House Democrats are introducing legislation Tuesday that would provide a pathway to citizenship for more than one million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard and other House Democrats are unveiling the “Dream and Promise Act,” which would protect undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, sometimes referred to as “Dreamers,” and immigrants with temporary protected status or deferred enforced departure.
“There should be nothing partisan or political in this legislation,” said Pelosi, who was flanked by House Democrats and immigrants, in introducing the bill. “Protecting Dreamers and TPS and (Deferred Enforced Departure) Americans is about honoring and respecting the family that is the heart of our faith and the heart of who we are as Americans.”
The bill would provide a greater sense of security to a large swath of undocumented immigrants whose fate has been tied up in the courts. Its enactment is unlikely, however, as it would face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate and President Donald Trump has voiced objections to such programs.
The nearly 700,000 beneficiaries of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation, have been in limbo since the Trump administration tried to end the program in 2017, prompting a slew of lawsuits. Federal judges have since kept the program alive, taking issue with the reasoning for the sudden termination of protections.
Holders of temporary protected status – which provides protection to people displaced by natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other events – have similarly faced an uncertain future, as challenges to the administration’s attempt to terminate the status for some designated countries works its way through the courts. Approximately 318,000 people currently have this status, according to the Pew Research Center.
The measure addresses both of these groups.
The bill would grant Dreamers with conditional permanent resident status for 10 years and cancel removal proceedings if requirements are met. The criteria is similar to what DACA recipients have to meet, including graduating from high school or obtaining a GED.
The measure allows those who qualify to gain lawful permanent resident status, which is usually out of the question for many undocumented immigrants who came to the US as minors. To obtain legal status, immigrants must have a qualifying petitioner – for example, a family member or employer – who can sponsor them. Even in that case, however, he/she is already hindered by the fact that they came in illegally.
TPS holders would also be given the opportunity to gain lawful permanent resident status and have their removal proceedings canceled under the new bill. In addition to addressing current TPS holders, the measure would amend the law to require the Department of Homeland Security secretary to provide an explanation for terminating a TPS designation, as well as a report shortly after publishing a notice of a termination.
“This report must explain the original designation and any progress made by a country to resolve the issues leading to TPS designation,” according to a fact sheet on the measure. “The Secretary also has to describe the qualitative and quantitative methods used to assess whether or not country conditions have improved, which would include addressing any challenges or shortcomings related to the initial designation.”
For years, lawmakers have tried to push forward measures that would allow some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children to eventually obtain legal status. Those attempts have repeatedly failed, despite often receiving bipartisan support.