Representatives from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the Center for Community Change, NextGen America, United We Dream, MoveOn.org, Indivisible and others are holding a press conference this morning where the main agenda item had been highlighting field activities happening throughout the country in support of a “clean” Dream Act.
However, the focus of the media call changed with Thursday’s “apparent terrorist attack” on peaceful, pro-immigrant protesters outside the office of Rep. Ed Royce (R-Brea).
Daniel Wenzek, 56, of Brea, was arrested after allegedly driving into into the crowd and injuring many, though none seriously. He now faces a charge of felony assault with a deadly weapon (his Toyota Avalon). SEIU United Workers West president David Huerta says four members and two staffers were taken to a hospital for evaluations.
About 200 protesters—and a police presence—were outside Royce’s office around 1 p.m. as part of a national day of action organized by Unite Here Local 11, which represents workers employed in hotels, restaurants, airports, sports arenas and convention centers, to support preservation of Temporary Protected Status.
The TPS program, which has been in place since 1990, allows an individual to temporarily remain in the U.S. when conditions in their native country would prevent them from safely returning home, most often due to war or natural disasters. Among the countries currently designated for TPS include El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Syria, Sudan and Haiti.
However, TPS could be changed and wiped out by the Trump administration, because as long as individuals protected by it continue to receive work permits, they are not subjected to deportation. Critics claim it is then not a temporary program at all but a potentially permanent one. (Scroll to the bottom for the latest on this.)
Huerta reportedly told Roll Call that the protesters had permission from the Brea Police Department to peacefully protest. “We are grateful for the bravery of officers who stopped the driver before more violence was committed, and who took the perpetrator into custody,” said Huerta, who added he and his organization are cooperating with investigators.
Some protesters had been bused to Brea from Los Angeles and, after being denied access to Royce’s congressional district office, they moved outside to the Birch Street and Brea Boulevard intersection.
After about 10 minutes of peaceful protest in the intersection, most in the group started heading for buses to go back home, but an “irate driver,” as he was described by witnesses, first drove slowly through the crowd and then, once his car was surrounded by police and protesters, he appeared to gun it. The incident was captured on Unite Here Local 11 video, which shows two people on the hood of the car at one point.
Some social media critics have described what they saw in the video as “an act of terror” and an “ISIS-style attack.”
The office of veteran lawmaker Royce was chosen for the protest because the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman is among Republicans viewed as being vulnerable to forced retirement due to his district’s changing demographics. He was not in his Brea office at the time and has offered no comment.
However, outside the office at the time was Democratic challenger Andy Thorburn, who brought a $2 million war chest into the race for the 39th district seat currently occupied by Royce. After Thursday’s events, Thorburn tweeted, “My thoughts are with those injured and frightened outside @RepEdRoyce’s office today. Peaceful protest should not be threatened.”
Gil Cisneros, another Democratic challenger with deep pockets, first tweeted, “Our thoughts & prayers to anyone who may have been injured. We must respect the right to peacefully assemble #CA39.” He later followed that up with: “It is so sad that @RepEdRoyce still refuses to hold townhalls with constituents & listen to their concerns.”
Another Democratic challenger, Phil Janowicz, tweeted this: “@RepEdRoyce do you see what your policies do to innocent bystanders? This is completely unacceptable! This is on you. #CA39 #RetireRoyce.”
“This is a tragedy & completely unacceptable. Law enforcement must prosecute to the fullest extent possible,” tweeted yet another Dem challenger, Sam Jammal.
But the longest reaction came from still yet another Democratic running for Royce’s seat, Dr. Mai Khanh Tran, who came to America as a refugee. In an email, she writes:
Yesterday, a group of peaceful protestors were attacked outside of Ed Royce’s office. They were trying to open up a dialogue with Ed Royce about what would happen to them if they lost Temporary Protected Status as immigrants.
As a refugee who came to this country as a child, I know the bravery it took for the protestors to show up. The rhetoric coming from Washington and from the Republican Party about immigrants who come to the U.S. in search of a better life is unacceptable—it feeds on our country’s worst fears and brings us all down.
Trumpism has led to a lack of civility; and instead of showing leadership by standing up to the hatred coming out of this administration, Ed Royce supports Trump 95% of the time. We need to send a strong message that regardless of party, we need leaders who won’t shrink away when confronted with racism and violence.
I strongly condemn the use of violence against peaceful protestors, and I sincerely hope we can move forward to discuss an issue that threatens the lives and well-being of our community. We need someone who will open their doors and listen, and Ed Royce has failed to do that.
Those taking part in today’s clean Dream Act conference call, which is moderated by Kica Matos, director of Immigrant Rights & Racial Justice at Center for Community Change, are: Angelica Salas, executive director at CHIRLA; Angel Padilla, policy director at Indivisible; Raul Preciado, California Youth Organizing director at NextGen America; Adrian Reyna, director of Membership and Technology Strategies at United We Dream; Corinne Ball, Platform Campaign director at MoveOn; and Isaias Guerrero, Immigration organizer at Center for Community Change Action.
Totally unrelated to Brea protest, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil L. Bradley sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke that calls on the Trump administration to extend TPS designations for El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, citing strong economic concerns.
Deadlines look; the White House must decide whether to extend the TPS designations within the next 10 days for 59,550 Hondurans and Nicaraguans, by Nov. 23 for 50,000 Haitians and by Jan. 8 for 195,000 Salvadorans.
Here is the full letter U.S. Chamber letter:
October 26, 2017
The Honorable Elaine Duke
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Acting Secretary Duke:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce urges the Department of Homeland Security to extend the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti. These designations have been in place since 2001, 1999, and 2010 respectively and, according to the Center for Migration Studies, apply to a significant number of individuals – 195,000 Salvadorans, 57,000 Hondurans, and 50,000 Haitians.
While the Chamber appreciates that the TPS program is intended to be temporary, the reality is these individuals have now lived and worked in communities across this nation for in some cases nearly two decades now. We urge you to extend the current TPS designations and to work with Congress on a more permanent resolution to the status of these TPS beneficiaries.
The labor force participation for each of these nation’s respective TPS populations is over 80%. Terminating these designations would end the work authorization of many key employees for our member companies. Further, the loss of employment authorization for these populations would adversely impact several key industries where TPS recipients make up a significant amount of the workforce. These industries include construction, food processing, hospitality, and home healthcare services.
With regard to the construction industry, ending the TPS designation for these three countries will exacerbate existing labor shortages in the industry at a time when such workers are essential to hurricane recovery efforts in states like Texas and Florida. There are an estimated 50,000 construction workers from these three countries who have TPS, many of them residing in these two states. Terminating these individuals’ work authorization would run counter to the administration’s goal of ensuring a timely and full recovery for these disaster areas.
We urge you to extend the TPS designations for El Salvador, Haiti, and Honduras for a reasonable period of time to ensure stability for these TPS recipients and the companies that employ them.
Neil L. Bradley
Senior Vice President & Chief Policy Officer
U.S. Chamber of Commerce