Immigration

Here are the bills in Congress that seek to give legal status to Dreamers

Legislators from both parties are studying different plans, including the 'Dream Act,' which would grant a green card, or the 'Bridge Act,' which would provide temporary legal status.
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5 Sep 2017 – 6:26 PM EDT

Following the government's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program Tuesday, the fates of nearly 800,000 undocumented youth protected by the program now depend on Congress.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who made the announcement Tuesday, urged Congress to "thoughtfully pursue the types of reforms that are right for the American people."

That decision will need to come quick; within six months these young people will begin to lose protection against deportation as their work permits expire.

Members of Congress have presented several legislative initiatives in recent months. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said in recent days that he is open to debating bipartisan legislation, but has not specified a law.

Ryan responded to Tuesday's announcement in a statement saying, "It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president's leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country."


Here's a breakdown of the current projects and their status:

The 'Dream Act'

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act 2017 is a bipartisan bill that would provide a direct pathway to U.S. citizenship for DACA beneficiaries. It was introduced in July by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

In the House, the bicameral initiative has the support of Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-FL).

The Dream Act would grant current DACA beneficiaries permanent resident status; allow permanent residents to obtain a "green card" if they go to college, have worked for a certain amount of time, or served in the U.S. military; and provide a path to U.S. citizenship.


To pass the Dream Act, 218 votes are needed in the House of Representatives (Republicans hold 241) and 60 are needed in the Senate (Republicans hold 52).

On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called on Speaker Ryan to bring the DREAM Act to the floor for a vote. In a statement Pelosi called the administration's decision on DACA "deeply shameful" and "heartless."

"The President’s cruel and heartless decision to start deporting Dreamers in six months demands an immediate response from the Republican Congress," Pelosi said. "Speaker Ryan and the Republican House leadership must bring the DREAM Act to the floor for a vote without delay."

This is not the first time the DREAM Act has been discussed: the bill was first introduced in the Senate in 2001. A version of the bill was approved by the House of Representatives in December 2010, but was ultimately rejected by Republicans in the Senate.

Former President Barack Obama on Tuesday lamented the failure of Congress to act sooner to legalize the Dreamers, noting that was why he created the DACA program via his executive authority.

"For years while I was President, I asked Congress to send me such a bill. That bill never came," Obama wrote on Facebook.

The 'Bridge Act'

The Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (Bridge) Act is a bipartisan measure that mirrors DACA but would not provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship. It would only allow people who are eligible for - or who already have - DACA to receive work authorization and protection for up to three years.

The bill was introduced in December by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). A related bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) in January.

Last week, Coffman told Univision that he planned to "force" Congress to vote on the Bridge Act. He vowed to use a rare petition, known as a "discharge petition."

The Bridge Act has been stuck in committees since January.

Showing their cards

A number of pro-immigrant Republicans in Congress told Univision News that they "will support" a bill to legalize dreamers. "I stand ready to work with Speaker Ryan and others to find a common sense legislative solution," said Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL).

In addition to co-sponsoring the DREAM Act, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen recalled that she has joined other similar initiatives to protect Dreamers, such as the 'RAC Act', sponsored by Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and the Bridge Act.

The office of Sen. Robert 'Bob' Menendez (D-NJ) said he has "always supported a legislative solution that offers permanent protection to our Dreamers," and that "a serious bill without poison pills remains the preferred option."

"What remains to be seen is whether Republicans will try to use this urgency created by their own party to tie parts of President Trump's anti-immigrant agenda to a proposal to protect Dreamers," the New Jersey senator warned.

A nervous climate

Gabriela Pacheco, executive director of The Dream.US and a Dreamer activist, told Univision she thinks Democrats will likely have to grant Trump some sort of victory "in order to ensure a legislative option for Dreamers."

Lawmakers will also use the Dreamer issue as leverage in their 2018 midterm election campaigns, she said.

In November 2018, Americans will vote on all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate. Both chambers are now controlled by Republicans.

"We need to push," Pacheco said.

Eliseo Medina of the Mi Familia Vota organization said this is the moment for a bipartisan decision to help Dreamers. "If it approves DACA, Congress would prove they are sane and responsible, not beholden by the ultra right of the United States," Medina said.

Frank Sharry, president of the national immigration reform group America’s Voice, said legislation protecting Dreamers is part of a larger goal of immigration reform: "We have always indicated that a permanent legislative solution is needed, and this applies to both the Dreamers and the rest of the (11 million) undocumented people" living in the country, he said.

"If the Trump White House leads Congress to act on some version of the Dream Act ... we welcome a permanent solution, provided that these young people are not used to promote other punitive measures," he added.

For now, "the ball is in Trump's court," he said.

1. Bridge Act (H.R. 496 ; S. 128 )
Introduced: January 12, 2017 (House and Senate)
Sponsors: Reps. Mike Coffman (R) and Luis Gutiérrez (D) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R) and Dick Durbin (D).
Status: In the House, the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, led by Republican Raul Labrador, February 6. It was introduced in the Senate on January 12, read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, led by Republican Chuck Grassley. It hasn't moved since.

2. Recognizing America’s Children Act (H.R.1468 )
Introduced: March 9, 2017 (House)
Sponsor: Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL).
Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, led by Labrador, March 21. It does not have a Senate version.

3. Dream Act of 2017 (S. 1615 ; H.R. 3440 )
Introduced: July 20, 2017 (Senate); July 26, 2017 (House)
Sponsors: Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D) and Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R) and Dick Durbin (D).
Status: It was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, led by Republican Chuck Grassley, July 20; in the House it was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, led by Republican Bob Goodlatte, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce, led by Republican Virginia Foxx, July 26.

4. American Hope Act (H.R. 3591)
Introdued: July 28, 2017 (House)
Sponsor: Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D)
Status: It was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, led by Republican Bob Goodlatte, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce, led by Republican Virginia Foxx, July 28. It does not have a companion Senate bill.

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