DREAMers may have found hope against possible deportation in the coming months as a new bipartisan bill that will protect them is underway.
Called the “Bar Removal of Immigrants who Dream and Grow the Economy” or BRIDGE Act, the new bill introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) would provide DACA-eligible individuals temporary protection from deportation. They will be placed under “provisional protected presence” similar to the one provided by the DACA or the Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals. They will also be granted work permits and will be allowed to continue their schooling after paying the required fees and undergoing background checks.
DACA protected the children of immigrants brought here to the US before turning 16 years old and have remained here, gone to school or worked and maintained no criminal records. But because DACA was merely an executive action, that could be repealed by President-elect Donald Trump, having a bill that would safeguard 740,000 young people from deportation is a glimmer of hope.
Although the text of the actual bill is not yet available as this will be reintroduced in January 2017, the provisional protected presence will be for three years. The proponents of the bill are hopeful that within those three years, they would have been able to pass a more comprehensive immigration reform act that would not only stop deportation for these young people but provide a path to citizenship as well.
The Bridge Act will also be made available not only to those who have already been granted DACA but also to those who will apply for the protection for the first time. It will also ensure that any information obtained by the government under DACA or the new provisional protected presence will not be used for immigration enforcement purposes, with exceptions for national security or non-immigration felony investigations.
Despite Republicans questioning DACA because this was done through executive rather than legislative action and the GOP’s immigration platform being anchored in securing the rule of law, both at the borders and at ports of entry, it is interesting to know that there are some Republican lawmakers that are just as willing to protect the young immigrants just as much as their Democrat counterparts. Aside from Senators Graham and Murkowski, Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) also expressed their support. However Sen. Durbin wants to add people in pairs- one Republican and one Democrat.
The senator is also hopeful that more Republicans will sign on because “most of them feel it’s only fair to take care of these young people.” He is also hopeful that with Trump slowly softening his immigration stance, they would get a more favorable response. Trump recently told Time magazine that these young people “got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Meanwhile, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) welcomed the new bipartisan bill. William A. Stock, AILA President, said “since DACA’s inception, we’ve seen three-quarters of a million DREAMers come forward in order to have a chance to pursue higher education and careers, in the process becoming productive taxpaying members of society. Senators Graham and Durbin recognize that these young adults are a vital part of our communities and an innovative and creative force that should not be stifled.”
AILA’s Executive Director Benjamin Johnson also said that “the bill is illustrative of the widespread bipartisan support for DREAMers and for reform that recognizes the valuable contributions that they and millions other immigrants have made to this country. Keeping DACA going is not only the right thing to do, it is smart business. Studies have shown that revoking DACA for the hundreds of thousands of current grantees would cost America more than $430 billion over ten years.”