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Know Your Rights
Source: Politico
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Immigration advocates to target Paul Ryan at Al Smith dinner

Immigration advocates from New York City and Wisconsin are asking Cardinal Timothy Dolan to disinvite House Speaker Paul Ryan from this week’s Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner unless he agrees to meet with young undocumented immigrants from his district and immigration advocates pushing for passage of the DREAM Act.

Ryan is scheduled to give the dinner’s keynote address on Thursday night at the Hilton in midtown. The event, named in honor of the four-term New York governor who in 1928 became the first Catholic nominee for president, raises money for Catholic charitable groups supporting needy children.

In a letter to the cardinal, organizers from Make the Road New York, one of the city’s leading immigrant rights organizations, expressed “deep concern” over Ryan’s role at the dinner, citing his refusal to meet with immigrant advocates from his home district in Wisconsin. The advocates have staged protests outside his office, prayed at his church and gone on hunger strikes in an effort to gain his support for immigration reform for undocumented young people.

“An elected official who refuses to meet with immigrant youth from his own district should not be the keynote speaker at a Catholic children’s charity event,” the group wrote. “We urge you to ask Speaker Ryan to act on his faith, meet with immigrant youth from Wisconsin and New York, and allow a vote on the clean DREAM Act bill. If Speaker Ryan refuses to take these steps, we urge you to rescind his invitation.”

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese did not return a request for comment.

The Trump administration announced last month that it would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors. The White House has said Congress has a chance to act on the issue during the six-month wind-down of the program, and Trump has said that absent action from Capitol Hill, he will “revisit this issue” when the deadline expires.

Ryan has not committed to bringing the DREAM Act, which would outline a path to permanent residency for some undocumented immigrants, to the House floor but instead has said he would seek a “consensus plan” with bipartisan support.

Fernanda Jimenez, a high school student and immigration activist who lives in Ryan’s district, said she has tried but failed to persuade Ryan to participate in a town hall over the past two years. Jimenez and her sister, both DACA recipients, plan to travel to New York City this week in hopes of meeting with Ryan. If the Archdiocese of New York does not rescind the invitation, activists say they will protest his appearance at the dinner.

“Cardinal Dolan has spoken forcefully in defense of DACA and has called for a legislative solution,” Jimenez said. “Time is running out. While Paul Ryan refuses to meet with us and refuses to bring the clean DREAM Act up for a vote, he should not be the keynote speaker at this charity event for children.”

That demand could put Dolan in an uncomfortable situation.

The cardinal, one of the Catholic Church’s most-prominent clerics in the United States, has spoken forcefully in support of DREAMers and DACA recipients in recent months. In September, shortly after the White House announced its plan to sunset DACA protections, Dolan joined Mayor Bill de Blasio at a rally to condemn Trump’s decision, describing the move as anti-American and as an affront to Christian values.

“Our immigrants, our DREAMers are not partisan hockey pucks, but children of God,” he said at the time. “Our DREAMers are children of God made in his image and likeness, deserving of dignity and respect, not threats and vilification.”

The archdiocese announced Ryan’s participation in the Smith dinner last month. In the announcement, the archdiocese highlighted Ryan’s commitment to his Catholic faith, and his work in his home parish in Wisconsin. Ryan and other Catholic leaders have clashed in recent months over his push to repeal the Affordable Care Act and his support for a budget that would reduce social welfare benefits.

Despite that opposition, Ryan has remained popular with Catholic leaders — during a radio interview with Dolan in 2014, the cardinal referred to him as a “great ally” on pro-life issues.

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