WASHINGTON -- Minutes before House Republicans met to discuss their immigration reform strategy Wednesday, a mass of young people took over the Capitol Visitor's Center, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the "Star-Spangled Banner."
Members of the larger group then encircled a few children, who held an American flag, erupting in chants of "Undocumented and unafraid!" and "Sí se puede!"
Nearly 500 people associated with United We Dream, the largest group for immigrant youth in the United States, had traveled from all over the country to gather on Capitol Hill and urge lawmakers to pass immigration reform.
Their efforts are particularly important as the House determines whether it will address the status of undocumented immigrants at all. House Republicans have said they will not support a comprehensive bipartisan bill that passed the Senate 68-32 last month. Some say they won't support any legalization for current undocumented immigrants, a refusal that would effectively doom reform.
But Dreamers, a term for young people who were brought to the United States in their youth but have lived here most of there lives, have resolved to continue their efforts.
Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, stressed that Dreamers will "expect nothing less than a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented community." Opposition to such measures, she said, would negatively affect the Republican Party.
"In order to continue to have a party and to be able to even aim at the White House in 2016, this is it" for Republicans, she said. "Delivering on immigration reform is what it's going to take to engage Latino and immigrant voters and will be be critical for the future of their party."
The Senate bill offers protections for Dreamers, such as a shortened wait time for green cards, eligibility for financial aid and a faster track to citizenship after enlisting in the military.
Carlos Padilla, 21, traveled from Seattle to show lawmakers the personal consequences of not having a full pathway to citizenship and the importance of family reunification. Two weeks ago, Padilla saw his mother for the first time in five years, through a fence along the Arizona border.
"We've already compromised too much of our lives and we have gone through too much pain," Padilla said. "We just don't want our families to be thrown under the bus."
"It's not just about paper and words," added Greisa Martinez, 24, who traveled to Washington from Dallas. "It's about people and families."
The Deamers' flash mob was part of a week of actions, in which more than 1,000 immigration advocates planned to meet at the Capitol to advocate an "immediate and commonsense solution" to immigration reform. Advocates took part in a mock citizenship ceremony and rallied outside the House GOP caucus meeting. They plan to present mock certificates of citizenship to members of Congress on Thursday.
"We want to really confront policymakers that argue we don't belong here and say, 'This is our home,'" Jimenez said. "This is a demonstration that this is our country and we are pledging allegiance to this country. We have already, we just don't have a paper that shows it."
Watch the flash mob above or click here.
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