Two U.S. senators on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill that would grant amnesty to illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
Senators Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, are co-sponsoring the Dream Act of 2017, which would ensure permanent resident status to about a million young people — known as Dreamers after the 2001 Dream Act — who were brought to the U.S. under age 17 and have lived in the country for at least four years.
The bill, if it were to pass, would be a lifeline for the young people who already have registered for the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
No defense of program
DACA is in jeopardy, however. Last week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that DHS would not commit to defending the program in court because department lawyers said DACA was unlikely to survive a legal challenge promised by a group of 10 Republican state officials.
The states have said they will sue the administration of President Donald Trump if it does not rescind DACA by September 5.
"Kelly was basically telling us DACA is facing a death sentence," Representative Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, said in a statement after the caucus meeting. Undoing DACA would leave almost 800,000 current registrants for the program undocumented and open them up to deportation proceedings.
Graham and Durbin have sponsored a number of versions of the Dream Act since the administration of President George W. Bush, but Congress has never been able to agree on a final version.
At a news conference to announce the latest edition Thursday, Graham said the bill was a matter of basic fairness.
"These DACA kids have come out of the shadows at the invitation of the government," he said. "We do not pull the rug out from under them."
'Campaign is over'
Graham added that he hoped Trump "would be the man who started the country on the road to reform." And he issued a direct challenge to the president: "You're going to have to make a decision; the campaign is over."
But McClatchy News reported Thursday that Trump was not likely to support the Dream Act. The news service quoted an administration official as saying immigration enforcement was the administration's first priority.
Durbin said that he and Graham were "actively engaged with the White House people … trying to find the middle ground."
Trump has been inconclusive on the subject of DACA. During the campaign, he professed to be against the program, but more recently he has wavered, saying in February that it was "one of the most difficult subjects I have."
Last week, talking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump said DACA "is a decision that I make and it's a decision that's very, very hard to make."
The president, while asserting his authority, did not commit to a yes or a no. "There are two sides of a story," he said. "It's always tough."