New York Times
By Miriam Jordan
December 07, 2017
Before Thanksgiving, Busy Philipps, an actress with a large following among millennial moms, urged her fans to bring up a “really important topic” at the holiday dinner table.
“Dreamers,” she said as she plopped food on her plate, in a video viewed 1.7 million times on Facebook. “Remember to call your member of Congress and tell them to pass that Dream Act, and encourage your family members to do the same.”
IBM is parading young immigrant employees through the halls of Congress. Television commercials are running in key districts. On Tuesday, evangelical Christians supporting the immigrants were arrested after demonstrating outside the office of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
Years of protests and lobbying by immigrants persuaded President Barack Obama in 2012 to create Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the program that has let 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, who are known as Dreamers, legally stay and work in the United States.
With their future now in jeopardy, a wide range of well-organized, well-financed supporters are lining up behind the Dreamers, including celebrities, philanthropists, religious groups and pillars of corporate America.
“Hundreds of thousands of young people’s lives are on the line,” said Laurene Powell Jobs, whose organization, Emerson Collective, paid for some of the television commercials and arranged the celebrity involvement. “That requires us to find new ways to engage audiences that don’t understand the threat these young people are facing.”
In September, the Trump administration, saying that Mr. Obama had abused his authority and circumvented Congress to create DACA, announced it would begin phasing out the program in March. President Trump also urged Congress to find a legislative remedy to replace it.
Those who support relief for the immigrants have turned up the pressure this month as Congress tries to avert a government shutdown with a spending bill. On Wednesday, more than 4,000 DACA recipients and supporters rallied in Washington and in cities around the country, staging sit-ins at congressional offices and blocking the entrance to the Capitol, where around 200 people were arrested. Organizers vowed to escalate the protests on Thursday.
Republicans control Congress but cannot keep the government running without Democrats, and several Democrats have said they will not vote for a spending bill unless it also resolves the plight of the immigrants. On Thursday, the Senate and House minority leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, are scheduled to meet with Mr. Trump and Republican leaders to discuss various issues, including the spending bill and, potentially, DACA recipients.
The multipronged campaign to help the young immigrants underscores how much the country has come to identify with them and how extensively they have been integrated into the economy. Many Republicans have joined Democrats in supporting DACA beneficiaries, and polls show overwhelming support for them. It is no longer politically risky to get behind them.
At the same time, many of the ads, videos and demonstrations are sidestepping the major sticking point, an issue that has divided some immigrant groups themselves. Leading Republicans have said any relief for the young immigrants must be paired with bolstered border security, more restrictions on legal immigration, or both, a trade-off that is usually left unmentioned in the advocacy.
In a recent conference call with religious leaders who supported helping the immigrants, one Republican, Representative Peter Roskam of Illinois, told them he would support legislation to shield the immigrants from deportation only if it came with enhanced border measures. In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Roskam’s office said his view had not changed.
The mobilization began in September, as soon as the Trump administration announced the repeal of the deferred-action program.
The following month, some 60 businesses, trade associations and other groups representing virtually every major industry formed the Coalition for the American Dream. Among the participants are Coca-Cola, Western Union, Ikea, Hilton and Marriott.
The companies, which have a substantial lobbying presence in Washington, began leveraging relationships with lawmakers from districts where they have major operations. In mid-November, a lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill involved officials from 40 large companies introducing DACA recipients who work for their firms to lawmakers.
“We held dozens of meetings with members of Congress from both parties and we heard consistently that they want a solution,” said Christopher Padilla, vice president of government affairs for IBM, which employs more than 30 DACA recipients. He added that the company wanted lawmakers to “give Dreamers the clarity and stability they deserve.”
Fwd.us, an advocacy group backed by Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, and the New American Economy, representing a bipartisan group of mayors and business leaders, began organizing events. A television, media and celebrity-outreach campaign got underway, much of it coordinated by Emerson Collective, the organization founded by Ms. Jobs, the widow of Steven P. Jobs, the Apple co-founder.
Emerson partnered with Ms. Philipps to produce the video; sent a “We Are All Dreamers” T-shirt to Ellen DeGeneres, who wore it in a photo she shared on Instagram; and invited Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, to make a video that appeared on Twitter. It also created content with Teen Vogue, which has taken on some liberal causes, to encourage activism supporting the Dream Act.
On Tuesday, it sent a truck to Houston, where young immigrants and others lined up for photographs that were printed as giant posters and plastered on exterior walls of the student center at the University of Houston. Those waiting to enter the photo booth could pick up cards that explained the Dream Act and offered sample language for posts on social media.
Among those photographed was a DACA recipient named Laura Cruz, a public-health major who clutched the cap and gown she had just picked up to wear at her December graduation. Given the uncertainty over her future, she said, “It’s hard for me to decide what to do next.”
Davis Darnsman, a junior studying corporate communications, said his best friend had received DACA protection. He also said he would be amenable to bolstered border security. “There has to some compromise that can be made to benefit everybody,” he said.
The first of several TV ads that Ms. Jobs’s group aired featured President Ronald Reagan in his 1989 farewell speech extolling the United States as a “shining city on a hill” that was a beacon to immigrants. One Reagan scholar took issue with the use of the speech, writing in an opinion piece that “Reagan would have gagged” at DACA.
On Tuesday, the dozens of evangelical Christians who gathered outside Mr. Ryan’s office bore boxes stuffed with cards on which young immigrants in their communities had written messages relating their “dreams.” Several protesters poured the cards onto the floor as if they were an offering, then knelt, prayed and sang “Silent Night” before being arrested on civil disobedience charges.
Cheryl Miller, a lifelong Republican who had traveled from rural Texas to the demonstration, said, “This is the first time I have done anything like this.”
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