While 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former running mate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI,1) promoted the congressman's new book at the Union League Club of Chicago on Thursday evening, a few dozen protesters gathered outside the event to push back against Ryan for shifting his position on immigration issues. Progress Illinois was there for the protest.
While 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former running mate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI,1) promoted the congressman's new book at the Union League Club of Chicago on Thursday evening, a few dozen protesters gathered outside the event to push back against Ryan for shifting his position on immigration issues.
Earlier this month, the Republican-led House passed two bills to address the immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. One would speed up the process to deport migrant Central American youths showing up at the border. The other would effectively end the two-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants a two-year reprieve against deportation for DREAMers, or immigrants who came to the United States as young children prior to June of 2007.
Ryan voted for both measures.
At Thursday's protest, activists with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and SEIU* Local 1 pointed out that just last year, Ryan attended Chicago events with U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4) to advocate for the passage of bipartisan immigration reform legislation in the House.
"He was just here a year ago at the Erie House with Congressmen Gutierrez supporting immigration reform, and now he's voting against immigrants," said Laura Garza, secretary-treasurer at SEIU Local 1. "We want to remind the Republican Party that we are not going to forget, and we're going to go to the polls, and we're going to vote."
The immigration reform advocates said they were especially troubled by Ryan's vote to essentially get rid of the DACA program.
"The DACA program has been instrumental in keeping immigrant families together," said Jamie van Wagtendonk, a health care organizer with ICIRR. "These are young people who contribute to our country by working, by being students, by creative activities, and what Paul Ryan has said is none of that matters. The only thing that matters to him is being able to remove them from the country. And we're saying we want to keep families together and protect the parents and the children who live in the country and contribute to this country."
Ryan — whom Romney tapped to run alongside him as vice president in the 2012 election — was in town to talk about his new book, "The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea." Romney was there to interview Ryan, a potential 2016 presidential candidate. Thursday's event was the first public joint appearance for Ryan and Romney since they lost the 2012 election.
Outside the Union League Club of Chicago in the pouring rain, Scott Foval, regional political coordinator with People for the American Way, toted a sign reading, "Romney & Ryan: Too Extreme for America."
"We have allies all over the country who are going to be protesting Paul Ryan at every stop he makes with his new book tour," Foval said. "I live in Wisconsin, and I will follow that guy anywhere to make sure people understand he is too extreme for Wisconsin. He's definitely too extreme for America, and his policies just don't work."
SEIU Local 1 member Graciela Vergara, meanwhile, said the immigrant community is paying close attention to Ryan's actions.
"We really are here to remind him of where he was last year, and that it's not fair for him to be flip-flopping in between what is best for him, I guess, for his future political positions," she said, adding that it is also time for House Republicans to take up comprehensive immigration reform.
Here's more from Vergara, Foval and scenes from the protest:
As a result of the long-standing inaction by House Republicans on the issue, President Barack Obama has decided to take steps of his own to fix the country's immigration system. The president’s executive actions are expected to come by the end of the summer.
Garza said she wants Obama to sharply stem deportations.
"We hope as many people are included in that process as possible, because the reality is, there's a lot of families suffering," she said. "And the separation of families, it's devastating our communities."
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