'Dreamers' pressure Rep. Paul Ryan to take action on DACA
JANESVILLE—Lighted letters spelling D-R-E-A-M A-C-T N-O-W moved steadily down St. Lawrence Avenue as more than 100 protesters marched to Rep. Paul Ryan's house Thursday to demand protection for young undocumented immigrants.
The march and vigil were part of the National Day of Action for a Clean Dream Act, in which protesters nationwide voiced their support for the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.
President Donald Trump's administration has vowed to rescind the program, which protects from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
The administration has given Congress a window of time to enact new protections for those immigrants, who are often called "Dreamers."
Janesville protesters aimed to put pressure on House Speaker Ryan to pass a "clean Dream Act" before the end of the year, said Elliott Magers of Milwaukee-based Voces de le Frontera, which organized the protest.
A clean Dream Act means Congress will not add other policies that could harm or obstruct Dreamers' lives, according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
Many of Thursday's protesters receive protection under DACA.
One of them, Alejandra Govantes, 25, of Janesville, wiped away tears as she retold her family's story.
Govantes' family has lived in Janesville almost 17 years. They moved to the U.S. from Mexico when Govantes was a child, and she considers Janesville her home.
After Trump was elected, Govantes said she and her 21-year-old brother thought it was too risky for their undocumented parents to continue working. Govantes said she works as a paraprofessional at Edison Middle School and as a pharmacy technician at Walgreens to support her family.
She said her dream is to work in the medical field, and she was able to accomplish that with help from DACA.
"I was nervous at first coming to his (Ryan's) house because it is his temple," Govantes said.
When immigration officers deport someone, they often go to that person's home—a private space where people feel safe, Govantes said.
She said she and other Dreamers hope protesting at Ryan's home will show him how important these policies are to his constituents.
Dreamers must renew their permits every two years and maintain clean criminal records, Govantes said.
She was introduced to members of Voces de le Frontera after a Mass at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, where Ryan is a member, last August. Govantes said she hopes to start a chapter of the organization in Janesville one day.
She credited her Catholic faith for helping her endure the challenges she has faced in the last year.
"My faith is what has kept me up and fighting for this," Govantes said.
It was unclear whether Ryan or his family were home or in Janesville on Thursday evening. No lights could be seen in his house, but Secret Service agents and Janesville police monitored the protest.
"I would love to stay here in Janesville," Govantes said. "I haven't experienced any sort of racism here, and I hope it doesn't start."
Several protesters spoke about their experiences during the event, and they shared a common theme.
"We are here to stay," Govantes said.