How activists in Chuck Schumer’s backyard are rebelling over his shutdown deal
Activists kept up their pressure on Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) after the Senate minority leader led Democrats to end the government shutdown Monday without securing legal protections for nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants.
Organizers in Brooklyn, New York City, planned a rally a block from Schumer’s apartment for Tuesday evening. New York’s Indivisible chapters are planning to flood Schumer’s office with phone calls, and immigration activists are planning further meetings with Schumer’s staff to demand undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children remain shielded from deportation.
Progressives ripped Schumer on Monday for making a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to fund the government through Feb. 8 and end the three-day government shutdown. In exchange, McConnell promised to bring to the Senate floor an immigration bill that codifies the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program into law, but only if the government remains open.
“Should the issues not be resolved by the time the funding bill before us expires on Feb. 8, so long as the government remains open, it would be my intention to take up legislation here in the Senate that would address DACA, border security and related issues,” McConnell said Monday in a speech on the Senate floor.
Democrats in all corners of the party took issue with Schumer’s deal with McConnell, who has broken agreements with Democrats in the past. On Tuesday, that criticism continued — in Schumer’s backyard.
“We were constantly given the false hope from [Schumer’s] staff and Sen. Schumer on social media. It was very frustrating to see Sen. Schumer did not hold firm on his promise for something that included the Dream Act,” Ricardo Aca, a DACA recipient who works with immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York, said in an interview with Mic. “Every single time, they’re constantly pushing us aside.”
Aca planned to participate in a Tuesday afternoon protest — first announced only 24 hours earlier — in Brooklyn hosted by eight progressive organizations outside Schumer’s apartment. National groups like United We Dream, an immigrant youth-led network, have partnered with local chapters of Indivisible to hold the protest focused on pressuring Schumer.
Aca said he and other DACA recipients from New York have regularly protested outside Schumer’s New York offices for months and have met with the senator’s staff in Washington. Those protests and meetings will continue, Aca said — and they did, with United We Dream activists protesting at Schumer’s office Tuesday in Washington.
After the government shutdown ended, 15 New York Indivisible chapters issued a statement blaming Democrats for failing to protect DACA recipients. Michael Vagnetti, a leader of Empire State Indivisible, said in an interview that groups in his state have a “special responsibility” to pressure Schumer, given his leadership role in the Senate. New York Indivisible groups will coordinate campaigns to call Schumer’s office in the wake of Monday’s vote, Vagnetti said.
“We have to hold him responsible for keeping Democrats in lockstep, as he did during the tax fight,” he said. “But in this case, we’re especially critical because there were several Democrats [who] voted along with him in this case.”
Liat Olenick and Lisa Raymond-Tolan, co-founders of Indivisible Nation BK, said they’ve seen sustained engagement over the last year among New Yorkers in targeting Schumer because of his high-profile Senate position. Olenick and Raymond-Tolan said it’s just as important for organizers and activists to target Schumer and other Democrats as it is for them to pressure Republicans, who are far more unlikely to support their progressive positions.
“I don’t live in Kentucky. I live in Brooklyn. I protest at Schumer’s house because he’s my senator,” Raymond-Tolan said in an interview. “Schumer, his natural instinct is to be in the middle, is to compromise. Our job is to keep pushing him. We know that Schumer is never going to be all the way on the left.”