By Bill Parry
House Democrats introduced a motion Monday to force a vote on the bipartisan Dream Act, legislation that would provide a permanent solution to allow between 1.2 million and 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants brought here as children to remain in the United States legally. The Democrats are using a procedure called a discharge petition which requires a majority of members to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote.
The House and Senate have less than six months to address the legal status of more than 800,000 DACA recipients who will be exposed to deportation proceedings after the White House announced it would dismantle the Obama-era executive action several weeks ago. Twenty-four House Republicans would have to cross their party’s leadership and sign the petition.
“The Dream Act would pass today if House Republicans just had the courage to put the bill up for a vote,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “Democrats will not back down until Dreamers’ future in our country is secured, and this discharge petition will advance this fight. President Trump created this crisis when he ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. I hope Republicans, many of whom have expressed sympathy for the Dreamers, will join Democrats to fix this problem. America is watching what you do.”
Make the Road New York, and its more than 20,000 members, will be watching, too. The grassroots organization, with offices in Jackson Heights, is leading the fight to protect immigrant rights.
“Rep. Crowley is absolutely right: After Donald Trump’s unforgivable act to terminate DACA, Congress must step up immediately and pass a clean Dream Act, with no additional money for Trump’s border boondoggle,” said Javier H. Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “Given Republican leaders’ failure to bring it to the floor, a discharge petition is the appropriate step to ensure that this vital legislation gets a vote.”
U.S. Rep Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) was among the first to sign the discharge petition on behalf of New York City’s 30,000 DACA recipients.
“I was proud to sign (the) discharge petition to force a floor vote on the bipartisan Dream Act, which would protect young Dreamers once and for all by allowing them to study, work and live in this country without fear of deportation,” Maloney said. “Dreamers know no home but the United States. They are our neighbors, our friends, our children’s classmates. These young people are an essential part of building this country’s future and I hope all my colleagues will take that to heart and support the Dream Act.”
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have proposed the Succeed Act, which would create a path to citizenship for the 800,000 DACA recipients using a merit-based solution. The legislation mandates that in order to receive “conditional status” in the United States, a recipient must maintain gainful employment, pursue higher education or serve in the U.S. military. While it would protect the DACA recipients, it does not allow their parents to petition the government to remain in the country based on their child’s status, which the Dream Act would allow.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr