Watch This Awesome High School Student Try to Teach Her Congressman What His Damn Job Is
Make the Road is a New York organization dedicated to issues affecting the lives and rights of Latinx and working class communities of color. High school sophomore Gisele Mendez, who is a Make the Road youth member, showed up to a town hall with her congressman Dan Donovan, to talk about one of those major issues: DACA and the Dream Act.
Back in September, Trump ordered an end to DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Obama-era immigration policy that offered protections from deportation for some immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. In typical Trump fashion, he then tweeted out some massive nonsensical backtracking.
Then he took a meeting with Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, reportedly made a deal and then immediately denied that deal. In short, he was playing some seriously effed up, manipulative games with the lives and well-being of hundreds of thousands of actual human beings.
Now Congress has the option to pass a Dream Act, which could protect dreamers from deportation and grant permanent resident status on a conditional basis. Basically, it’s just a way for Trump to tear down something Obama made (his #1 priority in most things) while allowing a bunch of dangerous and damaging provisions to be attached to the new version, like forcing Mexico to pay for that damn wall and other increases in border security. There’s also the inhumane issue of families being separated, deporting parents and other relatives of dreamers.
All of that is what led Mendez and her classmates to knock on doors all over Staten Island and talk to Donovan’s constituents about the importance of a “clean” Dream Act–meaning there are none of those conditions attached. The support was immense, as you can see by the large box of petitions Mendez brought with her to give to her congressman.
Given the scope of that support, Mendez asked Donovan if he will vote yes on a clean Dream Act. If it’s what the majority of his constituents want, it’s his job to listen to them, right? Isn’t that his actual job, to listen to and serve these exact people?
Instead of answering the question outright, Donovan condescendingly explains the “politics” of politics, and how there simply aren’t enough votes to pass the kind of bill Mendez is talking about. He also pulls out a concern-trolling anecdote about a group of undocumented immigrants who died crossing the border, and nothing says “benevolence” like a giant wall paid for by their government. You know, for their safety. He also seems to mix up DACA and the new Dream Act, like, a couple of times.
None of those are an actual answer, so Mendez asks directly, “And if we do get enough voters, will you vote yes?”
Donovan’s non-answer: “I support the president in securing our borders.”
At this point, a few people in the audience start yelling for her to ask him again. So she tells him, politely but forcefully, “I’m sorry sir, you need to be a little more specific.”
Again, a nothing response: “I’m in favor of fixing DACA, and I’m also in favor of securing our borders.”
Mendez, like most of us, doesn’t give a crap about the political games of favors and party standing. She doesn’t want to hear “it doesn’t have the votes” from one of the representatives planning to vote against a clean act. They go back and forth a bit more and she asks him again, “Like I said before, when we do get enough voters and supporters, Congressman, you’re going to be one of those that say no.”
Another non-answer and she pushes, saying, “It’s a yes or no question, sir.”
Of course he never gives a simple “no.” He says again that it wouldn’t get the votes, so he’s not going to vote for it, but also says he won’t vote for a Dream Act that doesn’t increase border security, insisting “I want both.”
You can hear multiple people in the audience saying that that, simply, “is not a good answer.”
This kind of cowardice is beyond disappointing, but young people like Mendez and her classmates are awe-inspiring. They are hope. As for Donovan, he may not be listening to his constituents now, but he’s up for re-election in 2018, so we’ll see if he ends up regretting that then.
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