Pelosi Floor Remarks Calling for an Immediate House Vote on the Bipartisan DREAM Act
Contact: Ashley Etienne/Henry Connelly, 202-226-7616
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of U.S. House of Representatives calling for an immediate vote on the bipartisan DREAM Act. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
Leader Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding and I thank all of the Members of the Rules Committee for the exceptional service they provide to the House in reviewing legislation that will come to the floor. I particularly want to thank my colleagues on the Democratic side for honoring the values of our country by advocating for an amendment to include the DREAM Act as we go forward. I hope most of our Members would vote ‘no’ on this rule and allow for the previous question to come forward that will allow for the DREAM Act to be considered.
I want to thank the Chairman of the Committee and the Distinguished Members on the Republican side as well as the Democratic side for the hospitality extended to deputy, Democratic Whip, Mr. Hoyer, Chair of the Hispanic Caucus, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, and to me. At that meeting, Mr. Speaker, I told the colleagues that we are in a tradition of having great Democratic and Republican presidents who had been supportive of newcomers to our country and who recognize that immigration is the constant reinvigoration of America.
When people come to our country with their hopes and dreams and aspirations to make the future better for their families, they are identifying with an American ideal. All of us having the responsibility to make the future better for the next generation and their commitment, their courage, their optimism, their determination for a better future makes America more American. Every newcomer who comes here, with that determination makes America more American, and among those people are our DREAMers.
This is a very discreet group that we were hoping to protect in the DREAM Act. Certainly, as our colleagues acknowledged this morning, we have important work to do in comprehensive immigration reform. We have a responsibility to protect our borders, north and south, and anything that lies in, east coast, west coast, and through the gulf.
But the fact is that, as was pointed out by Ms. Lujan Grisham, Chair of the Hispanic Caucus, think of the DREAMers as a discreet piece that needs protection now and not wait for the entire comprehensive immigration reform to be resolved before we deal with this emergency. Just as we – CHIP – nine million children are depending on CHIP, but we are not waiting until we revise the whole health care system to revise CHIP nor did when we – when we passed CHIP, it was before the Affordable Care Act had passed, but let me tell you why it's really important for this to happen now.
Unfortunately, and really I was pleased that our Speaker registered his disappointment – disagreement with President Trump when he – when he took the action he did in regard to DACA in September. When he did that and said, ‘I’ll give Congress until March to pass a law,’ what he didn't understand is he was putting these DREAMers at a distinct disadvantage. Every day nearly, over 100, 120-some DACA recipients, DACA eligible, lose their status. That means if they're working or if they're – whatever they're doing, they lose their status to do that in our country.
Over 10,000 have lost status since the President's announcement, well over 10,000. So we can't wait till March to do this, because it had consequences known to us but unforeseen by the White House and by the President. I don't think in his heart that the President intended to hurt these people in the very cruel way that they are being hurt by the actions that are being taken. So we can't wait until March. We need action. We need it soon, and we need it to be bipartisan, and that's what we have been working on. Not me, Members, Member-driven bipartisan cooperation in trying to find a path that addresses the concerns that some have about the border – we all do – and also addresses the DREAM Act.
As the President said, let's call it DACA. We’ll call it DACA. Here we are, and I said at the beginning of our remarks that we have been blessed in our country by presidents who have recognized the value of immigration, that our country would be in stagnation if we didn't have this constant reinvigoration of those to our country.
And so when President Obama acted because Congress had not acted to protect the DREAMers and their parents, that was really important for him to do because Congress had not acted. However, it's important to note that President Reagan, when he was president, and President [George] Herbert Walker Bush was, at that time, Vice President, Congress did act, the Immigration Act of 1986. They did act and President Reagan's observation is they didn't go far enough. So he took further executive action called Family Fairness to protect people in our country. Immigrants in our country.
