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Immigration Reform “Office Hours”

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 Rep. Ruben Gallego, DREAMers and Immigration Advocates Talk About What’s Happening in Congress & the States on Immigration Policy 

To listen to a recording of today’s call, click here.

On this week’s Office Hours call, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) joined DREAMers and immigration advocates to react to last night’s House vote to strike out an amendment from the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have encouraged the Administration to let DACA recipients enlist in the U.S. military.

“It’s a sad day when a statement of support, a ‘Sense of Congress’ becomes this controversial and because of pure politics can’t get through the house,” said Congressman Ruben Gallego about last night’s vote. He added, “I’m extremely disappointed that Republicans couldn’t put aside politics and vote to support DREAMers joining the military. It’s clear that the extreme right of the Republican Party is in the driver seat and sadly they continue stopping progress on reforms that are in the best interest of our country, our armed forces and immigrant families. Shame on them.”

Despite the dysfunction on Capitol Hill, the pro-immigration movement continues to open new fronts on immigration policy battles at the state level.

In Nevada, for example, the state legislature unanimously passed a bill this week to grant teaching licenses to DACA recipients.

Said Astrid Silva, a Dreamer and Immigration Organizer for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, about this new development: “With passage of AB27 DACA students are able to fulfill their dreams of becoming teachers in the only place they know as home. DACAmented Nevadans will also help alleviate the teacher shortage crisis in Nevada.

Meanwhile, yesterday, in Nebraska, legislators advanced a bill to extend driver’s licenses to DACA-mented youth after a powerful campaign led by Nebraska Appleseed.

“The LB 623 vote shows an overwhelming majority of State Senators recognize the valuable contributions DREAMers make to Nebraska communities and our state,” Darcy Tromanhauser, Nebraska Appleseed’s Immigrants and Communities Director said. “We thank the senators who supported the bill and stood up for the hard-working, talented young people who will only increase their contributions to Nebraska if this bill is passed.”

She added, “This also has an impact well beyond driver’s licenses. The depth of support from communities across the state and a wide range of perspectives – including groups like the Nebraska Cattlemen, local chambers of commerce, city leaders, and small-town newspapers –  demonstrates the major shift that has happened over the past few years and the expectation that it is time for Congress to fix our outdated immigration laws.”

She was joined by Nebraska DACA recipient Alejandra Ayotitla, who shared her personal experience about what this bill would mean for her: “For me it has been very exciting to be part of this fight because it is something that affects me every day. I’m a sophomore in college and I have a job and I do research for the university, so it’s very complicated to be able to fulfill all the responsibilities without being able to drive.  It’s been very frustrating to rely on people for rides, or I have to take the bus, or worst case, actually drive because there’s no other option for me.  But that’s just my story, and there’s a lot of others like me so we’re all very excited about this advancement of this bill.”

California was also in the news this week.  Los Angeles County voted to end the controversial 287(g) program after years of advocacy by numerous organizations, although the County Board did not completely sever ties with ICE as the movement had wanted.

According to Angelica Salas, Executive Director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), “The state of California, for almost 20 years, has led the way on immigrant action–it has shifted because leadership has shifted at the state level and they understand that they have to be responsive to the growing Latino and immigrant community.  Our families cannot wait for justice.  We’re not giving up on federal immigration reform–we’re not giving up on the dream of citizenship—but we’re focusing a lot at the local level to build our political power and movement power that will finally force Republicans to do the right thing and get out of the way of our community’s quest for a better future in this country.”