Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warned his Republican counterparts that they could face a “moment of reckoning” if they fail to help certain undocumented immigrants who came to this country as young children.
During a press conference Thursday, Graham and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced an immigration bill to grant eventual legal status and a pathway to citizenship for some so-called DREAMers.
“To President Trump, you’re going to have to make a decision,” Graham said during the press conference. “The campaign is over. To the Republican Party, who are we? What do we believe? The moment of reckoning is coming. When they write the history of these times, I’m going to be with these kids.”
The bill would in large part codify the benefits of an Obama-era program that grants temporary deportation protection and and work authorization through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. More than 780,000 people have been approved for the DACA initiative, though the bill would include a larger group of immigrants who came to the country as children.
Under the bill, immigrants must also have entered the country before the age of 17 and must have come to the country prior to 2013. They must also have graduated from high school or obtained a GED, and they must pass a criminal background check and be proficient in English. That would mean that people who did not qualify for DACA because of an upper age limit set at 31 years old could likely qualify if this bill becomes law.
The bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Sens. Jeff FLake (R-AZ) and Charles Schumer (D-NY).
“The Dream Act would allow immigrant youth who seek to work, study, and contribute to their communities, the opportunity to continue thriving without fear of deportation,” Schumer said in response to a ThinkProgress email inquiry. “Granting them legal status, and a pathway to citizenship, would have significant economic benefits for New York and the country as a whole.”
Directly facing the cameras, Graham specifically addressed the constituents of South Carolina to say that his support for the bill was “almost a moral decision.”
“These kids are running out of asphalt, running out of runway,” Graham said. “They came out of the shadows at the invitation of their government. They’ve identified themselves and their legal standing is now in question. It becomes almost a moral decision.”
“To the people who object to this, I don’t want you to vote for me because I cannot serve you well.”
“To the people who object to this, I don’t want you to vote for me because I cannot serve you well. I just don’t see the upside of telling these kids they have to go back, live in the shadows, or send them back to a country they have no idea about the country,” Graham added.
Graham has a point. There is greater economic value of keeping and legalizing these undocumented immigrants than the expenditure of deporting them. The average hourly wage of DACA recipients go up by 42 percent as compared from when they did not have any lawful status, which in turn benefits Americans through tax and consumer dollars. Meanwhile, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spends an average of $10,854 per deportee.
The bill comes on the heels of a looming legal challenge by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other Republican state officials who are threatening to sue the Trump administration if it does not end the DACA program by September 5.
Even without the legal challenge, Durbin and Graham’s bill could be dead on arrival. A White House official told McClatchy News on Wednesday that Trump wouldn’t sign the bipartisan bill despite once saying he had a “big heart” for the DREAMer population. If Trump were presented the bill and failed to sign it, it would put him out of step with the strong support the American public largely feels towards DREAMers, even within his own party. A March 2017 CNN/ORC International poll found that seven out of ten Republicans support DREAMers being allowed to legalize in the United States.