On Wednesday evening (January 3rd), I joined several dozen activists, community leaders, and celebrities for a demonstration in support of the passage of a Clean Dream Act (and my first demonstration of 2018). We stood outside Senator Diane Feinstein's office in West LA and called for her continued support in the swift passage of protective mechanisms for immigrant youth.
Last September, Trump ended Obama-era DACA protections with a 6-month delay to force Congressional action on comprehensive immigration reform, so current protections are set to expire on March 5th. Democrats are now leveraging these protections in the January 19th deadline for a budget resolution, essentially meaning they won't vote to keep the government "open" unless these protections are covered in the spending bill. These protections are essential to nearly 850,000 immigrant youth who were born and raised in this country, who will face threats of deportation should these protections expire.
Senator Feinstein was among Democrats who refused to vote for funding until a longer list of issues was addressed - including DACA Protections. This demonstration took place moments before immigration leaders and advocates met with Senator Feinstein's office. Demonstration speakers included United We Dream Executive Director Cristina Jimenez, undocumented immigrant youth from across the state, Women's March organizer Linda Sarsour, and celebrities Alyssa Milano and Bradley Whitford. Amy Landecker was also in attendance and I am a HUGE fan of her work as Sarah Pfeffermen on Transparent so I was over-the-moon to see her there, in support of this issue!
At the end of the rally, a small delegation of leaders marched to Senator Feinstein's office to meet with staff to discuss this issue. On the way to her office at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Sepulveda, our parade was met by a small but vocal opposition rally that had strategically stationed themselves outside Feinstein's office. The signs these mostly white men held read "We Love I.C.E." and "TRUMP IS OUR PRESIDENT". As we continued our procession from the block east of Sepulveda, several men abandoned their rally space in an effort to taunt and harass us. One man hovered closely around us and shouted "Linda Sarsour is an anti-semite".
I watched as several people tried to engage with this guy - to no avail. Even with police present, this man was fearless and bellowed on. The group of demonstrators for the Dream Act were strong and strategic and formed a lock-tight circular group around the delegation with media + cameras forming a second barrier around it that helped keep his voice at bay. Still, the tension created in this moment, especially as the delegation broke off from the main group, escorted by police, to march across the road and into the opposition rally which stood outside the office building, was palpable.
Allies can play a very important role in these moments and should know how to effectively do so. Understanding what was going on - I intentionally took a stand on the outer ring of the circle, along with several other white allies and men, to pad the barrier between the undocumented, immigrant activists and this opposition. This human shield kept the moment of courage, strength, and camaraderie forming inside the small delegation in the inner part of the circle insulated and protected as they prepared to march into the meeting. I did not need to engage with the opposition to play a role in creating distance between this instigator and the people I was there to support. I maintained a nonviolent discipline, let my body do the work of providing physical barrier to add to the distance between him and his space, and I stood strong in my commitment to support this community of undocumented immigrant youth in whatever way was most effective and influential.
For more information on DACA or to support immigrant youth, visit United We Dream.