Dreamers' Legalization on Hold as GOP Seeks Action on Southern Border

Lawmakers disagreed on Wednesday about whether legal protections should be provided for Dreamers, who are noncitizens brought to the United States as children. Republican senators argued that the issue of legalizing Dreamers should not be addressed until they believe the immigration crisis under President Biden is resolved.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has stated that his main priority at the moment is not supporting undocumented Americans. Graham, along with Committee Chair Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, introduced the most recent version of the DREAM Act in 2023.

“According to Graham, the past three years have been a complete disaster for American immigration policy since we began discussing it,” Graham said. “I don’t think we will see any progress on the DREAM Act in the near future unless we address the issues of parole abuse and other underlying problems.”

Republicans believe that if noncitizens are allowed to become legal, it would make illegal immigration worse and encourage more people to enter the country illegally.

“If we were to start legalizing people now, I believe it would send a signal for more people to keep coming,” Graham said. “Will there ever be a point where people who were brought to this country by their parents can stay and become citizens?”

Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, expressed concerns about allowing noncitizens to become legal residents. She specifically mentioned the recent access to affordable healthcare that has been granted to recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

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Jessica Vaughan, who is the director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, believes that this action would encourage people to illegally cross into the country.

However, Durbin supported DACA and explained that it only applies to people who came to the U.S. before they turned 16 and have lived in the country since 2007 without interruption.

He made it clear that the DREAM Act only gives legal status to noncitizens who came to the United States as minors and have been living in the country for four years. It doesn’t provide any other benefits. “He said that we shouldn’t blame these people for all the immigration issues.”

Tom Wong, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at the University of California-San Diego, stated that allowing Dreamers to become citizens would greatly benefit the American economy.

He made it clear that young people without legal documentation already work and contribute to the job market. However, if they were to be legalized, their increased employment and higher wages would result in an additional $2.5 billion per year in state and local tax revenue, according to conservative estimates.

Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, agrees that DACA recipients are beneficial to the United States. She points out that workers from various industries, including police departments, are necessary for the country.

“It doesn’t make much sense that we’re not going to pass a law that will allow the DACA recipients to stay in our country,” Hirono said.

Mitchell Soto-Rodriguez, who is a police officer in the Blue Island Police Department in Illinois, and is also a DACA recipient, is urging the Senate to take action.

She mentioned that she had two jobs to pay for her education. Later, Blue Island Police Chief Geoffery Farr supported changing the rules so that DACA recipients could apply to be police officers, and she became one. Soto-Rodriguez said that if DACA were to be taken away, she would lose both her job and her home.

Maria Gabriela Pacheco is the president and CEO of TheDream.US, which is the biggest program for undocumented immigrant youth to succeed in college and their careers. She recently became a U.S. citizen and agrees that action needs to be taken urgently.

“We can’t wait. We have been dealing with this issue for around 20 years. “We need to take action immediately,” she said.

Durbin agreed and made it clear that DACA recipients are at risk due to the ongoing legislation proposed by Republican attorneys general.

“Even if the courts find, as they should, that DACA is legal, the future administration can attempt to terminate the program,” he said. “We observed this when the previous president tried to get rid of DACA, and it’s evident that he will make another attempt if he gets the opportunity.”

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