Illegal immigrant “Dreamers” tried to disrupt the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Thursday, saying they wanted to draw attention to their plight as Congress debates whether to grant them full legal status.
Several protesters tried to stage a demonstration by rushing out into the street and sitting down in the middle of the parade route as a band marched by. The protesters wore red T-shirts and chanted “Undocumented, unafraid,” which has become a motto of the illegal immigrant community demanding an amnesty.
Police quickly pulled them to their feet and pushed them to the side of the route, with the disruption lasting just a few seconds.
The protesters, organized by the Seed Project, said the country depends on Dreamers, calling themselves “the backbones of our schools, industries and communities.”
“We are your classmates, your coworkers, and your neighbors,” Hector-Jario Martinez, one of the protesters, said in a statement released after the demonstrations.
Dreamers also launched a push in recent days to get Americans to leave an empty space at their Thanksgiving tables as a statement of support for an amnesty.
Dreamers, or young adult illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, are among the most sympathetic figures in the immigration debate, and about 800,000 were approved for tentative legal protections under the Obama-era deportation amnesty, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The DACA program had long been legally suspect, and the Trump administration in September announced a phaseout, saying no new permits would be issued and putting a time-limit on renewals. Anyone protected up through March 5 could get a renewal, but permits will begin to expire, on a rolling basis, after that.
President Trump has said he wants to see Congress pass a bill granting Dreamers a more permanent status by March 5.
But Dreamers, and congressional Democrats, have instead said they want a bill passed by the end of this year. Some Democrats have said they will risk a government shutdown to force a bill this year.
They’ve also balked at Mr. Trump’s demand that any bill also include new security measures such as his border wall, new internal enforcement powers and a limit on chain migration.
After the death of a Border Patrol agent last weekend Mr. Trump renewed his call for a border wall, saying it was critical to security.
“We’re going to have the wall. It’s a part of what we’re doing. We need it,” the president said.
The Senate GOP included $1.6 billion for 74 miles of new or replacement fencing in the year-end spending bill package it announced this week, boosting the president’s hopes.
But the Dreamers chafe against those negotiations, saying it turns them into “bargaining chips” to be used in exchange for stopping future illegal immigration.
“They are negotiating away the power and dignity of our immigrant community,” said Catalina Santiago, one of the protesters. “The community is being pitted against each other — children against parents.”
The Trump administration is also fighting lawsuits in courts from San Francisco to New York against Dreamers and their defenders, who have charged the president’s decision to phase out the DACA program was done illegally.
Several judges, meanwhile, have ordered individual Dreamers’ DACA status renewed in cases over the last year, ruling the government short-circuited the process in trying to strip their protections and deport them.