Elizabeth Warren blasts Congress for lack of DACA fix before holidays: ‘What are you waiting for?’

"It's been one broken promise after another."

Elizabeth Warren
–Screenshot

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is decrying the decision by Republican leaders in Congress to head home for the holidays while the future of so-called Dreamers hangs in the balance.

“It’s been one broken promise after another,” Warren said in a speech Thursday on the Senate floor. “One of those promises was to protect 800,000 Dreamers who were brought to the United States as kids. [President Donald] Trump broke this promise when he ended DACA.”

As a result, the Massechusetts Democrat said it was “up to Congress,” which is controlled in both chambers by Republicans, to pass the 2017 Dream Act to provide legal status for those young undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the country as children. However, the spending bill passed Thursday night in both the House and Senate included no such fix.

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Warren voted no on the bill.

In her floor speech, Warren recalled the life stories of a Waltham Dreamer. She also personally met with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients from Massachusetts earlier in the week.

“We should not leave here so that we can celebrate the holidays with our families while nearly 800,000 Dreamers fear being ripped apart from their brothers, their sisters, their mothers, their fathers and deported to a country they barely know,” Warren said Thursday.

“If we held a vote today on the Dream Act, it would pass,” she said, alluding to the Republican support for legislation protecting Dreamers. “So my question to Senator McConnell is this: what are you waiting for?”

Read Warren’s full speech below:

Just yesterday, the Republican-controlled Congress passed a massive tax giveaway that will shovel truckloads of money into the pockets of giant corporations and the super-rich, while it leaves working families behind. And that’s just the latest in a laundry list of presents that have been doled out to the folks at the top. For everyone else, it’s been one broken promise after another.

One of those promises was to protect 800,000 Dreamers who were brought to the United States as kids. Trump broke this promise when he ended DACA, the program that allows Dreamers to live, work, and study in the United States without fear of being deported to countries they barely know. Because Trump broke his promise, it’s up to Congress to stand up and protect Dreamers by passing a clean Dream Act-a bill that gives legal status and a path to citizenship to those young people.

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I want to introduce you to one of those Dreamers, Elias Rosenfeld. Elias was six years old when his parents brought him and his sister to the United States.  Now, he doesn’t have many memories of his life in Venezuela, but he did hear stories from his parents and his grandfather about the everyday risks that they faced.

One day while his mother was driving, she pulled up to a stoplight and a man pulled a gun on her. Another day, his grandfather withdrew money from an ATM and then was robbed at gunpoint. So when Elias’s mother, who was an executive at a multimedia company, had an opportunity to transfer to an office in Miami, Florida, she jumped at it.

Elias’s family came to the United States legally.  They applied for-and they received-a visa that allows executives and managers from other countries to work in the United States and eventually apply for permanent resident status. Under that visa, the entire family would become permanent residents and would never have to worry about losing their status in the United States.  Permanent.  That’s the key word here. Well, at least that had been their plan. Only things didn’t go the way they had been planned. When Elias was 11, his mother died of cancer. He didn’t know it at the time, but the day his mother died, Elias and his family lost their path to permanent resident status and became undocumented.

After his mother died, Elias clung to the belief that an education was his ticket to a better life. He challenged himself academically, taking 13 Advanced Placement courses and earning As in almost every class. He also juggled a number of extracurricular activities, including speech and debate, student government, volunteering with children and the homeless, and starting his school’s first traveling Model United Nations. His excellence earned him a place on the Dean’s List as well as a long list of awards, including the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust Change Maker Award.

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Now, Elias so impressed the school staff that his high school activities director called Elias a hero and said, quote: “I’ve been teaching for 20 years and I have never seen a student like this young man.”

Scholarship committees also recognized Elias’s accomplishments, and he won a coveted Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program Scholarship, which provided him a full-ride to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He is now a sophomore at Brandeis, where he continues to make his mark.

Before DACA came along, Elias lived in constant fear that ICE would break down his door and deport him and his sister. DACA changed his life.  The fear subsided.  He knew that ICE agents wouldn’t break down his door or seize him on his way to school. Elias told me that DACA has been a “source of optimism and a light of protection.”

America is the only country that Elias knows. It’s the only country that many Dreamers know. This is their home. Dreamers like Elias have had the courage to step forward.  They have come out of the shadows to tell their stories. Now, Congress could show some courage and protect Dreamers by passing a clean Dream Act.

We have waited too long already. Every day that we delay, more than 100 Dreamers lose protected status.  They must return to the shadows.  They must think about ICE agents breaking down their doors or seizing them if they go to school or to work.

The time for Congress to act is now.  Right now-today.  We should not leave here so that we can celebrate the holidays with our families while nearly 800,000 Dreamers fear being ripped apart from their brothers, their sisters, their mothers, their fathers and deported to a country they barely know.

If we held a vote today on the Dream Act, it would pass. So my question to Senator McConnell is this: what are you waiting for?

Let us vote.