Washington, Jul 20 (EFE).- Two senators held a press conference at the Capitol on Thursday to present a new, bipartisan version of the 2001 DREAM Act with the aim of providing legal residence to undocumented young people who were brought to the United States as children.
The 2017 DREAM Act is intended to regularize the status of the nearly 780,000 people who have been shielded from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Sens. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said.
DACA, launched by then-President Barack Obama in 2012, is facing an uncertain future under Republican incumbent Donald Trump, who campaigned on promises to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and to deport millions of undocumented migrants.
As a candidate, Trump pledged to immediately revoke DACA if he became president, but since taking office, he has expressed sympathy for the young people protected by the program – known as Dreamers – and the protections remain in place.
“These kids are running out of asphalt – they’re running out of runway,” Graham said at Thursday’s news conference. “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, I think, almost a moral decision.”
Under the bill put forward by Durbin and Graham, eligibility would be limited to people who have been in the country for at least four years, were 17 or younger when they came to the US, have a high school diploma or its equivalent, and can demonstrate a minimum of three years’ employment.
Applicants would also have to pass a criminal background check and an English proficiency test.
“The question for the Republican Party is, what do we tell these people? How do we treat them? Here’s my answer.
We treat them fairly. We do not pull the rug out from under them,” Graham said.
The South Carolina lawmaker said that accommodating the Dreamers would not be inconsistent with Trump’s stated desire to expel “bad hombres” who have committed crimes in the US after entering the country illegally.
Acknowledging the current “anti-immigrant climate,” Durbin said he was hopeful that the Senate would be able to come together on helping the Dreamers.
“I think this is the one area of immigration where we can find common ground,” the Illinois Democrat said.
Asked about the Graham-Durbin bill on Wednesday during the White House daily briefing, a senior aide to Trump indicated that the president would probably not support it.
“I think that the administration has opposed the DREAM Act and likely will be consistent on that,” Marc Short, the White House director of Legislative Affairs, said in response to a question.
Texas and nine other Republican-led states are threatening to sue the federal government if the DACA program is no eliminated before Sept. 5.
“It’s a decision that I make and it’s a decision that’s very very hard to make,” Trump told reporters last week in regard to the future of DACA.
“I really understand the situation now. I understand the situation very well. What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan. But our country and political forces are not ready yet,” the president said.