House DACA bill

Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, speaks during a press conference with House Democrats at the U.S. Capitol June 4 in Washington, DC. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also delivered remarks ahead of a vote on the American Dream and Promise Act, which offers a pathway to citizenship for those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Temporary Protected Status, and Deferred Enforced Departure and similarly situated immigrants who have spent much of their lives in the United States. More than 7,000 Indian American youth currently hold DACA status, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In a 237-187 vote June 4, the House passed a bill to protect more than two million ‘Dreamers’ from deportation — undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. as children — and provides a pathway to citizenship.

Indian American Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, the immigration task-force co-chair for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, immediately cheered the passage of the measure. “We must stop criminalizing immigrants at every turn even as we willingly accept their labor and contributions.”

“We cannot let the xenophobia and racism of this president and his administration permeate our country. We must pass humane, just and comprehensive immigration reform that provides a roadmap to citizenship, strengthens family-based immigration and protects workers’ rights on the job,” said Jayapal.

The bill is a response to President Donald Trump’s ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era initiative. Trump ended the program shortly after he took office, but several court injunctions have allowed Dreamers to renew their status; the injunctions, however, do not allow for new applicants.

More than 7,000 Indian American youth currently hold DACA status, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute. Overall, the program provides protection to 800,000 youth.

The House bill also provides relief to those with Temporary Protected Status, including 15,000 Nepali Americans who arrived here after the devastating 2015 earthquake, which decimated large portions of the tiny Himalayan country. TPS for Nepalis ends June 24. The measure also protects those with Deferred Enforcement Departure, which is similar to TPS.

The House bill — HR 6 — would allow Dreamers and other undocumented youth to qualify for 10 years of legal status if they have been in the U.S. continually for at least four years. Those who have criminal records, including certain misdemeanors, would be ineligible.

Full permanent legal residence status could be attained by serving in the military, graduating from college, or working in the U.S. for at least three years. After five years on a green card, recipients could apply for citizenship.

HR 6, known as the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, was sponsored by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, and co-sponsored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California; and Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Yvette Clarke, both Democrats from New York.

In a press statement cheering the bill’s passage, Roybal-Allard noted: “Dreamers, TPS recipients, and DED beneficiaries are an essential part of modern America. Their talents and traditions strengthen our communities and our economy. They contribute $27 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxes, and they hold $75 billion in buying power.”

“It makes no moral, cultural, or economic sense to remove these proud Americans from the land they love,” stated the congresswoman.

Speaker Pelosi stated: “After years of callous Republican obstruction, our Democratic House is proud to take this decisive step to honor our American values, and ensure that our determined Dreamers and TPS and DED recipients can continue to bless and strengthen our nation.”

Valazquez chided the president for his “hateful policies,” which, she said “are creating a climate of fear and uncertainty in immigrant communities.”

The Senate must now pass a similar bill and the president must sign it into law. The Associated Press reported that White House aides have sent lawmakers a letter threatening a Trump veto, saying the measure "would incentivize and reward illegal immigration" without "protecting our communities and defending our borders."

The American Immigration Council noted that Congress has been under renewed pressure to act following the Trump administration’s attempted rescission of the DACA program and elimination of benefits for the vast majority of TPS and DED beneficiaries.

“These actions have left over 1,000,000 people vulnerable to detention and removal from the United States,” said AIC.

HR 6 would create permanent protections for an estimated 2.5 million people, noted the organization.

The bill also allows states to define Dreamers as residents for the purposes of tuition. Many undocumented youth currently cannot afford to go to college because of the high cost of out-of-state tuition; the bill attempts to correct that.

South Asian Americans Leading Together also heralded the passage of the bill. “The bill passed the House with no additional anti-immigrant amendments, making history as legislation that provides protections without being tied to increased enforcement,” noted the organization.

“This is a crucial step in stemming the tide of this administration’s racist and xenophobic policies,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, interim co-executive director of SAALT. “We must build further on this victory for a new path forward that guarantees protections for all immigrant communities in future legislation and measures.”

University of California president Janet Napolitano also cheered the passage of HR 6. “UC is home to thousands of undocumented students who are preparing to be the next generation of standout teachers, medical professionals, engineers, lawyers and other important contributors to our country.”

“California has already made a big investment in these students, who have spent the better part of their lives in the U.S. It is now time for them to have a path to permanent residence and citizenship through the American Dream and Promise Act,” said Napolitano.

(See earlier India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2PuatTH)

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