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Dream Act, Other Immigration Bills to See House Committee Action

May 21, 2019, 6:30 PM

The House Judiciary Committee is considering legislation to grant legal status to certain undocumented immigrants less than a week after the president unveiled an immigration proposal that failed to address the undocumented population.

The committee has split up into two what had been a single bill covering both young, undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” as well as immigrants in two temporary deportation relief programs the Trump administration has planned to rescind. The bills will be taken up during a May 22 full committee markup.

Democrats this year have largely been unified in their support for the Dream Act, as well as legislative protections for immigrants covered by temporary protected status and deferred enforced departure. H.R. 6, the original bill protecting all three groups, has garnered cosponsorship by 232 of the 235 Democrats in the House.

The current version of the Dream Act (H.R. 2820) would grant conditional status to dreamers, who then could apply to become permanent residents and eventually U.S. citizens. To be eligible, an immigrant would have to have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for at least four years before the bill’s enactment, have come to the U.S. before turning 18, and have to meet certain educational or military service requirements. Committing certain crimes would disqualify a potential applicant.

The American Promise Act (H.R. 2821) would grant permanent resident status to immigrants who were covered by TPS or DED as of Jan. 1, 2017, and who have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for at least three years before enactment.

A third bill also being considered, the Venezuela TPS Act (H.R. 549), would grant TPS for an 18-month period to Venezuelans who have been continuously physically present in the U.S. since the date of enactment.

Increasing Support

Congressional support for dreamers increased in the wake of the Trump administration’s September 2017 announcement that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program, launched in 2012 by the Obama administration, provides deportation protection and work permits to a subset of immigrants covered by the Dream Act.

DACA has been kept alive so far by court orders, and both federal appeals courts that have considered the issue have found that the administration wasn’t justified in ending it. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t indicated whether it will hear the DACA cases, which were sent to the justices prior to an appellate decision.

Court orders also have prevented more than 400,000 immigrants from losing TPS and DED protections.

Theoretical support for the legislation also has picked up some Republicans as well. Several Republicans, including House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.), said at a March 6 hearing that they’re willing to grant legal status to the covered immigrants as long as Democrats agree to certain border security and interior enforcement measures.

The stance is a shift from prior years, when Republicans insisted that enforcement measures be enacted before any type of legal status for undocumented immigrants is considered. However, it’s unlikely that members of the party will be on board with the Democrats’ bills, which don’t contain any enforcement provisions.

The Senate version of the Dream Act (S. 874) also has picked up two Republican supporters—Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who introduced it, and Cory Gardner (Colo.). However, no Republican senators have signed onto the Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and Emergency (SECURE) Act (S. 879), that chamber’s version of the TPS/DED bill.

With Democrats in the majority in the House, the three immigration bills are likely to clear the Judiciary Committee and potentially the full House. Their fate as stand-alone measures in the Senate is less certain.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura D. Francis in Washington at lfrancis@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Cynthia Harasty at charasty@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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