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Chagrin Falls, OH – Today, a diverse group of Dreamers, other immigrants, community members, and local leaders gathered in Triangle Park and engaged in a silent protest for the Dream Act and against cruel deportations. They called on Congressman David Joyce to do everything in his power to bring the Dream Act to a vote in Congress this year.
The community collected hundreds of pairs of shoes, which were spread out across Triangle Park to represent Dreamers and other Ohio immigrants who have been deported or are at risk of deportation. The empty shoes ask “Who will fill my shoes if I am deported?” and reference the jobs, homes, families, and lives left behind when an immigrant is forced to leave her adopted country. The final tally will be posted on the event’s Facebook page here.
After the event, the shoes will be donated to the DREAMS Academy in Akron, which is collecting shoes to raise money for their work. The mission of DREAMS Academy is to Develop Responsible Extraordinary African-American Males for Success. The shoes will be sold to a distribution network and begin their second lives.
The silent protest also featured a theatrical act, performed by Ohio Dreamers. Under President Trump, one immigrant is deported every 2 minutes and 20 seconds. During the event, Dreamers stood in silence for 2 minutes and 20 seconds, and then removed their shoes, stepping away from the event and leaving their shoes behind – the last remaining sign that they were there. Rev. Susi Kawolics from The Federated Church, UCC, in Chagrin Falls, broke the silence and called on Congressman David Joyce to do everything in his power to pass the Dream Act this year and put an end to heartless deportations.
Representatives from Indivisible CLE and Organizing For Action were also there to register voters and provide information about how to vote in the May 8primaries. After the event, the crowd fanned out across downtown Chagrin Falls to pass out information about the Dream Act.
California Rep. Jeff Denham is attempting to use a procedure called “Queen of the Hill” to bring various immigration bills to a vote in the House floor, including the Dream Act. The Ohioans gathered here believe Rep. Joyce should work with Denham to make sure the Dream Act gets a vote.
BACKGROUND ON THE DREAM ACT IN OHIO
Approximately 4,400 Ohioans have had DACA since the program began. If DACA had remained in place, 9,000 Ohioans would qualify for it. As it stands today, 10,000 Ohioans would qualify for legal status under the bipartisan Dream Act.
The youngest Dreamers – like Rosa Maria Hernandez – never had a chance to apply for DACA, because the program doesn’t start until you turn 16. The oldest Dreamers – like Beatriz Casillas – were too “old” to apply for DACA, and many like her have already being deported. Even some people with valid DACA statusare being detained and deported.
Policy Matters Ohio analyzed the economic contributions of Ohio’s Dreamers, and found that passing the Dream Act would increase the state’s GDP by at least $92 million per year – and likely much more, if beneficiaries continue to pursue higher education. Passing the Dream Act is not only the right thing to do for our friends and neighbors, but also the right thing for our state’s finances.
Congressman David Joyce is not a cosponsor of the Dream Act, and has not expressed support for Dreamers publicly. Senator Rob Portman has stated some support for Dreamers, but is proposing that they accept a second-class type of immigration status. Senator Sherrod Brown supports the Dream Act. Governor Kasich has said that Dreamers are “welcome in Ohio” and Congress should “Fix it. Get it done. Lead.”
QUOTES FROM EVENT ORGANIZERS
The event was sponsored by DreamActivist Ohio, Cleveland Jobs With Justice, Indivisible CLE, LOIRA, America’s Voice Ohio, InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Colombia, Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network, and Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland.
Jose Mendez, Cleveland Director of DreamActivist Ohio and a DACA beneficiary, said: “It’s sad we don’t have leaders anymore. It’s sad my own representatives can’t protect me, that they’re afraid of what is now ‘Trumpism.’ If I get a deportation date, what will it take for my representatives to protect me? Do they want to deport me like Trump does?”
Deb Kline, Director of Cleveland Jobs with Justice, said: “We are calling on both Congressman David Joyce and Senator Rob Portman to take immediate action to protect Dreamers. Many of the 9,000 Dreamers here in Ohio are former DACA recipients who are already working and contributing to our economy. It just does not make sense for our government to take away their work permits and drive them into the underground economy. Many Dreamers came to this country as babies; they grew up here, this is the only country they have ever known. Deporting them now would be one of the greatest injustices this country has ever seen. We hope that both Congressman Joyce and Senator Rob Portman will do their part to ensure that Congress passes a clean Dream Act before it is too late for Dreamers.”
Lynn Tramonte, Director of America’s Voice Ohio, said: “Donald Trump’s relentless deportation campaign is tearing apart local Ohio families. The Administration is focused on deporting as many people they can find, not just serious criminals, and are sweeping up many good people in the process. How many pairs of shoes need to go empty, before the lives of the people who fill them finally matter? How many American children need to suffer because the Trump Administration hates immigrants and feels empowered to do whatever it wants? We’re talking about hard-working, good people who are living productive lives and just want to go about their way in peace. Today we are standing up and saying that we will not allow our tax dollars to be used to separate families.”