Senate Democrats called on Republican lawmakers Wednesday to join them in passing legislation during the lame-duck session to protect young migrants brought to the U.S. as children from being deported.
What You Need To Know
- Senate Democrats called on Republican lawmakers Wednesday to join them in passing legislation during the lame-duck session to protect young migrants brought to the U.S. as children from being deported
- Senate Democrats and recipients and advocates of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program held a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol stressing that December is their best chance in the foreseeable future to protect, and even save, the program
- The program offers young migrants brought to the U.S. as children work permits and protection from deportation
- Last month, however, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that DACA was illegal but directed a lower court to consider a new rule by the Biden administration that would allow the program to continue for existing recipients, but not new applicants
Senate Democrats and recipients and advocates of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, held a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol stressing that December is their best chance in the foreseeable future to protect, and even save, the decade-old program.
Following last week’s midterm elections, Democrats will retain the majority in the Senate but are on the verge of losing control of the House. To pass DACA legislation, they’ll need support from at least 10 Senate Republicans.
“The election is over,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “Now let's do the right thing. Now let's roll up our sleeves and get this done. American sent a clear message [in the midterms]. They rejected the deeply anti-immigrant message of the MAGA Republicans.”
President Barack Obama established DACA in 2012 by executive order. The program offers young migrants brought to the U.S. as children work permits and protection from deportation. More than 600,000 people benefit from DACA. They are often referred to as “Dreamers,” a reference to never-passed legislation called the “DREAM Act.”
DACA has faced a number of legal challenges, and the Trump administration tried to end the program before the Supreme Court blocked it in 2020.
Last month, however, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that DACA was illegal but directed a lower court to consider a new rule by the Biden administration that would allow the program to continue for existing recipients, but not new applicants.
The case could end up before the Supreme Court, where it’s likely to face an uphill battle with a greater conservative majority.
“This is a crucial moment,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety Subcommittee. “We face the urgency of a running clock because of litigation. We also face the threat of a running clock because the House is on the verge of falling into Republican majority hands.”
Added Schumer: “Waiting for our judicial system, hanging by a bear thread from court decision to court decision is no way for anyone to have to live. It's cruel and inhumane to keep millions in limbo.”
Schumer said Democrats will pursue comprehensive immigration reform in the next Senate.
Republicans in the past have expressed a willingness to protect Dreamers, but they have demanded measures to boost security on the southern border in exchange for their support.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who co-sponsored the DREAM Act in 2001, said he knows of four or five Republicans who would support the bill. Democrats are hopeful that others will join them now that the midterms are behind them.
“We’re calling on 10 of our Republican colleague to have the courage to do publicly — vote — consistent with what they tell us behind closed doors,” Padilla said.
Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that handles immigration legislation, said he’s inviting Republicans to meet with him to discuss a DACA bill, calling it “a high priority” in December.
More than 300 DACA recipients, Dreamers and immigration advocates traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to rally support for a DACA bill, Politico reported.
“We are in another moment of choice,” Greisa Martinez, executive director of the advocacy group United We Dream, said at the news conference. “We can choose to act and deliver much-needed protection for millions of people, or we can choose to give in to the most cynical of our thoughts, those thoughts that tell us that we can't, that we won't, that it's too hard, not this year.”
Durbin said Dreamers “make America better.”
“Look at the jobs that they hold — teachers, nurses, essential health workers,” he said. “You find them in the nursing homes and day care centers caring for the things that we value the most — our children and our grandchildren, and our grandparents and parents. It's a commitment that they make to this country every single day to prove that we were right initially.”
Diego Corzo, a 32-year-old DACA recipient from Austin, Texas, shared his story or migrating to the U.S. from Peru with his family at age 9. He graduated third in his high school class but could not receive a scholarship or financial aid because of his immigration status. He graduated in the top 1% of his class from Florida State University, but, being an undocumented immigrant, he could not find a job.
“I was stuck,” he said. “But that's when the DACA program got introduced. And that is when my life began to change.”
He was soon hired as a software developer at General Motors and bought his first home. Today, he said, he owns more than 60 rental properties and multiple million-dollar businesses.
“I've achieved all of this because my dreams are bigger than my lack of papers,” Corzo said. “But I still believe that we still haven't achieved our full potential. I haven't achieved my full potential. And it is all because of the uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds, living with constant fear that if the DACA program is ended, we can be deported.”