DACA on mind of rallygoers in Las Vegas as shutdown negotiations continue

Attendees at the Power to the Polls rally in Las Vegas on Sunday came energized, ready to celebrate and build on the ...

Posted: Jan 22, 2018 1:14 PM
Updated: Jan 22, 2018 1:14 PM

Attendees at the Power to the Polls rally in Las Vegas on Sunday came energized, ready to celebrate and build on the momentum of last year's inaugural Women's March.

But some rallygoers were also fueled by another emotion: Frustration with the congressional stalemate over immigration.

As of Sunday night, there is still no deal between McConnell and Schumer amid shutdown

Many at the Las Vegas #powertothepolls event carried signs that read 'immigrants' rights are women's rights'

On Friday, the government shut down after congressional leaders from both parties failed to reach a funding deal and find a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States with their parents.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged Sunday to take up legislation to address the expiring DACA program if enough Democrats vote to re-open the government. He scheduled a key vote for noon Monday. A meeting earlier Sunday between McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer did not lead to a spending deal involving when to hold votes on the DACA program and whether to support the three-week funding solution, two sources told CNN.

Nevada has a large immigrant population. Several thousand Nevada residents from El Salvador will likely become deportable in September 2019, the Las Vegas Sun reported earlier this month, following the Trump administration's decision to end temporary protected status for citizens of El Salvador.

"They are toying with our lives and that's not right," Dulce Valencia, a 22-year-old whose family immigrated to Nevada from Mexico, told CNN.

Valencia, who sported an "I am an immigrant" t-shirt and "resist" pin," wasn't the only one at the rally who felt that way. Numerous others carried signs saying "immigrants rights are women's rights" posters.

Women's March organizers -- who spent much of 2017 uniting as many people as they could for 2018 -- aim to turn the movement's momentum into political action. They hope to register 1 million voters in 2018.

But in addition to talking about the importance of voting, many speakers -- including Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards -- who addressed rally attendees also touched on DACA.

"Our government is failing to protect our undocumented brothers and sisters," Carmen Perez, Women's March co-chair, said during her speech. "Let's be clear, some of us didn't cross the border, the border crossed us ... no human being is illegal. When we think about our influence, and how many millions of people marched yesterday and last year, we know we are capable of grabbing Congress by the midterms and making sure our values are prioritized."

She ended her speech by starting a "S-, se puede" -- "yes, we can" -- chant.

Astrid Silva, a Las Vegas resident who co-founded a Dreamer advocacy nonprofit called Dream Big Vegas, also spoke.

"In Nevada, our immigrant community matters, our lives matter, I will not allow my family to continue living in fear," Silva told rallygoers. "My mother gave everything to be here in this country, for me to have a better future. My father gave his life working under the hot Las Vegas sun so I could be here. And now they live in fear every single day that ICE will come and take them. And that's not a fake fear. That's not a fear that we can just, overnight, wish away. But you can protect us. Every single one of you here. Those of you who are undocumented, estamos juntos, we're all together."

There were also a handful of groups at the rally working to both register voters and encourage people to vote for candidates who will fight for immigrants' rights.

Valencia works for Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), which advocates for immigrant rights. Also at the rally was the Nevada chapter of Our Revolution, an American progressive political action organization formed after Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.

"We're not happy with what's happening right now," said Ambar Diaz, who works for Our Revolution. "That's why we are here."

Diaz's parents are from El Salvador. They immigrated from the country when her mom was 16.

"As far as the Dreamers go, (I'd like to see) a clean DACA Bill," she said. "This is their home, this is what they know. It's unfair for them to be sent back to their parents' land. Obviously their parents came here for a reason. If my mom had come here 20 years later, I could have easily been a Dreamer."

"Part of the American dream is immigrants from other places," she said. "It's a shame our administration now is denying that and wanting to fight against it."

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