LocationAlhambra , CA United States
Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA 27th District) wanted a clean Dream Act passed before the end of the year, but it looks like she’ll have to wait until at least January. This bill would protect undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, after President Trump announced the end of the DACA program that had given many of them relief for the past several years.
The Republican leadership recently voted to continue funding the government through Jan. 19. Chu calls this a crucial time to bring the Dream Act to a vote, and after speaking at a Dream Act rally, she explained why to the Alhambra Source. She also discusses a bill for opioid addiction that she’s sponsoring as well.
How did the Dreamers rally go?
We are working hard to make sure that there is relief for the Dreamers, that there’s a clean Dream Act bill. It looks like the Republicans are gonna go for a continued resolution at the end of [last] week, which means that the budget bill would not be entertained until January. I won’t vote for [that] on [last] Friday, because it doesn’t have a Dream Act component to it. And I just think that every day that it doesn’t pass is worse and worse for the Dreamers. One-hundred twenty-two Dreamers every day lose their status. Till now, there have been around 13,000 that have lost their status, and are subject to deportation. So we should not have this situation.
There’s a lot of legislation that’s being passed without Democratic support. What are the remedies available for that?
The key and critical issue for me is having a clean Dream Act bill. However, I say that this is a bipartisan bill. We know that there are Republicans that will vote for this bill. We know it because there’s concrete evidence. Congressmember Taylor, who’s Republican, got 30 of his Republican colleagues to write a letter to Speaker Ryan to please pass a clean Dream Act bill by the end of the year. So 30 plus 194 Democrats is well over the 218 votes needed to pass the bill. So in some cases, you can gain the support of Republicans. I do have to say, though, that it is the Dreamers and the American public that have put pressure on the Democrats, and those particular Democrats realize that they have to do something about the situation.
Ok, so calling and protesting and stuff.
Oh yeah, visiting the offices over and over again, and calling meetings, and writing letters. They have done everything you can possibly do. In fact — of course I just left them — but basically, they’re camping out on the Washington Mall. You know, Dreamers have been coming out and basically they’ve been staying day after day, camping out and at certain points, fasting. And of course there was a gigantic rally 2 weeks ago where I got arrested.
Besides the Dream Act, do you know what your legislative priorities in 2018 are?
I have several bills out there, and I’ll tell you one example of a bill that is successfully going through. I had some constituents come up to me and tell me their experiences with opioids, and treatment programs for opioid addiction. Now you know that we have an opioid crisis in this country. It’s at a crisis level. And so there are opioid treatment programs, and after treatment comes the sober homes. The sober homes are supposed to be a transition house for those who are trying to gain a stable existence in their transition to independence. But it turns out that there’s very little training for the counselors who are in the sober living homes, and not only that, they’re not able to diagnose when there is an overdose, and there is no training on how to administer Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an overdose. So there are some horrendous stories that have come out. So I did a bill as a result that asks the agencies to determine what the best practices are for sober living homes. And I have been very gratified to get bipartisan support on this. In fact, the Republicans are eager to support this. And we have Republican co-sponsors Mimi Walters and Gus Bilirakis, and of course we have numerous Democratic co-sponsors.
In terms of the opiate bill, are there stories from your district that informed that bill?
Oh, yes! Actually, this all started when a young man came to me and he talked to me about his experiences. And he talked about the fact that he had a very promising future. He even worked in the White House as a young man. And then he had a problem with his knee, so he had some surgery on it, and the doctor prescribed him some painkilling pills. Well, he got addicted to those painkilling pills, which were opioids. And then he just was addicted. He just had to get more and more of them, and when they were not available, he got addicted to heroin. And he got so addicted that he actually was homeless for a while. So then he decided to go to rehab and it was not an overnight success but finally, he was able to get rehabbed. So he’s gone through the whole thing. He’s gone through rehab, he’s gone through the sober living homes. And he lives in Pasadena. So he came to me and he’s been working with me — he actually suggested the sober living home legislation.
So January, you think, for the clean Dream Act.
That’s right. It’s January, and we still need everybody, including immigrations, and immigrant rights activists to — just anybody really — to raise their voices and say that we must have a solution for our Dream Act students as soon as possible.
This interview has been edited and condensed.