Actually, President Reagan and President George Herbert Walker Bush protected a higher percentage of newcomers to our country than President Obama did with his DACA action. Higher percentage, because they understood the value to our country of newcomers. President Clinton continued all that, and President George W. Bush was a champion and continues to be a champion on recognizing the value of immigration. He has spoken about it intellectually and with respect from the heart for people coming to our country and has urged us to do so. He couldn't get the cooperation of his own party when he was president to cooperate for immigration, comprehensive immigration reform, even though when we had the power as Democrats we supported it but he could not get the 60 votes in the Senate.
But nonetheless, [George W. Bush] continues to be a champion, really, for immigration reform. And so here we have a new president who campaigned on the backs of newcomers to our country, made immigrants villains. It’s a complete change from the Republican Party, commitment to valuing newcomers and diversity in our country. A complete departure from President Reagan, President [George] Herbert Walker Bush, President George W. Bush, just to name the Republican Presidents, and so we find ourselves in this situation, but that doesn't change the fact that we have a responsibility to all of God's children to treat them with respect and when we can do something to be helpful, we should.
So there is, there is harm that is coming to the DREAMers every day because they are losing status. Regardless of what some may say, some are being deported. This may be unknown to the President, but it's not unknown to us in this Congress.
So I want to thank Congresswoman, Madam Chair of the Hispanic Caucus – Congressional Hispanic Caucus [Michelle Lujan Grisham] and her Members. I want to thank [Congresswoman] Judy Chu, the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Congresswoman Yvette Clarke who, working with the Congressional Black Caucus, has been a champion in that Caucus, and all other Members on both sides of the aisle who are striving to find a path and one path that we have open to us is to allow to defeat this rule, to allow the DREAM Act to come up, and to put that in the mix as we go – as we go forward.
Again this isn't an issue, this isn't a bill, it's a value. It's a value. That’s the conversation we had with President Trump, this isn't an issue. This is a value. This is about who we are as a nation and how we respect who we are as a nation, and that's why I believe that President Trump will be receptive to signing a bill. He does want concerns for border security and we'll work with him on that. But let's start by putting on the record the support of this House for recognition that we are by and large, unless some of you are Native Americans and how proud we are of our Native American community in our country and how blessed we are, but most of us come from immigrant families.
It was interesting to me in doing some reading on some of this, very proud of my own Italian-American heritage, my grandmother was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Her friends were from Venice and Genoa. My father's family also from Italy. But what was interesting to me in recent days, I remember, I didn't suffer this, but I know my father and others did, they were called WOPs, Italians. Do you know what that means? Without papers. That’s what we were called, without papers, people are without papers. But in every way they are American. Every way they are American.
I just want to tell you a couple of stories: one is Fernando. Fernando is in my district, his family came to the U.S., he came to the U.S. when he was 9-years-old. In high school, he was an AP scholar, received the international baccalaureate diploma and achievement award in foreign language for French. He continued to excel academically at Santa Clara University where he graduated cum laude, where he graduated cum laude with a degree in French. He now works at UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center where he's working hard to provide new insights into diseases and disorders.
I want to tell you one other: Lisette. She was just 6-years-old when her family brought her to the U.S. from Chile. She excelled in school and was involved in her community. She went on to attend Harvard where she received numerous awards and participated in a variety of extracurricular activities. She recently graduated Harvard with honors. She and other DREAMers have so much to contribute to our country.
Donald Trump and other Republicans have made their agenda clear: they want to shut down DACA and DAPA and deport hundreds of thousands of DREAMers and parents of Americans, that's what DREAMers think. We don't want them to think that. We want them to think they are valued. The President understands the value of our DREAMers and the challenges that they face. If we don't do something soon, Lisette will be deported back to Chile, a country where she hasn't lived since she was 6-years-old.
Thousands and thousands of stories of success of those serving in our military, attending our schools, teaching our children – teaching our children – working in high-level positions because they all have that immigrant attitude of hard work, hard work ethic, work ethic, a faith ethic, a family ethic, a sense of community.
Let’s, in the sense and spirit of community, defeat this rule and allow the DREAM Act to come forward. With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
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