Bipartisan Group Seeks Permanent Residency Pathway for Documented Dreamers
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan delegation of lawmakers is renewing the push to create a clear path to permanent legal status for individuals who age out of temporary protection from deportation.
In a Capitol Hill press conference on Wednesday, Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Reps. Deborah Ross, D-N.C., and Ami Bera, D-Calif., discussed their legislative initiative to protect dependents of long-term non-immigrant visa holders from deportation. The lawmakers were flanked by a constituency of young people, known as “Documented Dreamers,” who legally immigrated to the country but lack legal protection from deportation under current law.
The bill, entitled the America’s Cultivation of Hope and Inclusion for Long-term Dependents Raised and Educated Natively Act, would grant lawful permanent resident status to certain college graduates who entered the United States as children. It was introduced into the House in July 2021 and currently awaits a hearing in the Judiciary Committee.
“For too long, these young people have been left out of discussions about immigration reform in Congress,” Ross said during the press conference. “But today, I’m proud to stand with this remarkable group. They worked so hard to draw attention to their challenging circumstances and to advocate for a common sense solution.”
Specifically, the legislation would allow immigrants to apply for lawful permanent resident status if they:
- Graduate from a higher education institution in the U.S.
- Were lawfully admitted into the country as a dependent child of a migrant on a temporary worker visa.
- Reside in the country for four years with such status.
- Have been lawfully residing in the country for at least 10 years at the time of their application.
More than 200,000 people currently living in the U.S. meet those criteria, according to the American Immigration Council. Ten Republicans in the House have signed on as cosponsors of the legislation, two of whom, Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, and Young Kim, R-Calif., are original cosponsors.
“For these young people, turning 21 means facing an impossible choice,” Padilla said to reporters on Wednesday. “Either to leave your family and self-deport to a country that you may barely remember, or to stay in the United States living, undocumented, in the shadows.”
Similar legislation that would extend permanent resident status protections to people in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy passed in the House last year and received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in June 2021. That bill, entitled the American Dream and Promise Act, received widespread support among Democrats while only nine Republicans voted in favor of its passage.
In September 2017, then-President Donald Trump ordered an end to the DACA program, which was eventually rescinded in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision. In January 2021, President Joe Biden issued a memo to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske directing them to take steps to preserve and fortify DACA.
“Over the years, we made America our home,” Dip Patel, a documented Dreamer, said on Wednesday. “This country helped raise me [and] educate me, but I still lack the certainty to be able to permanently stay here. And this is the story that resonates with over 200,000 documented Dreamers in this country like me.
“Passing America’s CHILDREN Act will end aging out, bring our vision to life and recognize that we are Americans,” he said.