return, she actually played a central role in orchestrating the Democratic cave in after just 3 days.

It’s widely rumored that Senator Klobuchar has presidential ambitions. It’s worth noting that the other senators with presidential ambitions all voted to continue the government shutdown since there was nothing tangible yet for Dreamers. Only Klobuchar decided that she would build her presidential ambitions on a foundation of ‘common sense centrism’ which in practice means throwing 800,000 immigrant youth under the bus, not to mention their families and communities.

The budget deal that ended the shutdown was another temporary measure that just funds the government until February 8. So the struggle is not over.

We call on all supporters of immigrant rights to bring as much political pressure as we can to bear on Senator Klobuchar and Senator Smith before February 8 to demand that they do the right thing this time and stand up for immigrant youth until they win something concrete, rather than buckling at the first sign of turbulence. We must demand that they stand firm to say “No Clean Dream Act, no budget.”

And if the Republicans won’t agree to a clean Dream Act before Trump’s arbitrary March 5th deadline, then they must demand that Trump extend the deadline or reinstate DACA, which he has the power to do.

The alternative to the Democrats standing up to Republican bullying is putting the future of millions of immigrants — including 800,000 DACA youth — directly in the hands of Trump’s deportation machine.

We need our senators to hold firm to demand a vote in the House and Senate on a Clean Dream Act to protect the Dreamers from senseless deportation. This means no concessions that tear families apart through restrictions on family-based migration, no funding for border walls and no changes to the Diversity Visa Lottery. Delaying actions and empty promises will mean deportation for thousands of our immigrant neighbors. We must do all we can to prevent that.

Expand Sanctuary Now

As we inch closer to the March 5 DACA deadline, we also call on people to support our Sanctuary Platform campaign in Minneapolis and adapt and spread it to other cities. The Sanctuary Platform demands that the city deepen its commitment to protecting immigrant residents from the claws of the Trump administration and their ICE stormtroopers. We encourage people in other cities to also demand a deeper commitment to sanctuary from their local officials. Because whether Congress passes a Dream Act or not, deportations will continue and we need to fortify every line of defense we can to stop them. Email us at miracmn@gmail.com  If you’d be willing to contact your city councilperson and the mayor to win their support for the Sanctuary Platform.

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