HomeAsian AmericansAsian American Labor Leaders Arrested during Protest to Support DREAM Act

Asian American Labor Leaders Arrested during Protest to Support DREAM Act

Dream Act protest
Nineteen AAPI demonstrators were arrested at Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s office in Washington DC. Photo courtesy APALA

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Nineteen Asian American protesters, including two of the highest-ranking Asian American leaders in the labor movement, were arrested in Washington D.C. this week, during a protest to support the DREAM Act.

“I stood with my sisters and brothers to be arrested because the AAPI community can no longer stand idly by while Congress and the Trump administration criminalize immigrants and people of color, said SEIU Executive Vice President Luisa Blue, and founding member of Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA).

Protesters blocked the entrance of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office Wednesday and demanded that he move the Dream Act to a vote before Dec. 8. Those arrested include past and present leadership and APALA staff.

The arrests occurred in the first of a two-day action being held in coordination with the AAPI Immigrant Rights Organizing Table’s Days of Mobilization to demand a clean DREAM Act. On the second day, the AAPI activists visited with representatives in the House and Senate.

“More than 17,000 hard-working, law-abiding AAPI DACA recipients work and pay taxes in this country, and they now face being separated from their families and returned to the countries they left as children,” said Blue, a Filipino American labor leader. “Congress needs to pass a no-strings attached DREAM Act to protect 800,000 Dreamers, and act on behalf of our 300,000 sisters and brothers whose lives will be placed in limbo if Congress does not pass legislation extending Temporary Protected Status.”


Donald Trump called for an end of President Obama-instigated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last September and asked Congress to write legislation to allow the children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S., the only country they’ve known.
Dream Act Protest

After the Trump Administration announced the end to an executive branch program that has protected up to 800,000 undocumented immigrants since 2012, Democrats and Republicans have introduced several bills in Congress, each of which would provide a path to documented and legal residence.

Trump also announced that he would not formally suspend the program for another six months, in March 2018, giving Congress a six-month window to legislatively solve the issue. Many Republicans — though certainly not all — support the idea of keeping DACA or at least some similar alternative in place.

“Our labor movement is ready to resist, organize, and fight back against hate. Today, I was proud to join eighteen other sisters and brothers on the front lines to say that the labor movement is not turning our backs on our undocumented community, added Johanna Puno Hester, AFSCME International Vice President, Assistant Executive Director of the United Domestic Workers of America.

The GOP-dominated Congress has been so distracted by three unsuccessful attempts to do away with the American Care Act and to pass significant legislation to address infrastructure improvements and tax reform, that the bills addressing the young immigrants’ plight has gone to the wayside.

“It’s time to stop using the lives of immigrant youth as a bargaining chip in a cruel game of immigration politics,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “These fearless protesters represent a much larger and determined Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) population standing with and in support of getting the DREAM Act passed through Congress now.”

The bill most of the demonstrators support is S. 1615 also known at the DREAM Act of 2017 that has garnered bipartisan backing. The Senate bill and its House counterpart, H.R. 3440, await action in the respective houses’ Judicial Committees.

“Millions of undocumented working families live in fear of detention and deportation every single day,” says current APALA President Monica Thammarath of the National Education Association (NEA).

“The Trump administration continues to stoke fear into our immigrant and refugee communities, and today and every day until white supremacists are out of office, we will protect and defend our family, friends, and communities from hate violence, racism, and xenophobia.”

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