Pelosi Remarks on Press Call with Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Members of Congress and Advocates on Anniversary of House Passing American Dream and Promise Act

June 4, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Members of Congress and advocates on a press call to mark the one-year anniversary of the House passing the American Dream and Promise Act, and to call for Senator McConnell to bring H.R. 6 to the Senate Floor for a vote.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.  I appreciate your outstanding leadership in many aspects of making America the wonderful place that it is, and I thank you for bringing us together to make America even more American by respecting the invigoration that our newcomers bring to our country, the value that our Dreamers add to the greatness of our country and our TPS folks as well.

I want to join you in recognizing Chair Nydia Velázquez, a long-time champion of Dreamers and co-author of H.R. 6, the [American] Dream and Promise Act.  She was the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in 2010 when we passed the Dream Act the first time.  It was the bill authored by Lucille Roybal-Allard, our colleague from California.  And, again, a bill that has long been championed by Senator Durbin in the U.S. Senate.  We passed it then.  We couldn’t get it through the Senate then.  And we passed it a year ago, as you know.

And, again, it’s a privilege to be joined by the distinguished Senate Leader, Mr. Schumer, thanking him for his persistence and determination to get the job done; Whip Durbin, who has, again, this has been – probably half of his official life has been spent on protecting our Dreamers.  He really is an inspiration to us, as well as an intellectual resource, and a leader on DACA since day one.  And how blessed we are to have Senator Menendez with us, the top Democrat on Foreign Affairs Committee – Foreign Relations, I guess in the Senate they call it, Committee – for his relentless leadership on this subject. 

But I’m sure that Leader Schumer, Whip Durbin and Ranking Member – well, I don’t know what they call it in the Senate but, Senator Menendez, as well as Nydia Velázquez and you, Mr. Chairman Castro, agree that our VIPs in this call are our two very special guests: Luz Chavez Gonzales, a DACA – she goes to Trinity University, my alma mater so I’m very proud of her.  And Elizabeth Valencia who will be sharing her stories.  Hers is a TPS story.  And speaking about H.R. 6 and what it means in their lives.  They are our focus.

As you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, one year ago the House took a momentous step forward for justice by passing H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act.  Since the earliest days of our nation’s history, immigrants have strengthened and blessed America with their courage, patriotism, optimism and determination to succeed.  And, now, millions of immigrants, including more than 200,000 DACA-recipients, are risking their lives to save lives on the frontline of the pandemic.  They deserve and have earned our support as they sacrificed for our country.

And yet, for one full year, Leader McConnell has refused to take up this legislation which has overwhelming support, bipartisan support, in the country.  He thinks that everyone: coronavirus patients, frontline workers who have lost their livelihoods, hungry families, immigrants should just take a pause.  But justice cannot and will not be paused.

Democrats, House and Senate, stand united with Luz, with Elizabeth, and with countless other courageous immigrants in demanding that McConnell take up H.R. 6.

As we all know, this is a moment of immense sadness for our nation.  Americans across the country are grieving for the staggering loss of life from COVID-19 and from the pattern of racial injustice and police brutality we saw most recently in the murder of George Floyd.  This moment highlights the need for justice in America: racial justice, economic justice, justice in health care, environmental justice and more.  And that includes justice for our immigrants.

The public sentiment, Lincoln said, is everything.  And, together, we will continue to celebrate the drumbeat of action until H.R. 6 is law.

And I thank you, again, Mr. Chairman, for bringing us together, for your leadership on this important issue to our country and yield back my time.

***

Operator.  Our first question comes from Rafael Bernal, your line is now open.

Q:  Hi, thank you for having this.  Yesterday, on the call about police reform, the Members – the [inaudible] office said this is a good moment to pressure Senate Republicans.  His take on police reform that they’ve been in the past few months.  If you’re doing this because of political pressure up on Senate, of the protests, in the national protests.

Is there – do you see in the future, in the near future, in the far future, a similar moment that could bolster your position on moving forward in the Senate on immigration?  

Chairman Castro.  Hi Rafael, it’s Joaquin.  It may just be me, but it was hard to hear, with the background, your question.  For whatever reason, it’s kind of scratchy.  What’s the gist of your question, again?

