House Bid to Give ‘Dreamers’ a Path to Citizenship Garners Bipartisan Support

June 5, 2019 by Dan McCue
Demonstrators hold up balloons during an immigration rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status program in 2017 in Washington. The U.S. House is expected to take up new legislation this month to protect so-called Dreamers. Associated Press

The Democrat-led House passed legislation Tuesday that would create a path to citizenship for about 2.5 million immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 237-187, with seven Republicans voting in favor, grants legal status to this narrow group of immigrants, known as Dreamers, as well as those who have been granted temporary protected status because their countries have either been ravaged by violence or struck by a natural disaster.

The vote, which was greeted by cheers from Dreamers and their supporters seated in the House gallery, is just the latest example of House Democrats standing up to the administration on a matter of policy, and drawing marked contrast between themselves and their Republican counterparts ahead of the critical 2020 election.

Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, a bipartisan political organization that seeks reforms to provide more individuals and families access to the American dream, called the House vote “a historic step.”

“We are deeply thankful to Speaker Pelosi for her leadership on this critical legislation, and to the Members who voted for it,” Schulte said. “Today’s vote is historically significant, and is an important moment for this Congress and for our country. It represents only the fourth time in more than 30 years that major immigration legislation that provides permanent protections for immigrant communities has passed even one chamber of Congress.”

President Trump moved to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, also known as DACA, in early 2017, claiming the Obama-era initiative had been created “without proper statutory authority.”

Since then, however, he’s been repeatedly blocked from acting on his intentions by federal courts who have issued a series of nationwide injunctions. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Justice Department request for an expedited review of the issue.

The program is an immigration option for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16. Although DACA does not provide a pathway to lawful permanent residence, it does provide temporary protection from deportation, work authorization, and the ability to apply for a social security number.

The House bill would allow DACA recipients, as well as another 1.6 million immigrants who are eligible for the program but not enrolled, to apply for permanent legal status.

But the cheers that rang through the House chamber as it passed will likely be short-lived. The bill has almost no chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate, and the White House has said even if it should somehow pass, President Trump will certainly veto it.

In the wake of Tuesday’s vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she hopes they’ll reconsider.

“There should be nothing partisan or political about this legislation,” Pelosi said at a news conference, surrounded by supporters of the measure. “We are proud to pass it, we hope, in a bipartisan way.”

Among the House Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote for the measure was Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska.

In an interview with the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper, Bacon said while he believed the bill had “bad flaws, I voted for it because we cannot continue to leave our DACA youth, as well as TPS  (Temporary Protected Status) and DED (Deferred Enforced Departure) recipients, in no man’s land.”

“Congress has to take responsibility to force the legislative process,” he continued.”My hope is that the Senate will amend this bill to bolster our border security and fix our broken immigration system.”

Other Republicans saw the bill and its passage far differently.

One of those was Representative Douglas Collins, R-Ga., the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he and his party want to provide some kind of legal status to DACA recipients, but “we want to do it the right way.”

“Sadly, Democrats are making us consider a bill to worsen the border crisis by incentivizing more people to cross our borders illegally in hopes of getting a piece of the amnesty pie,” Collins told The Washington Post. “No doubt at this very minute, the smuggling cartels are getting the word out: Congress is going to legalize millions.”

Representative Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, rejected such comments.

“This is legislation that is consistent with who we are as Americans, as an aspirational people, as a nation of immigrants and as a place where people can come to pursue the American Dream,” Jeffries said.

That  sentiment sounded exactly right to FWD.us’s Todd Schulte, who went on to say that “History will remember the lawmakers who stood in support of a permanent legislative solution to prevent millions of lives from being upended in the country they love.”

But he also warned that “the clock is ticking.”

“The Trump Administration is making good on their promise to fully terminate DACA, jeopardizing the futures of Dreamers who are American in all ways but on paper,” Schulte said. “We urge Senate Leadership to bring this meaningful legislation swiftly to a vote. Every senator should vote to provide Dreamers and TPS holders with the stability and peace of mind they desperately need. There is absolutely no reason to delay.”

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