A bipartisan groups of senators, bracing for attempts by President-elect Donald J. Trump to eliminate the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, introduced legislation Dec. 9 that would provide eligible individuals with protection from deportation so they can continue working and studying in the United States.
More than 750,000 individuals, known as DREAMers, are currently participating in the DACA program, which was created in 2012 by President Obama and supported by the ABA to provide temporary deferment of deportation for undocumented individuals who were brought to the United States as children and meet certain criteria. The president established the program after Congress failed to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, ABA-supported legislation that would allow for adjustment of status to permanent residence for minors who entered the country before the age of 16 and meet other criteria.
S. 3542, the Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow Our Economy (BRIDGE) Act, was introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
The bill would establish “provisional protected presence” for those who are currently enrolled in DACA and allow them to apply for an extension. Others who meet the eligibility criteria may apply for the new status, which will last for three years.
“DREAMers have so much to contribute to this country, their country, and they’ve demonstrated their commitment to the United States in countless ways – by opening businesses, becoming doctors and teachers, and serving in uniform,” Durbin said. He stressed the urgency of passing the legislation, emphasizing that it is not a “substitute for broader legislation to fix our broken immigration system” and should not be tied to other unrelated measures. “Let’s take care of these young people who are in doubt about tomorrow before we debate the larger and equally important questions about immigration reform, which has so many facets.”
Murkowski agreed, adding, “In the highly contentious world of immigration policy, one of the least controversial propositions is that the children of undocumented individuals, who were brought to the United States by their parents and were educated here, should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams in America. The introduction of this measure is timed to remind the DREAMers that there are people in Congress who have their backs.”
Because the legislation was introduced in the final days of the 114th Congress, the sponsors will be reintroducing the measure early next year for consideration by the incoming 115th Congress.