As a member of the “Gang of Eight” senators drafting a bipartisan immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is perceived as a champion for immigration reform.
But upon reviewing his immigration record—which shows an emphasis on border enforcement—a group of dreamers question whose side he is on when it comes to the immigration debate.
The group, headed by the Dream Action Coalition, delivered an open letter to several of Schumer’s New York offices on Thursday, expressing their concerns with his immigration record, which they argue has “centered on enforcement and a militarized border.”
“Your focus on enforcement rather than family unity demonstrates a detachment from the Latino community that values family and hard work,” they wrote in the letter.
Dreamers: Chuck Schumer emphasizes border enforcement
To support their claims about Schumer’s emphasis on border enforcement, the Dreamers listed in the letter some of the bills the senator has voted in favor of.
For example, they noted that Schumer voted to approve the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to ramp up border enforcement. The bill called for “systematic surveillance” of the U.S. borders through “more effective use of personnel and technology.” It also called for the building of a fence along the southern border.
Schumer also wrote and passed in 2010 the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, which provided more than $600 million to spend on border security. The funds went to hire 1,000 new Border Patrol agents to patrol the southern border and an additional 250 new agents to guard the ports of entry. Money was also spent on drones to patrol the southern border.
Most recently, Schumer wrote on his website that “a primary goal of immigration reform must be to dramatically curtail future illegal immigration.” He also wrote that “family reunification is a cornerstone value of our immigration system” and didn’t mention anything about a path to citizenship. Instead, he talked about the eight-year process undocumented immigrants would need to undergo in order to earn a legal status under the immigration reform plan he supports.
VOXXI made a request to speak to Schumer about the allegations from Dreamers but didn’t receive a response. Cesar Vargas, executive director of Dream Action Coalition, told VOXXI that a staff member from Schumer’s office responded to their letter, saying they are upset that Dreamers are attacking an ally who has fought for Latinos and the immigrant community.
Vargas said he told the staff member that they are going after Schumer because his immigration priorities are “misguided.” He also told the staffer that they are voicing concerns from Latinos who he said overwhelmingly voted last November for clear, practical and humane immigration reform not contingent on border security.
Vargas added that his group is not only going after Schumer, they are also going after members of Congress who oppose a path to citizenship, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
“The reason why we are after Schumer is because he is a key member in the immigration debate, and if our community is not pushing him, no one else is going to do it,” he said.
Dreamers ask Chuck Schumer: Which side are you on?
During a press conference in January—when the “Gang of Eight” formally revealed their immigration reform proposal—Schumer said, “We will never put these people on a path to citizenship until we have secured the border.”
But the Dreamers argue that there are “countless reports” that show the southern border has been controlled and that the federal government has already spent billions of dollars on border enforcement. A Migration Policy Institute report released in January found that the federal government spent nearly $18 billion on immigration enforcement agencies in the last fiscal year. That’s more than what was spent on all other law enforcement agencies combined.
“Your emphasis on ‘securing the border’ before providing a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants makes it hard to know which side you are on or who is advocating for us,” the Dreamers wrote in the letter.
“While Republicans lead the anti-immigrant rhetoric, your continuing reference to our loved ones as ‘illegals’ makes it hard to believe you are the champion on immigration,” Dreamers said.
They concluded the letter saying that they—along with Latinos and immigrant communities in New York—will be “closely” watching Schumer’s moves on immigration reform. They want to see whether he’ll stands up to “extreme and out-of-touch Republicans and listen to his Latino constituency” or “broker a deal for credit and political sake thereby inadequately representing the interests of those who support a direct path to citizenship not contingent on border security.”