September 8

Congressional Options For Replacing DACA

A key question after President Trump’s rescinding of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA on Tuesday is what’s next for America’s 1.1 million DACA-eligible undocumented immigrants.

Unfortunately, if Congress doesn’t take quick action to pass legislation to address the needs of these immigrants, current beneficiaries’ deferred action will begin to expire early next year.

Over 305,500 persons stand to lose their status in 2018 and another 403,000 in 2019.  If DACA recipients lose their work permits, states stand to lose billions in gross domestic product. The GDP of California will decrease by 11.6 million and Texas’s will drop by 6.3 million.

There is some divisiveness on both sides of the aisle concerning legislation which would decide the fate of DREAMers. Republican Senator John McCain said,

“I strongly believe that children who were illegally brought into this country through no fault of their own should not be forced to return to a country they do not know.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA and vowed to continue working “on securing our border and ensuring a lawful system of immigration that works.”

When DACA was rescinded, President Trump proclaimed, “It is now time for Congress to act!” Clearly his intention is to have a Republican Congress replace President Obama’s executive order utilizing what he calls a “lawful Democratic process”.

There are a few bipartisan congressional options already on the floor which could provide security and relief for DREAMers.

One is the latest reiteration of the Dream Act presented by Senators Dick Durbin, D-IL, and Lindsey Graham, R-SC. This bipartisan bill would provide a path to permanent residency for childhood arrivals within the United States.

Another option is the Recognizing America’s Children Act sponsored by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-FL.  Curbelo remarked in a press release earlier this year that:

“The bill provides immigrants that have been vetted by the Department of Homeland Security with three pathways toward legalization: higher education, service in the armed forces or work authorization. Following a 5-year conditional status, these immigrants would be able to reapply for a 5-year permanent status.”

This bill also allows a path for citizenship after 10 years of permanent residency status.

The next option is Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s, D-IL, The American Hope Act. This bill provides the fastest track to citizenship and is backed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and 112 Democrats. Eligible beneficiaries would apply for conditional permanent residency for up to 8 years. After three years of conditional permanent residency the applicant could apply for lawful permanent residence status. U.S. citizenship can be obtained after just 5 years.

A final option is the BRIDGE Act presented by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-CO. This bill would solidify the current DACA program into a law and extend it by three years.

If congress is unable to arrive at a fitting solution for DREAMers, President Trump could exercise the authority to extend the program beyond March 5, 2018. This would extend the debate to a Congressional election year, and both sides could be more prone to action in order to not lose potential voters.

Among all the solutions to DACA issue, the most important thing is for a humane congressional solution infused with compassion and understanding. These are human beings. As Former President Barack Obama wrote on Tuesday, “They are that pitcher on our kid’s softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance… Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages … Ultimately, this is about basic decency.”

Human decency, not politics, is at the heart of this issue.

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