Pelosi pushes back at immigration protesters who heckled her

Pelosi pushes back at immigration protesters who heckled her
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushed back Wednesday against charges that the Democrats aren’t fighting hard enough to protect undocumented immigrations from deportation. 

Pelosi this week was heckled by immigration reform advocates who accused the Democrats of abandoning millions of undocumented immigrants with their decision to prioritize protections for the so-called Dreamers, who number fewer than 800,000. 

Pelosi rejected that critique, saying the Democrats will continue their long-term fight for comprehensive immigration reform. But the first step, she said, must be the Dreamers, who are newly at risk of deportation after President Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program earlier in the month. 

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“There are some, the protesters up in San Francisco, who said, ‘All or none. We’re not going to do the Dreamers unless we do comprehensive immigration reform,’ ” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.  

“Well, we don’t have that opportunity now.”

Last Wednesday, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump knocks Schumer, touts North Korea summit in early morning tweet Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems want answers on DOJ ObamaCare decision The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump, Kim make history with summit MORE (D-N.Y.) huddled with Trump at the White House, where the trio agreed to the contours of a deal that would provide protection to DACA recipients and bolster border security measures. In repealing DACA, the president gave Congress a six-month window to adopt legislative protections for those enrolled in the program, who were brought to the country illegally as children.

It’s unclear how — or if — Republican congressional leaders will act on the president’s guidelines. But Pelosi, who had passed a version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act through the House as Speaker in 2010, said Trump’s support creates a political opportunity to enact those protections this year. She said Democrats shouldn’t fritter that away by fighting for broader reforms that are likely unattainable.

“We have to save the Dreamers now,” she said. “The constituency is there for our country. Its success will lead to other success. And with all the respect and concern that I have for other undocumenteds. … I can’t go down that path." 

“But we do want to continue down the path of comprehensive immigration reform,” she quickly added. “It’s absolutely essential to our country.” 

On Monday, Pelosi, along with Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), staged an event in San Francisco to promote the DREAM Act. It was designed to put pressure on Republican leaders to bring a bill to the floor.

The strategy backfired when a group of young protesters went after the Democrats instead with accusations that party leaders aren’t doing enough to stem deportations. Some held signs saying, “Fight for all 11 million,” a reference to the estimated number of undocumented immigrants in the country.  

Pelosi on Wednesday said Democratic leaders have been thorough in reaching out to immigrant rights groups of all stripes. She said protecting the families of Dreamers is “the next logical step” if Congress can secure a DACA fix. 

“The DREAM Act has been a priority. We think it is a good first step,” Pelosi said.  

“Some people are saying, ‘Well, if you pass that then what about other undocumented?’ Well, comprehensive immigration reform is our goal,” she added. “We do want to protect the families.”