Members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community added their voices to a national movement to support undocumented immigrants with a rally on Tuesday.
As they marched in the Bend the Arc-organized event, the 70 activists held signs reading “Jews for Dreamers” and “Let my people stay,” drawing connections between the fear many immigrants face today and the collective Jewish experience of yesteryear.
“We know what it means to be from somewhere else and to come to this country because we are fleeing somewhere and we are looking for protection,” said Yael Silk, an organizer of the rally. “I think that’s something we need to be fighting for, for all of our neighbors.”
They marched to Pittsburgh’s Department of Homeland Security — where government officials take undocumented immigrants in protective custody before sending them to another detention center — to demand that Congress pass legislation to protect those brought to this country illegally as children, the so-called “Dreamers.”
“I work with a lot of Dreamers and their dream is not this,” Monica Ruiz, a community organizer from Casa San Jose, told the crowd. “Their dream isn’t that everything they’ve ever known can go away because of today’s tweets…What they need is a path to citizenship.”
In the State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Trump announced that he was pushing immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children. His plan would tie that reform with other stipulations, such as building a wall along the southern border and stopping the so-called chain migration by which legal immigrants can sponsor other family members to immigrate to the United States.
In September, Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which protected Dreamers from deportation if they achieved certain education and work guidelines.
“We will not stand idly by as Dreamers continue to lose their legal status,” Tammy Hepps, a member of the steering committee for Bend the Arc, said at the rally. “Let our people stay to keep reminding us of their vision for America… The America they saw is an America worth believing in.”
As she was being handcuffed, she told the crowd on Tuesday, she “locked eyes with two young Dreamers…That is what we are fighting for.”
Although no undocumented immigrants came to the protest in South Side, reportedly because of legal and safety concerns, the protesters read stories from local Dreamers. One story came from a student at Slippery Rock University who had been a DACA beneficiary for about seven years.
“This is our home,” the student wrote. “We just want to contribute and give back to this beautiful country that has given us everything.”
Elinor Nathanson, a member of the steering committee for Bend the Arc, said Tuesday’s protest further motivated her to “break bread” with members of the immigrant community in Pittsburgh to create authentic connections.
She wanted to reach a point where everyone’s social circle was wide enough that “when you hear in the news about these people, you can picture someone.” PJC
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