A young immigrant girl and her friends delivered thousands of signatures to Staten Island Rep. Dan Donovan in support of a clean DREAM Act. Donovan refused to be straight with her on his political position.
Ever since Donald Trump capriciously decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the future of 800,000 young, skilled immigrants has hung in the balance.
Republicans in Congress have frequently promised action to protect the DREAMers with legislation. But so far, no real bipartisan solution has materialized.
One of the main reasons for this is that many Republicans are insisting that longer-term legal status for DACA recipients be paired with funding for Trump's border wall — a massive boondoggle that is virtually impossible to build and maintain, and would not actually serve any legitimate security interest.
Rep. Dan Donovan of Staten Island, New York, is one such Republican. But many in his district are unhappy with his political demands, as he learned when confronted by immigrant youth at a town hall meeting this week.
One young girl in particular called Donovan out in a truly inspiring moment:
Myself and many students here have knocked on your constituents' doors and talked to registered voters all over Staten Island, and many from the South Shore, to tell our stories, and to talk to them about the importance of passing a clean DREAM Act. We collected thousands of petitions to show you that your constituents from all sides of the spectrum — Republican and Democrat — do not support having a bill that will terrorize immigrant families. I want to give this to you, and enable all the students that worked really hard to get all these signatures, but also because my sister is protected under DACA. And my family — my parents are immigrants. And I want to personally hand this to you, so that you know that Staten Island supports families — support not having to see families like mine ripped apart. So do you, Dan Donovan, support a clean DREAM Act that will not put money on a wall, or put more money on agents that will separate and terrorize families like mine? Will you vote yes and support us to get this DREAM Act passed?
Donovan had no convincing response to this speech and to the petitions. "There's not enough votes to get a clean DREAM Act," he said feebly. "The only way to get enough votes to get DACA fixed would be to have some kind of national security attached to it."
"I support DACA, but I also support protecting the border," he added, failing to acknowledge that a border wall would not be effective at keeping the border safe.
"And if we do get enough voters," the girl persisted, "will you vote yes?"
"I — I support the president on Homeland Security — I support the president in securing our borders," he replied, dodging the question. At that point members of the crowd called out, "Ask him again!"
"You need to be a little bit more specific," she said. "So that's a no?"
"No, no, I want border security attached," he said, contradicting himself in one breath.
"It's a yes or no question, sir," she pressed on. Donovan continued to say he supported "DACA and border security," several more times, never once giving his personal opinion on whether he would vote for a clean DREAM Act.
Republicans like Donovan know that their position against a clean, unconditional bill of relief for immigrant children is untenable. Donovan could not give a straight answer to this girl because he knows his constituents do not back his position.
He should have the courage to either stand on the side of right with his voters, or be honest about refusing to do so — because he cannot have it both ways.