CHAMPAIGN — Four Champaign residents will join progressive Jewish activists in Washington, D.C., today to pressure Congress to include protections for children brought to the United States illegally as part of a government funding bill.
Bend the Arc Jewish Action and other groups will take part in the civil-disobedience protest, determined to occupy the Russell Office Building on Capitol Hill until legislators approve the Dream Act.
The protest coincides with the Sabbath reading of Exodus, which describes Moses' demand to the king of Egypt to "Let my people go," organizers said. Jews from participating organizations will demand that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan "Let my people stay."
"We have been strangers in a strange land many times because of our history. We have had to emigrate to other countries since forever. We know what it's like to be the 'other,' to be the people who aren't accepted, to be the people being discriminated against. We want to help today's immigrants get the justice they deserve," said Diane Ore of Champaign, who is leading the local contingent to Washington.
"We think there are many congressmen right now who don't share our values. They're not living up to the expectations of those who believe in religious equality and social equality. We're going to try to do something about it."
The Dream Act would provide a path to citizenship for children brought to this country illegally by their parents, known as "Dreamers." They were given temporary legal status under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but President Donald Trump said last fall that the DACA program would end in March. Negotiations over DACA, border security and other immigration issues have intensified ahead of Friday's deadline for a new budget reconciliation agreement.
Ore headed to Washington on Tuesday with her husband, Rob Ore, as well as Pat Marlow and Marci Adelston-Schafer of Champaign.
Diane Ore formed the local Bend the Arc group a year ago, after inviting "every Jewish person I could think of in the community who I felt had progressive values to my home for a meeting in response to the election of Donald Trump."
"I felt strongly that we, as the Jewish community, would be in danger with someone like him in the White House. The kind of rhetoric he was spouting during his campaign was scary," she said. "The Jewish community has seen this before. We know what can happen, and I didn't want to let it happen again."
She found Bend the Arc online through her earlier work on immigration issues with MoveOn.org. Its name is a reference to the words of Martin Luther King Jr., that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Ore was dismayed by Trump's reported comments last week disparaging immigrants from Haiti and Africa in favor of countries such as Norway.
"A president who judges people based on their skin color or ethnicity rather than their merit makes me want to work twice as hard to spread Bend the Arc's message of social, racial and religious justice," she said.
Ore said immigrants come to the United States to be safe and for economic opportunity and to contribute to the country.
"I think it's good for our country to be diverse," she said.