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Top Democrats on Wednesday urged congressional leadership to bring the bipartisan DREAM Act, which would grant permanent legal status to some young undocumented immigrants, to the floor of the House and Senate for a vote in September.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed at a press conference that “if a clean DREAM Act does not come to the floor in September, we’re prepared to attach it to other items this fall until it passes.”
The threat follows President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, which protects from deportation roughly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children.
The DREAM Act, which was last introduced in July by Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, would offer permanent legal residence – and eventually a pathway to citizenship – to young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children.
The bill would stipulate that eligible immigrants obtain a high school degree or GED, enroll in higher education, obtain employment, or serve in the military. They would also have to undergo background checks, demonstrate English-language proficiency, and have a criminal record clear of felonies or other “serious crimes.”
Durbin has introduced the DREAM Act in various iterations throughout the last 16 years and received minor victories, although none of the bills managed to pass both the House and Senate at the same time.
Durbin and Graham also urged immediate action on the DREAM Act on Tuesday, noting that “the clock is ticking” on the six-month window Trump provided before DACA will be phased out.
“I am committed to fixing this problem once and for all,” Graham said at the news conference. “This is a defining moment … we are the party of a constitutional process. We believe in doing it right. But ‘right’ means taking care of these kids.”
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was encouraged by the six months the Trump administration afforded Congress to take action, and said he believed Congress could come to a solution.
“I do believe that there is a compromise to be had here. And we’re going to work with members to find out where that compromise is,” Ryan said, adding that Congress will not advance legislation that doesn’t have Trump’s support.
Ryan also said that while Congress must address the “very real and very human problem” of DACA recipients losing their work permits and protection from deportation, the problem won’t be fully resolved unless border security is also addressed.
“It’s only fitting and reasonable that we deal with the root cause of this problem,” Ryan said. “We do not have control over our borders.”