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Durbin and Graham introduce bill to protect ‘dreamers’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) introduces the Dream and Promise Act at the Capitol on March 12. It includes elements of two Senate bills  bills introduced Tuesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) introduces the Dream and Promise Act at the Capitol on March 12. It includes elements of two Senate bills bills introduced Tuesday. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
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Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) reintroduced long-stalled legislation Tuesday to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

The legal status of “dreamers,” as those immigrants are commonly known, has been a major flash point in the immigration policy debate since President Trump rolled back an Obama-era order protecting them from deportation. He was later blocked by a federal appeals court, but dreamers still live with uncertainty.

Bipartisan support for dreamers extends to 2001, and versions of the Dream Act have been introduced in subsequent years but never passed. Despite its widespread popularity, it has gotten tied up in the broader immigration debate.

“This is a matter of simple American fairness and justice,” Durbin said in a statement.

Once in the shadows, ‘dreamers’ now assuming central role in immigration debate — and 2020 election

The Dream Act would allow young adults to stay in the United States if they came to the country as children, graduated from high school or obtained a GED, and pursued college, military service or at least three years of employment.

More than 2 million people could be eligible.

“These young people have lived in America since they were children and built their lives here,” Graham said in a statement. “There is support across the country for allowing Dreamers — who have records of achievement — to stay, work, and reach their full potential. We should not squander these young people’s talents.”

Trump has entertained backing protections for dreamers in exchange for increased border security, namely a wall. Senate Democratic leaders had offered him $25 billion for the wall if he would support dreamers staying in the country. The deal fell through after intense pushback from Trump’s base.

House Democrats propose offering 2 million immigrants the chance to apply for U.S. citizenship

Also Tuesday, a group of Senate Democrats that included Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Tim Kaine (Va.) introduced legislation to allow immigrants who are in the United States under temporary status because of dangerous conditions in their home countries the chance to get legal permanent residence.

This month, House Democrats introduced their version of the Dream Act, which includes elements of both Senate bills.

The House version has 221 Democratic co-sponsors and no Republican support.

When the bill was introduced, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) cast it as a promise kept to voters to “advance progress for all Americans and uphold our values of liberty, justice and opportunity.”

“We look forward to a strong, bipartisan vote to pass this legislation and safeguard every child and family’s right to pursue their American Dream,” she said.