With U.S. funding deadline near, Dreamers ask Eagles to take a stand

Local DACA beneficiaries and members of Juntos call on the Philadelphia Eagles to boycott a customary White House visit for Super Bowl winners

Local DACA beneficiaries and members of Juntos call on the Philadelphia Eagles to boycott a customary White House visit for Super Bowl winners. (Laura Benshoff/WHYY)

After Sunday’s Super Bowl win, the Philadelphia Eagles have fully assumed the mantle of righteous underdogs.

Can that status resolve a so far intractable political fight over U.S. immigration law?

It’s unlikely, but that has not stopped several Dreamers and the city-based immigration rights group Juntos from asking the Birds to protest a legislative impasse over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by boycotting a customary visit to the White House for Super Bowl winners.

“Stand in unity with the thousands of immigrants in Philadelphia who love you and the millions more across the country who have been criminalized by this president,” states the online petition by Juntos.

“Take a metaphorical knee by not going to the White House,” reads the subsequent press release, referring to protests where NFL players kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

In advance of Thursday’s deadline to fund the federal government, immigrants rights activists are gearing up for another showdown over the future of “Dreamers,” young people whose parents brought them illegally to the U.S. as children. Though public polling shows bipartisan support among voters for giving this group of unauthorized immigrants a pathway to stay in the U.S., Congress has not yet put forward legislation to that end that can pass.

Last month, disagreements in Congress over how to protect this group of young people from deportation resulted in a three-day government shutdown.

Last year, President Trump ended DACA, a program that shields some immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children from deportation, but called on Congress to make that protection permanent. Since October, hundreds of Dreamers saw their protections expire, making them eligible for deportation.

On March 5, protections will begin phasing out for many more recipients, although it is not clear what that deadline now means in light of a January federal court decision. A Jan. 9 ruling required the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to resume processing DACA applications and renewals, alleviating some of the time pressure.

‘I refuse to be a political football’

Now, a framework for a compromise plan promoted by the White House has Dreamers in the region saying “no deal.”

“I’ve been undocumented my whole life. I’m in no hurry to get citizenship right now if that means throwing everyone else under the bus,” said 28-year-old South Philadelphia resident Marissa Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who has an English and philosophy degree from California State University, Fullerton, is a DACA recipient.

Under a White House proposal, 1.8 million young people who came to the U.S. as children would be allowed to naturalize, in exchange for $25 billion in funding for a border wall, as well as money to hire personnel to ramp up deportations across the country. DACA recipients say that essentially pits their interests against those of their undocumented family members.

“I refuse to be a political football, where I have to choose between my future and the safety of others in my community,” said Dreamer Karla Rojas, 23, on Monday.

As the White House,and the courts grapple over their futures, Dreamers continue to live with paralyzing uncertainty over whether they will be allowed to stay in this country.

“You can’t make like any long, big plans,” said Carlos Castro Miranda, a 24-year-old DACA recipient who grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. “Like buying a house. Why would I buy a house if there’s a chance I could get deported?”

Whether to enter into romantic relationships or to consider graduate education are similarly fraught decisions, he said.

As for the Eagles, teammates Chris Long, Torrey Smith, and Malcolm Jenkins have all made statements indicating they would not be part of a White House visit, for reasons not apparently related to immigration.

A statement from team spokesman Anthony Bonagura punted on the question of a wider boycott.

“We’re looking forward to celebrating with our fans here with a parade on Thursday, and that is our full focus right now,” he said. “We will focus on everything else after we share this trophy with our fans who helped us earn it.”

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