Politics

At DNC, Those Most Affected by Trump's Wall Plan Speak Out

Gutierrez calls Trump policies 'sick, hateful fantasy'

Karla and Francisca Ortiz, of Las Vegas, speak on stage during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The messages couldn't have been more different.  

Republicans chanted "build the wall" several times last week during their party's presidential convention in Cleveland last week.  

But Democrats chose to put on center stage people who would find themselves on opposite sides of that barrier. They took a much more personal approach to one of the most vexing issues before both parties: illegal immigration.  

An 11-year-old girl brought the crowd to its feet Monday night after telling them Hillary Clinton would fight to save her family from separation.  

“I don’t feel great every day,” Karla Ortiz told delegates at the Democratic National Convention's first night. “On most days I’m scared. I’m scared that at any moment my mom and my dad will be forced to leave and I wonder what if I come home and find it empty?”  

Ortiz is a U.S. citizen, but her parents are undocumented and live under the constant fear of being deported.  

[The Latest from the Democratic National Convention ]  

Ortiz, joined by her mother Francisca, praised Clinton for her promise to help the family from being separated under a myriad of immigration initiatives, including programs that can protect children but not their parents.  

[Children of Undocumented Parents Fight for Family ]  

At the Republican convention delegates boisterously cheered at a proposal by Republican nominee Donald Trump to build a wall along the entire Mexican border to keep people from coming to the U.S. illegally.  

When Trump took the stage after accepting his party's nomination, he called immigration a problem that was easily solvable.  

[Trump Pledges to Make America Safe ]  

"We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence and the drugs from pouring into our communities," he said to wild applause. "Illegal border crossings will go down. They won't be happening. Peace will be restored."  

An ad featuring Trump's promise to "build a wall" to stop illegal immigration aired Monday night at the convention in Philadelphia. Democrats had a response: "We're better than this."  

In June, the Supreme Court deadlocked over a challenge to Obama's immigration plan that would have prevented deportation for millions of immigrants.  

Obama's executive action would have allowed unauthorized immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents to stay in the country legally if they met certain residency requirements.  

Another part of the plan would have expanded an earlier program, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, which protected undocumented immigrants from deportation if they first came to the U.S. under the age of 16.  

Clinton, who awaits her coronation as the Democratic presidential nominee on Thursday, called the ruling “unacceptable.”  

Both Democrats and Republicans have not mentioned during their conventions that more undocumented immigrants have been deported since President Barack Obama took office than during the administrations of President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton.  

Republicans focused on immigration by mostly attacking Obama for what they saw were lenient policies.  

Democrats, in turn, focused in part on policies that helped people stay in the United States.  

Astrid Silva has benefited from the DREAM Act, a program that enables a path to residency for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States at a young age.  

Silva told delegates of climbing into a raft when she was four years old to cross a river to meet her father in the U.S.   

She said her family hardly went anywhere for fear someone would discover they were undocumented immigrants.  

“When Donald Trump talks about deporting 11 million people, he’s talking about ripping families apart,” Silva said. “Hillary Clinton understands that this is not who we are as a country.”  

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., called Trump’s proposals for mass deportations and a wall along the entire border with Mexico “a sick, hateful fantasy.”  

“Immigrants contribute to communities and make America a great nation,” Gutierrez said. “Immigrants die defending our democracy and you know what they give our founding principles meaning in our time.”  

Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com or follow her on Twitter at @remawriter

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