Eighteen years after the original Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, was introduced, the House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the Dream and Promise Act — a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for nearly 2.1 million immigrants brought to the United States by their parents as children.
The bill passed with a 237-187 vote. The vote was mostly along party lines, and only seven Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
What is notable about this version of the bill is that it has been expanded to include protections for immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) — two temporary immigration programs that President Donald Trump has unilaterally decided to end at one point or another. There’s an unprecedented level of urgency with this version of the DREAM Act because the Trump administration has pulled the rug out from under hundreds of thousands of immigrant families. The fate of many TPS and DED holders is at either the whims of the administration or hanging by a thread due to court injunctions.
While Republicans have typically supported past iterations of the DREAM Act, there are currently no Republican co-sponsors to the Dream and Promise Act and party members have been emboldened by Trump to oppose any legislation that provides any form of “amnesty” to immigrants without papers.
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing in March, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) said the DREAM Act is “beyond us” now unless it includes funding for “border security” while Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) said, “We are kidding ourselves if we think that all DACA recipients could even pass a background check.” All Dreamers under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), however, undergo extensive fingerprinting and background checks before each renewal. (The Obama-era program gave certain undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children temporary work authorization and deportation relief.)
During markup, a number of Republicans attempted to include poison pill amendments that attempted to paint Dreamers as criminals. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), for example, introduced one about immigrants with felony DUI’s, but all felons are already barred from the provisions in the bill. All told, Republicans suggested 11 amendments in just 10 hours during mark-up, but none of them passed.
Just before the final floor vote, Republicans introduced an amendment that would significantly broaden the definition of who is a gang member and make it much more likely that people are not gang members get cut out of the bill, simply because the Secretary of Homeland Security is suspicious of them. The amendment failed.
Similar to the DREAM Acts that came before it, the Dream and Promise Act would grant undocumented immigrant youth — known as “Dreamers” — conditional permanent resident status for 10 years and cancel any removal proceedings so long as they: have been continuously physically present in the United States for four years preceding the date of the enactment of the bill, were 17 years or younger when they first arrived in United States, pass a background check, have a clean criminal record, and graduate from high school or an academic equivalent.
In order to obtain lawful permanent resident status, Dreamers must graduate from a U.S. college or technical school, complete two years of military service, or be employed for at least three years with 75% of that time under an authorized work visa.
The bill would also provide TPS and DED holders with lawful permanent residence status if they have been in the United States for three years before the bill is enacted and either had or were eligible for TPS on September 25, 2016 or had DED status as of September 28, 2016.
For all the talk from Republicans about wanting to “fix” the undocumented immigrant “crisis,” they consistently turn down opportunities to ensure that Dreamers and beneficiaries of TPS and DED — who make up a large part of the nation’s workforce and contribute billions each year in taxes — can live in the United States without fear.
According to a report from the Center for American Progress, approximately 620,000 Americans live in a household with a family member who is a TPS beneficiary. TPS holders have a labor participation rate of 87%, and mostly work in construction and cleaning. Their households contribute $2.3 billion in federal taxes and $1.3 billion in state and local taxes annually.
Dreamers meanwhile generate $15.5 billion in federal taxes and $8.5 billion in state and local taxes. They hold $66.4 billion in spending power, own 144,000 homes, and pay $1.5 billion each year in mortgage payments. Nearly 80% percent of Dreamers are enrolled in school or employed.
The bill faces an uphill climb in the majority-Republican Senate led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The White House, meanwhile, has issued a veto threat regarding its cost. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it would cost roughly $30 billion to expand programs like Medicaid and SNAP to people who are currently undocumented over a nine year period.