Skip to Main

January 9, 2024

Pressley Joins Hundreds of Advocates to Rally, Demand Senate Reject Anti-Immigrant Proposals

“Immigrants are people. Asylum is a human right. Migrant families are not bargaining chips.”

“And any policy that undermines this truth is not only unconscionable, it should also be a nonstarter.”

Photos (Dropbox) | Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) joined her colleagues and over 300 immigrant rights advocates, labor leaders, faith leaders, and asylum seekers from across the country to urge Senators to reject anti-immigrant proposals that would gut our asylum system, separate families, and send vulnerable people back to danger. This bold showing of solidarity comes as negotiations resume in the Senate over short-term foreign aid that may result in seismic, disastrous changes to the nation’s asylum and immigration laws.

Rep. Pressley was joined by Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and representatives from ACLU, Amnesty International USA, CASA, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (CAIR Co.), Community Change Action, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Human Rights First, HIAS, Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef), Immigration Hub, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Justice Action Center, Make the Road Connecticut, Make the Road Nevada, Make the Road New Jersey, International Mayan League, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, National Immigration Law Center, New York Immigration Coalition, Tahirih Justice Center, Vera Institute of Justice, Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center (NJ), Women’s Refugee Commission, and the #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign.

Footage of Rep. Pressley’s remarks can be found here, photos can be found here, and a transcript is below.

Transcript: Rep. Ayanna Pressley Joins Hundreds of Advocates to Rally, Demand Senate Reject Anti-Immigrant Proposals

January 9, 2023

Lutheran Church of the Reformation, Washington, DC

Well, good afternoon family. And we are family, one human family, and our freedoms and our destinies are tied.

As a woman of faith it is wonderful to be in this faith house. The words on the outside read ‘God is love. God loves all, and all are welcome.’ How appropriate. And that must be true.

As a woman of faith, I am a praying person, and I believe in the power of prayer. But in my faith tradition, we have a saying that ‘when you pray, move your feet.’ 

And so we come to this faith house today to affirm that God is love, God loves all, all are welcome. And we will keep praying, and we will keep moving our feet.

To all the human rights advocates, because that’s what immigrant rights advocates are, I want to express my gratitude to our siblings in labor, faith leaders, impacted families and everyone who traveled to Washington to be here today.

There’s truly no better way to kick off 2024 and this legislative session than to be surrounded, immersed in community with all of you – this broad and diverse, intersectional coalition of justice-seekers, of table-shakers, and as my brother reminded us, of patriots.

You know, as we approach the upcoming election and reflect about what’s at stake in 2024, it’s important to remember how we got here.

Nearly four years ago now we had an historic election that was won by many of you here today. Our demands are not for benevolence or charity. But for reciprocity.

This is a diverse, multigenerational, multicultural coalition, who organized and mobilized their communities to reject the cruelty that defines the prior administration and delivered us the White House and both houses of Congress. That’s why I say reciprocity.

You delivered a victory in which the issues-based activism we saw all across the nation from health care justice, to racial justice, to immigrant justice, all played a critical role. 

It was incumbent upon us then, and remained so now, that we not only advance policies that affirm immigrants’ rights as the human rights that they are, but also push back against any harmful proposals that deny migrant families the compassion, dignity and fairness they deserve.

I know we like to only refer to our DACA recipients as dreamers. But asylum seekers have dreams. Our TPS holders have dreams.

So that’s why we’re here today: to put our Senate colleagues and the administration on notice and remind them who it is they are accountable to.

For too long, our broken immigration system has enacted unspeakable hurt and harm on our immigrant neighbors and denied them, denied you, our basic dignity and humanity. 

Decades of anti-immigrant rhetoric and inaction by Congress has led to a cruel and unjust status quo. And as policymakers we have a moral obligation to lead with compassion and chart a new way forward.

A year and a half ago, we came together and applauded President Biden for taking decisive action to end the cruel and racist Title 42 policy that has been weaponized by the Trump administration against Black and brown migrants and denied your fundamental claim to asylum.

As the Co-Chair of the House Haiti Caucus and Congresswoman for the Massachusetts Seventh – the third largest Haitian diaspora in our country – I was encouraged to see the Biden Administration take steps towards a more just and fair immigration system.

And that is why it is deeply disturbing to hear that the White House and members of the Senate are considering harmful policies similar to Title 42 that would terrorize immigrant families, gut our asylum system, and scare folks from seeking the critical protections they need.

America should be a place of refuge for people fleeing persecution.

Now I’m African American. My ancestors were terrorized in the South and fled to the North. What we see happening is violence and humanitarian crises abroad, and we are turning our backs on asylum seekers in a betrayal of those ideals that America should be a place of refuge, especially when these are crises that we have contributed to.

With colonialism. With unjust foreign policy. A climate crisis that our colleagues across the aisle deny is even real.

Now let me say this. We are heading into the observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Day holiday. Again, the dream he spoke about belongs to us all: to our DACA recipients, to our TPS holders, to our asylum seekers.

And I have of a lot of colleagues quoting Dr. King. His movement was one of racial equality and human dignity. So how about we stop just quoting Dr. King, but we lead like him?

Immigrants are people. Asylum is a human right. Migrant families are not bargaining chips.

And any policy that undermines this truth is not only unconscionable, it should also be a non-starter.

So we will not go back.

I’m so proud to be here as your sister in the struggle in solidarity with my brother colleagues. 

And we will not stop fighting until we build an immigration system that centers compassion, dignity, and fairness – not cruelty, callousness, and criminalization.