A bipartisan bill to protect “DREAMers”—who were granted temporary protection against deportation under President Obama’s executive actions—was introduced this past Friday by Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin. The bill, called the BRIDGE Act, would effectively extend DACA protections for more than 740,000 young immigrants who have already taken advantage of the program by providing “provisional protected presence” for three years if applicants register with the government, pay the required processing fee, and pass a criminal background check. The senators introduced the bill in response to President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign promise to end the DACA program, although after the election he has made conflicting comments about what actions, if any, he will take.
In a post-election interview with Time, President-Elect Trump said regarding DREAMers: “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud…They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.” In statements on Twitter, Senator Graham calls the original DACA order enacted by President Obama “unconstitutional” and says that President-Elect Trump would be right to repeal it but that nevertheless Senator Graham says he does not "believe that we should pull the rug out and push these young men and women—who came out of the shadows and registered with the federal government—back into the darkness…These young people have much to offer the country and we stand to benefit from the many contributions they will make to America.”
While the bill will need to be re-introduced next year to the new Congress, Senator Durbin tells reporters they didn’t want to wait. “There’s so much interest in this issue and so much anxiety over this situation,” he says. “We want to move to make this public. I can’t go anywhere without someone raising this issue.” Durbin says that they’re encouraged by Trump’s recent favorable comments on DACA and says that both Republican and Democratic legislators will support the BRIDGE Act. “Generally speaking most Republicans, even though they are reluctant to come to the floor and make a speech, feel it’s only fair…even if they have strong feelings against other parts of comprehensive immigration,” he tells BuzzFeed. “This is a very difficult group—once you meet them—to oppose.”
“Here’s what you’ve got to ask Republicans and Democrats: What do you do with these kids?” Senator Graham tells reporters. “Now, I’m not going to be part of a Republican Party that will take 700,000-plus young people who’ve done nothing on their own—they came here as small kids, they lived their life in America, they have no place else to go—and just ruin their lives.”
Many US mayors have also voiced support for DREAMers. In a letter signed by Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, and mayors of other cities including New York, Los Angeles, and Houston, Trump was warned of the economic harm that would come from canceling DACA. “This program helps foster economic growth and enhances public safety and national security," the letter states, and claims that as much as $9.9 billion in tax revenue would be lost over four years and $433.4 billion in US gross domestic product would be wiped out over ten years if he cancels the DACA program.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) also praises the BRIDGE Act legislation, even though AILA notes it does not provide a solution for many undocumented families and other individuals who have lived and worked in the US for many years. “Keeping DACA going is not only the right thing to do, it is smart business,” AILA Executive Director Benjamin Johnson states. “The BRIDGE Act would offer protection to DREAMers for three years, during which time we hope that Congress will move forward on what is really necessary: smart, effective, and humane immigration reform.”