Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Wednesday that she wants to pass legislation to protect illegal immigrant families who "did a great thing" by coming to the U.S.
The House minority leader's comments came in response to protesters who shut down her press conference Monday, chanting demands that their parents be legalized and accusing Democrats of creating a "deportation machine."
Pelosi agreed that expanded amnesty is the next logical step, but said that fully legalizing recipients of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) should be the first step to getting there.
"The list goes on and on about how we want to advance and protect the Dreamers until we can pass the bill, and protecting their families, of course, the logical next step," Pelosi said. "Their families did a great thing for our country, bringing these kids here who are working, who are in the military, who are in school, who are a brilliant part of our future."
Pelosi did not hesitate to say that "comprehensive immigration reform" to legalize other illegal immigrants was her goal.
"Some people have said, ‘well you pass that, what about other undocumenteds [sic]?’ Well, comprehensive immigration reform is our goal," Pelosi said. "We think this is a good first step, and we do want to protect their families."
She advised caution among activists, saying an "all or none" attitude toward legalizing aliens would backfire. With patience, however, Pelosi believes immigration can be expanded successfully.
"While I respect the concerns of the people who came to our meeting, we are not in a situation where we can say all or none," she said. "We have to save the Dreamers now, the constituency is there for our country, its success will lead to other success."
"And again, with all the respect and concern that I have for other undocumenteds, again at the meeting saying ‘all or none' — I can’t go down that path," Pelosi said. "But we do want to continue down the path of comprehensive immigration reform: That is absolutely essential to our country."
At the Monday press conference, the protesters sharply criticized Democrats for being willing to punish adults who illegally immigrated to the U.S.
"Congresswoman Pelosi, you called this press conference in our name to defend the so-called ‘Dream Act,'" they chanted. "But you've already traded in our parents in our name."