DACA Ball Moves Into Brooklyn Congressmembers’ Court

Untitled design (76)

In the wake of President Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), statements of sympathy for the over 800,000 affected children and young adults were issued by Congress members from both political parties, with many of them promising to use Trump’s six month grace period to come up with a formal replacement.

But will these sympathetic, yet noncommittal statements actually translate into legislative action?

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

According to U.S. Senator and Senate minority leader Charles Schumer (D-New York)— fresh off an arguable victory in getting Trump to sign off on a Senate proposal to grant over $15 billion in recovery funds for those impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, in exchange for raising the debt limit and funding the government for three more months — absolutely.

“I am confident that if put on the floor, it will garner overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle,” he said on Wednesday.

Beyond compassion, Schumer also cited the billions of dollars generated by DACA-eligible youth via taxes — including into Social Security that they cannot receive themselves — as well as their service in the military and their high employment rates, as reasons to support a DREAM Act that protects them from deportation and sets up a system in which they can stay in the country. He noted that losing DACA-eligible youth “would drain $433 billion from our national GDP over 10 years [and] cost employers nearly $2 billion over two years.”

Congress has an ability and an obligation to act,” Schumer said, calling on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to immediately put the DREAM Act on the floor for a vote in the House and Senate. “If they don’t do it by the end of September, Democrats are prepared to attach it to other items until it passes.”

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke

Congressmembers Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn, Queens, Lower Manhattan) and Yvette Clarke (D-Crown Heights, Flatbush, East Flatbush, Brownsville, Sheepshead Bay) expressed similar resolve, vowing to get bipartisan support for a bill, although neither have yet outlined specific policy goals they’d require for their vote.

“In coming weeks, I will be working with my Democratic colleagues to push the Republican leadership to allow for an up-or-down vote on a clean ‘DREAM Act’, so these young people — the face of America — are protected,” said Velazquez.

“[I] will be pursuing every possible method of protecting DACA beneficiaries, assuredly bipartisan based on the composition of Congress,” Clarke added.

On the other side of the aisle, Ryan told reporters that despite his previous advice to the president that he not end DACA, he now believes that some sort of deal is possible by the deadline of March 25, 2018.

“Now we’ve got to go find where the consensus is on how to come to it with a solution,” he said. “And the six months gives us the kind of time we need.”

Congressman Dan Donovan

Locally, Congressmember Daniel Donovan (R-Southern Brooklyn, Staten Island) largely echoed Ryan, although he added that any proposed solution would need to recognize the country’s security needs and laws in order to get his support.

“First of all, I support President Trump’s focus on securing our border – this problem will only get worse until we stop illegal entries,” said Donovan. “I spent most of my career prosecuting criminals, and respect for the law is a bedrock principle in our country.”

But according to Donovan, as in the court system, “intent matters.”

“Young children whose parents brought them to the United States had no intent to break our laws and really had no choice in the matter, and our policies should reflect that fact,” he said. “I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues to sort this out.”

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
Congressman Jerrold Nadler

Congressmembers Hakeem Jeffries (D-Central Brooklyn, East New York, Coney Island, southwest Queens) and Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn, Manhattan) did not return requests for comment as of press time, but both had earlier issued statements criticizing Trump’s decision to end DACA.

For all the seeming bipartisan support for something to be agreed upon in six months, there is no sign yet of what shape exactly this hoped-for solution would take.

The legislative history of the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) began with a bipartisan bill that Congressmembers Dick Durbin (D- Il) and Orrin Hatch (R- Ut) first introduced in 2001. It has since been reintroduced and failed several times.

In 2007, former President George W. Bush pushed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 that would have provided legal status and a path to citizenship for the approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States.

The bill was portrayed as a compromise between providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and increased border enforcement. But legislative critics on both sides of the immigrant argument killed the bill, which never came to a vote.

Ever since DACA was first implemented via executive order by then-President Barack Obama in 2012 after Congress blocked his attempt at broader immigration reform, there have been several pending bills proposed by members of both political parties.

The most frequently mentioned is also the one that has the least support from the White House: the DREAM Act, a bill with bipartisan support that is a stand-alone bill that combines DACA’s protections with a 13-year-long pathway to citizenship or permanent legal residency if applicants have lived in the U.S. for a certain period of time and meet educational, work or military service requirements.

The most recent bill proposed is the American Hope Act, introduced in July by 113 Democratic Congress members, which is touted as the fastest path to “conditional” citizenship, possible permanent residency, and, later, full citizenship. Applicants would have to have arrived before they turned 18 and have no criminal record.

Donovan is a co-sponsor of another option, the Recognizing America’s Children Act, introduced in March, 2017, and which also provides three paths to citizenship within 10 years: military service, work authorization, or pursuing higher education.

The final option is the BRIDGE Act — short for “Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow our Economy”, which has not formally been brought to a vote for consideration, but was proposed in January. This bill would not offer citizenship, but would boil down to a three-year extension of DACA.