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On Anniversary of DAPA Announcement, “DAPA Dinners” Effort Offers Fresh Reminder of What’s at Stake for Millions of Immigrant Families

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Senators and Congressmen Continue to Sign Up for Sit Down with DAPA-Eligible Families 

Today, November 20th, marks the one year anniversary of President Obama’s historic DAPA announcement, which would’ve grant much needed deportation relief to millions of immigrants and their families.  While the day should be a joyous occasion met with celebration and cheerful commemoration, for many families, it’s the exact opposite.  The politically motivated lawsuit holding DAPA up in the courts has forced millions to wait in a tumultuous limbo. 

However, despite the legal setbacks and the ugly partisan rhetoric heard on the campaign trail, the immigrant community remains resolute and undeterred.  “DAPA Dinners” – a new initiative that invites all 2016 candidates and Members of Congress to break bread with an immigrant family – launched last week with a historic meal with Democratic Presidential Candidate Martin O’Malley and the DAPA-eligible Ramirez family from Austin, Texas. During the dinner, the Ramirez family discussed how their lives have been impacted by Congress’s inaction on immigration reform, as well as the partisan lawsuit blocking the implementation of DAPA. The dinner marked the first time a Presidential candidate has visited the home of a family headed by undocumented immigrants, raising the stakes for the rest of the 2016 field.  You can catch video of the dinner, captured by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., here and tweets and photos here.  

The effort to connect leaders with DAPA-eligible families continues to move full steam ahead. On Saturday, Illinois Senator and immigration reform champion U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) will be the first US Senator to have a meal with DAPA-eligible constituents. Dinners hosted by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) are in the works.  The Dreamer-led group DREAM Iowa issued their own “DAPA Dinner” invites to all the candidates on the 2016 campaign trail (watch video of them here), and the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights is planning their own DAPA Dinner.    

Much is at stake for the 2016 candidates on this issue.  As a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) highlights, U.S. citizen family members of DAPA-eligible individual are poised to play an important role in influencing outcomes of future elections.

Said Greisa Martinez, Advocacy Coordinator at United We Dream Action: “The stories of our families are more amazing than any movie you could watch on the big screen yet too often get reduced to statistics when it comes to policymaking. At United We Dream Action, we believe that all good policy is driven by the lived experience of our members, we invite candidates to share a meal with our families and get inspired.”

Added Kica Matos, Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice for Center for Community Change Action and Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM): “The criminalization of families seeking asylum and refuge is a moral stain on our nation and exacerbates the trauma families have already experienced. Since its founding, the U.S. has always been a beacon of hope for those fleeing oppression and persecution. We can and must do more. As we mark this anniversary, the struggles of our families to make better lives here have only made us stronger as we fight for comprehensive immigration reform for all who seek refuge in the U.S.”

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “We’re trying to make candidates realize that this is not about ‘policies,’ it’s about people.  Sit down with a family and get to know them.  Learn what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes.  Maybe then you’ll see the issue from a new perspective.” 

DAPA Dinners is a joint effort between America’s Voice, United We Dream Action and Center for Community Change Action/Fair Immigration Reform Movement.  Learn more about DAPA Dinners at americasvoice.org/dapadinners.