Now Some Republicans Are Joining Dems in Fighting Trump's Cruel Anti-Immigrant Agenda
In a rare instance of bipartisan collaboration, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) revived the Dream Act, a bill granting legal status and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
Announcing the legislation at a press conference, Graham described the 2017 Dream Act as "a moment of reckoning" for his fellow Republicans. "The question for the Republican Party is, what do we tell these people?" he asked. "How do we treat them? Here's my answer: We treat them fairly. We do not pull the rug out from under them."
The bill arrives just as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that allows qualifying immigrants to avoid deportation, is under threat. In late June, 10 state attorneys general, led by Ken Paxton of Texas, wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowing legal action if the Trump administration allows DACA to continue. Trump campaigned on an anti-immigration platform, though he hasn't indicated whether he'd encourage Sessions to defend the DACA program in court. White House legislative director Marc Short, however, said in an off-camera briefing (as reported by The Hill) that the administration is unlikely to support the latest bill: "The administration has opposed the Dream Act and we are likely to be consistent in that."
Immigration advocates support the move.
"Today’s reintroduction of the Dream Act provides the Trump administration an opportunity to do what is right for the more than 800,000 young people who grew up in this country and have legal permission to live here," New York Immigration Coalition executive director Steven Choi said in a statement. "As the administration has indicated plans to push over 1.2 million people back into the shadows by ending the DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs, we call on Congress to create a comprehensive pathway to citizenship for those who are already an integral part of our communities."
Angeles Mendez, a youth member of Make the Road New York and a DACA recipient, praised the move, saying having DACA "has changed my life for the better, by making sure that I do not have to live in fear in the shadows. Dreamers like me are human beings with dreams of a better life, and we will continue to fight for our lives and for DACA."
Mendez emphasized that should the Trump administration fail to defend the legislation, "Our community will organize and mobilize to defend DACA, which must remain in place until a clean Dream Act or broader immigration reform with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is passed."
Immigrants qualify if they are longtime residents who came to the United States as children; earn a high school diploma or GED; pursue college, have lawful employment for three years or serve in the military; pass a background check and pay a fee; show proficiency in English and U.S. history; and have not committed a felony or posed a threat to the country. Unlike earlier versions of the bill, which dates back to 2001, there's no cut-off date for final entry to the U.S., which expands the number of qualified applicants.