Q:  Let’s see, is that a little bit better?

Chairman Castro.  Yes, go ahead.

Q:  So, the gist is, is there a moment where, that you foresee, in the near or far future, within the next year, I guess, that you’ll be able to politically pressure Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans to take up immigration legislation?

Chairman Castro.  I’ll speak and then, you know, if the other Members of Congress want to chime in.

Yeah, remember, this is an issue where an overwhelming majority of the American people agree with us that there should be some relief for DACA recipients and for TPS holders.  And we’re hoping that the Supreme Court will do the right thing and allow these folks to continue to stay in the United States.

But, if that’s not the case, I think what we’re going to see is going to be an uproar, not just from one segment of American society, but an uproar from the American people about the fact that these folks are fundamentally part of the country.  As we mentioned on the call today, you’ve got people, hundreds of thousands of them, that have been considered essential workers.  Many of those people directly in the health care field, directly working with coronavirus patients.

So yeah, I think there’s going to be continued opportunities to put maximum pressure on the Senate, on Senate Republicans.

Does anyone else want to address that question?

Leader Schumer.  Well, this is Senator Schumer, we’re just going to keep pushing and we’re not going to relent until we get a chance to vote on these bills.

The bottom line is that McConnell has been vehemently opposed to immigration and he controls the Floor.  But, we are going to keep pressuring and pressuring and pressure because the public is on our side.  And one of the reasons I think that his Republican Senators are losing popularity is that they have followed him on an anti-immigration attitude, which is so bad for their states.

Chairman Castro.  Alright, next question?

Operator.  Our next question comes from María Peña.

Q:  Yes, good morning and thank you so much for doing this call. 

My question is a little bit different, although somehow related.  You know there is a lot of police – a lot of street protests going on now against police brutality.  It is an issue that affects Latinos, even though it is underreported.  So, can someone give me an update about what the Senate and House are doing to push for police reform?  Thank you.

Speaker Pelosi.  I can speak to that.  I am sure others will as well.  This is Nancy.  Thank you for your question. 

We will, in the next few days be putting forth a, House and Senate Democrats, a proposal to address the issue of police brutality and law enforcement, the disparity of enforcement of certain laws.  It will be very comprehensive. 

I want you to pay attention to our press conference on Monday, but it will be the fruit of the labor of House and Senate Democrats who have been working on these issues for a very long time.  Many of these bills have been in the hopper and, now, with all the public exposure of it, we have a better chance of getting them turned into law.

It is a moment.  President Obama said yesterday that people are getting to a place where there is a whole set of new possibilities for all of us because of the injustice that people have seen.  So, I think you’ll be very pleased.  I could go through a whole list of issues that are in there: racial profiling, qualified enforcement in terms of prosecuting those who violate the safety and rights of the American people. 

It’s going – it’s quite comprehensive.  It’s based on experience, experience that our Members have had or seen in their own constituents.  It’s based on legislative attempts in the past and it’s all about making the future better. 

If you want a more specific answer, I can do that but I’d call your attention to – Mr. Schumer and I will be with Mr. – with Congresswoman Karen Bass, who’s the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as Senators Booker and, I think, Harris as well –

Leader Schumer.  Yes, Harris as well.

Speaker Pelosi.  – on Monday to roll out the legislation.

Q:  And Speaker Pelosi, without going into further details about what the proposal will have, I’m wondering about if you sense that this time may be different.  Because, you know, we go through cycles of: another person gets killed, there is more debate on police reform, but nothing actually gets done.  So, I am wondering if you have a sense that this time around it may be different because now we are also having international protests against police brutality in the U.S?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, and I know that Leader – the distinguished Leader will want to say something about this, as well as a longtime member of the Judiciary Committee in the House and in the Senate.

The – this is something completely different.  We have reached, as people say, an inflection point.  This was like a tinder box. It has changed everything.  This one death, as sad as it is and as dignified and inspiring as George Floyd’s family has been, is just a part of – is also part of a pattern, and a grand part of it, a series of injustices that people have just decided that they were turning out and they are not going away until they see the change that they want.  As Mahatma Gandhi said, be the change you want to see.  They are being the change they want to see.

