On July 20, 2017, Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act of 2017. This is the latest iteration of this important piece of legislation, which has historically enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress. UnidosUS is encouraged by this most recent effort to reach across the aisle and once again attempt a meaningful, bipartisan solution for the many DREAMers living in our communities and making significant contributions to our nation.
The news comes at an important time. Last week we wrote about renewed threats to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy following a meeting between the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the administration’s top immigration enforcer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. The meeting followed a letter sent by 10 attorneys general threatening to present a legal challenge to DACA unless the administration takes steps to unwind the policy on their own accord. The Trump administration has until September 5 to decide on how it will respond.
The administration’s position with respect to DREAMers is at odds with the views of most of the country. According to a recent poll, eight in 10 voters support allowing DREAMers to remain in the country permanently. This includes almost 75 percent of Trump voters. Yesterday, 20 attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia, double those threatening legal action against DACA, wrote President Trump in support of the policy.
Substantively, the DREAM Act of 2017 generally appears to be a more generous version of its 2010 predecessor. This version would require, among other criteria, that youth have arrived before turning 18, have continuously been physically present in the United States for four years before the enactment of the DREAM Act, and either enroll in school, join the military, or maintain a level of sustained employment. Unlike DACA, it provides for a pathway to lawful permanent resident status. For our a comprehensive comparison of the DREAM Act of 2017, and DACA, refer to this very useful table, which was prepared by our friends at the National Immigration Law Center.
The bipartisan Migration Policy Institute estimates that, if enacted, the DREAM Act of 2017 could provide a pathway to legalization for an estimated 1.8 million undocumented youth residing in the United States. Of note, this figure is greater than the subset of the nearly 800,000 youth who have already received DACA to date.
To be clear, there is a long and contentious road ahead. There is a real possibility that this bill will not become law during this Congress. However, the DREAM Act of 2017 is an important expression of defense and support of the hundreds of thousands of youth who have received DACA who face renewed threats to their basic livelihoods. Since DACA was implemented, our country has witnessed the full breadth of the economic and social contributions of young Latinos. Recent estimates indicate that ending DACA would mean a GDP loss of $460.3 billion over the next 10 years, and would remove an estimated 685,000 workers from the nation’s economy. Today, the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients are doctors, engineers, students, and educators—hardworking, passionate individuals who have and continue to enrich our society.
These young people who have trusted their government in the only country they know, have come forward and submitted to background checks, and are making tremendous contributions to the tapestry of our country. This administration continues to buck commonsense immigration enforcement, making it imperative that we stand with DREAMers.