The U.S. House of Representatives could vote as early as next week on legislation that would benefit more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants — commonly known as “Dreamers”– who were brought to the United States as young children. The Dream Act and Promise Act of 2019 is co-sponsored by Rep. Deborah Murcasel-Powell (D-Fla.), herself an immigrant from Ecuador.
“It’s a momentous day when we can keep our promise to those who are Americans in every way but on paper,” the Congresswoman said.
The Trump administration has been blocked by courts to end the Obama-era program that benefits these minors – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — and Murcasel-Powell says Congress needs to step in once and for all.
“In 2017, the Trump Administration eviscerated protections for Dreamers when the decision was made to rescind the DACA program. Although court injunctions have so far permitted Dreamers to renew, their status remains in limbo. This bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for eligible Dreamers who entered the U.S. under the age of 18 and who were continuously present in the U.S. for 4 years prior to the date of the bill’s enactment. Dreamers would be provided conditional permanent resident status and would need to fulfill an education, employment, or military track to adjust to permanent resident status.”
DACA is currently renewable every two years.
Florida is the fifth-largest state with DACA recipients — some 32,000 according to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, and a majority live in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.
“The bill before us provides a fair and reasonable opportunity for Dreamers to apply for lawful permanent residence,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), another co-sponsor and from the state with the largest number of DACA recipients.
The bill would create a conditional permanent resident status for up to eight years for Dreamers, allowing them to work legally in the United States and permitting them to travel outside the country. Supporters of the bill say they would like at some point to see legislation that grants Dreamers permanent resident status and a path to U.S. citizenship.
A study by the Washington-based Center for American Progress finds that 96 percent of DACA recipients is either working or in school, and that more than half of undocumented minors went on to better paying jobs once they received DACA. The same study found that the uncertainty created by the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the program is taking a toll on Dreamers, with 55 percent saying that at least once a day they think about being deported and 64 percent think about a family member being deported.
“With the fate of these communities now hanging by temporary court injunctions, Congress must act, vote and pass the Dream and Promise Act now,” said Frank Sharry of America’s Voice, a group that supports immigrant groups.
At the same time, the Trump administration this week filed a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to “fast-track” a decision on whether the justices will hear oral arguments over the administration’s decision to rescind the DACA program and if they would add it to the court’s calendar before its current term ends next month.
Osman López-Barraza is a reporter in the South Florida Media Network’s Washington, D.C., Bureau.