Public sentiment, as I said earlier, makes all the difference in the world and we feel quite confident that – I would hope we would have bipartisan cooperation, and on some of these measures we may, but in a matter of months we will be able to make a complete difference.

With that, I want to yield to the distinguished Democratic Leader in the Senate.

Leader Schumer.  Yeah, I agree with Nancy.  And I would say that we, Senate Democrats, are calling on Leader McConnell to put policing legislation, racial justice legislation on the Floor of the Senate in this period, work period, before July 4th. 

I would urge all those, all the readers and listeners of the people here to call their Senators and demand it.  I am hopeful – as Nancy said, public sentiment is everything – that the huge public outcry from every corner of America to do something about these injustices will force many Republican Senators to go to McConnell and say we need to put this on the Floor and I am hopeful we can get that done.

Chairman Castro.  And this is Joaquin.  Just a final comment on that, because obviously it is a very important issue and it is an issue that does affect the Latino community.  I think you asked – somebody asked a question yesterday, what has changed?  And, also, I think it is related to your question about what’s going to make it different this time. 

For years and years, before cellphone technology, before social media, Latinos and African Americans and others suffered from police brutality.  But those issues often came down to questions of credibility.  An esteemed police officer in society versus somebody they were trying to arrest.  And so, you know, it was often dismissed as, you know, who are you going to believe?  Are you going to believe this police officer or this person that just got arrested?

With cellphone technology and social media, that changed because it was no longer a dispute about credibility.  It really became, for years, a dispute of interpretation.  That’s why when you saw the case of Eric Garner, of Tamir Rice, of others, you still had officers arguing, ‘Well, we thought this person was a danger, we thought they were going to be violent, we thought they were going to hit us.’

I think what changed with the George Floyd case is that there was nothing left to interpret in that video.  He was murdered.  He was handcuffed.  He had his hands behind his back.  He was no longer a threat at all.  Bystanders were asking the officer to stop.  He didn’t stop.  He killed him.  And I think that’s part of the reason that you see this incredible outcry for change and I do think that it will happen this time.

And I want to commend both, Speaker Pelosi, who’s acted very quickly, and Leader Schumer, who’s put a lot of pressure on Mitch McConnell in the Senate, for their efforts so far.

We’ll take one more question, y’all.

Leader Schumer.  Joaquin, the one thing I forgot to mention is Senators Booker and Harris are working very closely with the House and the CBC and the House Judiciary Committee, so we are very hopeful that we will have legislation that can be supported, at least by the Democrats in both houses and hopefully we will get some Republicans to join us.

Staff.  Do we have a final question?

Operator.  Yes, our next question comes from Camillo Montoya.  Camillo, your line is open.

Staff.  Thank you.  

Q:  Hi.  Thank you all for doing this.  

In the scenario that the Supreme Court says that the Administration’s justification for ending DACA was sufficient and President Trump promises to place DACA receipts on a path to U.S. citizenship, as long as Democrats make some concession on some of his priorities like slashing illegal immigration or funding the construction of a border barrier or more funding of immigration enforcement, would Democrats play ball?

Speaker Pelosi.   Let me, if I just may, and I defer to our distinguished Chair of the Caucus and Nydia Velazquez on this, but let me just say, in my experience working with this, DACA, our Dreamers and our TPS, our advocates for comprehensive immigration reform do not want us yielding on any of those points.  We should have comprehensive immigration reform.  We will move in that direction. 

But we are not going to endanger families or have increased surveillance in our country in order to get – I mean that’s kind of the story I get mostly from the Dreamers, do not endanger our families, other immigrants in our country on our behalf.   With that, I yield to the distinguished Chair of the Caucus.

Chairman Castro.  No, thank you, Speaker.  I think that was wonderful.  I don’t know if anybody has any final comments or answers to that question.

If not, I want to say thank you to all of our speakers.  Thank you to Speaker Pelosi, to Leader Schumer, to Luz and Elizabeth for sharing your story, to Nydia and all our Members of Congress.  And also to the press who has been paying attention to this very important issue. 

Thank you.