SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the U.S. House, said she understands the fears of young immigrants after they shouted her down Monday at an event where she planned to drum up support for legislation that would grant legal status to immigrants like them.
“We’re in this fight to win for the dreamers, when it’s easier and when it’s harder,” she told reporters later after a similar — but quieter — event in Sacramento.
“Dreamers” is a nickname used for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children or by parents who overstayed visas.
“I understand the fear that they have,” Pelosi said.
Dozens of protesters marched into her event in San Francisco, her hometown, showing their displeasure over her recent meetings with President Donald Trump over the program that protects young immigrants from deportation. The protesters called for reform that gives legal status to all immigrants in the country, not just young people.
“Democrats created an out-of-control deportation machine,” the protesters yelled. “Democrats are not the resistance to Trump.”
After smiling and occasionally trying to speak through much of the protest, an aggravated Pelosi told the protesters to “just stop it now,” shortly before she was led out of the room.
Last week, Pelosi and Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer met with Trump twice and discussed a deal to provide legal status to young immigrants. Trump said in early September he will halt the program if Congress does not act to continue it.
Schumer and Pelosi said they reached a deal with the White House that did not include funding for Trump’s promised border wall. But the White House and Congressional Republicans say nothing is finalized.
In Sacramento, Pelosi again said Democrats believe they have a deal with Trump to support a “clean” bill without border security or other attachments.
“We told him no wall and he said I understand that,” Pelosi said. “He’s getting a lot of pushback from Republicans.”
The organizers of the San Francisco protest said they will continue to push Democrats for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants.
“I know some people think this hurts the cause of undocumented folks, but undocumented people will always be scapegoated,” Luis Serrano, one of the group’s organizers, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We believe in pushing people who say they’re on our side, not those who are not.”
Pelosi isn’t the only California Democrat to face Trump-related criticism. In August, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also of San Francisco, was booed after she called for patience in dealing with Trump, saying she hoped he would change for the better.
The leader of California’s state Senate, Democrat Kevin de Leon, suggested the comments made Feinstein complicit in what he called Trump’s “reckless behaviour.”
Pelosi, meanwhile, told The Associated Press on Friday that she and Schumer are looking for ways to build trust and confidence with Trump. She said it does not matter whether or not she and Trump like each other.
“Right now, I want him to like the Dreamers,” she said.
Diana Campos, a 23-year-old student who attended Pelosi’s Sacramento event, said the “DREAM Act” Pelosi is promoting doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t protect the parents of young immigrants. Campos said her parents brought her to the United States from Mexico before her first birthday.
“I don’t want a DREAM Act that’s going to jeopardize my parents,” she said. “It’s all or none.”
Elizabeth Garcia-Garfias, a 22-year-old student at the Sacramento event, said she appreciated the show of support from Pelosi and several Democratic members of Congress who joined her.
“I was satisfied for right now, for today,” she said. “There’s still a lot of things to resolve.”