Sen. Schumer Bristles at Immigration Reform Hunger Strikers

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports:

Dimming prospects this year for action on a comprehensive immigration reform bill have some reform supporters targeting an unusual group of lawmakers: Democrats who have long been champions for their cause.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who sought to craft a comprehensive immigration bill this year, has faced protests by pro-reform immigration activists for failing to facilitate Senate consideration of reform legislation. Ten protesters staged a sit-in at his Capitol Hill office today, following last week's ten-day hunger strike at his office in New York.

An animated Schumer could be seen meeting with the protesters from the hallway outside his office before rushing off. He declined to speak with ABC on-camera.

“He did find ten minutes of his time to come tell us that what we’re doing is frustrating for him,” said Yadira Alvarez, a 2010 Columbia grad and hunger striker, who said Schumer told the protesters he can’t move the bill without five more co-sponsors in the Senate.

That’s not good enough for Alvarez. “We’re tired of promises and we’re tired of waiting,” she said.

The protesters want Democrats to begin a more piecemeal approach to immigration reform, prioritizing a piece of legislation known as the DREAM Act that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and have pursued higher education.

“We’re asking Sen. Schumer to be a champion for the DREAM Act and actually get their support along with us,” she said. Alvarez is not so sure that Schumer’s proposal for a comprehensive immigration reform bill is the right one. She said the comprehensive approach isn’t yet written and “instead of helping immigrants it criminalilzes immigrants.”

A vote on a similar proposal in 2007 got support from several Republicans, but fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. The vote was 52-44 in 2007. Democrats have more votes than they did in 2007, but it is not clear that they have enough support to pass the DREAM Act on its own.

“We think there is more support than in 2007 and more Republicans could support it now. And if Sen. Schumer was fully behind the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill there would be the votes,” said Kirin Savage, who was part of the protest at Schumer’s Washington office Thursday.

Schumer has indicated he wants to pass the DREAM Act, but wants to do it as part of a comprehensive bill. A spokesman said Thursday that no final decision has been made on whether Democrats will seek action on the DREAM Act outside of a comprehensive immigration bill.

Democrats unveiled an outline for a comprehensive reform bill in April, but it is unlikely to see consideration by the full Congress this year.

-- Z. Byron Wolf

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