The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would offer a path to citizenship to more than 2 million undocumented immigrants, including “dreamers” who were brought to the United States as children.
The vote was 237 to 187 for the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, which would grant dreamers 10 years of legal residence status if they meet certain requirements. They would then receive permanent green cards after completing at least two years of higher education or military service, or after working for three years.
The bill also offers relief to “people with temporary protected status, which has allowed people from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and other countries to avoid being deported to nations engulfed in war or affected by natural disasters.”
The bill is the first time one house has passed legislative relief for these American residents. Immigration advocates cheered the vote. “As the battle continues in the courts, this bill is a marker of the necessary policies and values our nation needs to move forward,” said the Immigration Hub, one of many groups and networks praising the decision. “In fact, the need to protect dreamers and TPS-holders has never been more urgent. For individuals with TPS, the January 2020 deadline for Honduras, El Salvador, Sudan, Nicaragua and Haiti TPS inches closer and closer, threatening hundreds of thousands of families.”
Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress put out a written statement, which praised the “sharp rebuke to the cruel and divisive immigration policies of the Trump administration.” She noted:
The American Dream and Promise Act will put 2.5 million Dreamers and TPS and DED beneficiaries on a pathway to citizenship. The average Dreamer arrived in the United States at age 8, while the average TPS beneficiary has been in the country for 22 years. Dreamers and TPS recipients are part of the fabric of our country; they are our family members and friends; and they are drivers of our economy. Together, they contribute $27.1 billion annually in federal, state, and local taxes.
While the vote will please rank-and-file Democrats, a solution for legalization of dreamers is popular across the political spectrum. Democrats, for once, have taken the most sympathetic groups of undocumented immigrants and provided a glimpse of what a Democratic-run government would do to help them.
The bill will go nowhere thanks to the intransigence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who refuses to bring a bill that would certainly gain bipartisan support to the floor. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer in a written statement observed, “Now that the House has passed legislation to provide certainty for Dreamers and TPS and DED holders contributing to communities across the nation, the Senate must act; this cannot be yet another piece of critical legislation buried in Leader McConnell’s legislative graveyard. The American people have made clear we ought to take decisive action on this critical issue and pass the American Dream and Promise Act without delay.”
Even a bill dead on arrival in the Senate can be significant. The House Democrats accomplished several things with their vote.
First, it addressed the legitimate complaint that Democrats didn’t solve this problem in the first two years of the Obama administration when it had majorities in both houses. (They did health care instead.) They cannot pass it now, but it serves as a commitment to an important constituency and the promise of passage should Democrats win the White House and obtain Senate and House majorities.
Second, it highlights the utter sloth of the Senate, which does very little these days except confirm judges. Democrats should make a bigger deal of the number of bills passed and the number of days they’ve sat in McConnell’s inbox. If Democrats are to rebut the notion that investigations have crowded out legislation, they have to come up with a better way of marking their achievements. (A scoreboard with a point for each bill? House 50-Senate 0.) McConnell used to drag around a stack of paper, seven feet or so high to depict the Obamacare regulations (whether it was an accurate depiction is another matter); Democrats need their own way to remind voters day in and day out that they’ve been producing, but President Trump and the Senate have spent their time attacking the intelligence community, misleading the public about the Mueller report and rolling out one border gimmick after another.
Plainly, passage of this immigration measure, the Equality Act, disaster relief, comprehensive ethics reform and background checks, in addition to reopening the government and lowering prescription drug costs, demonstrates that investigations are not hindering the House’s productivity. The problem is the Senate. This gives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her caucus plenty of ammunition for their argument that they can investigate and legislate.
And that leads to the third reason for Democrats to celebrate: With each bill on a popular item, the House moves one step closer to locking in its majority as it turns up the heat on vulnerable Senate Republicans who have to show what they’ve done to get reelected in 2020. What exactly are Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Susan Collins (Maine) and the rest going to point to? They cannot exactly brag about an unpopular tax cut (wiped out by Trump’s trade tax, otherwise known as tariffs). They had better not boast that they almost obliterated the popular Affordable Care Act and tried to wipe it off the books in court.
This isn’t rocket science. Pass popular bills. Tell voters you’ve passed popular bills. Remind them again. Point to the do-nothing Senate and chaos-creating and incompetent president. It’s a pretty effective way to keep the House majority, win the White House and maybe even win back the Senate.