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By Will Racke
A bipartisan Senate proposal to give amnesty to people illegally brought to the U.S. as children would provide a path to legal permanent residence for at least 1.8 million illegal immigrants, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin Of Illinois introduced the Dream Act of 2017 on Thursday, an updated version of a bill that Congress has tried, unsuccessfully, to pass going back to the early 2000s. The measure would allow recipients of former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — commonly known as “Dreamers” — to obtain green cards if they meet certain criteria.
According to the MPI projections, the Graham-Durbin proposal would make at least 1.8 million illegal immigrants eligible for conditional legal status. To get legal permanent residence, conditional applicants would have to either obtain an associate’s degree, serve in the military or maintain continuous employment for a minimum of three years. MPI estimates that about 1.5 million of those that receive conditional status would go on to obtain green cards.
The Dream Act of 2017 comes as the Trump administration has signaled it will not go out of its way to keep the DACA program in place. While Trump has not moved to officially rescind DACA, the administration is unlikely to defend the program’s disputed legal authorization in court. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said earlier in July that administration lawyers doubt DACA would survive a legal challenge threatened by 10 states.
The White House is now turning its attention to legislation that would toughen immigration enforcement laws and reduce levels of legal immigration.
With the executive focused on other priorities, lawmakers are looking to provide a legislative answer to the question of what to do about the millions of illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. MPI estimates that 3.3 million people currently living in the U.S. meet the minimum age at arrival and years of residence thresholds set by the Graham-Durbin proposal.
“These young people have lived in America since they were children and built their lives here,” Graham said in a statement Thursday. “We should not squander these young people’s talents and penalize our own nation. Our legislation would allow these young people — who grew up in the United States — to contribute more fully to the country they love.”
Administration officials say Trump is unlikely to support the Dream Act, telling reporters Wednesday that the president is taking an “enforcement first” approach.