WASHINGTON—Democratic lawmakers reaffirmed their priority to pass comprehensive immigration reform Tuesday hours after the Supreme Court considered a lawsuit to block the Trump administration’s plan to end protections for “Dreamers.”
“We hope and pray that the courts will do the right thing—the all-American thing,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a news conference where she was joined by a number of Democrats including Rep. Joaquin Castro and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin and Sen. Bob Menendez.
The high court heard testimony on whether President Donald Trump’s phaseout of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was legal. The Obama-era policy allows young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children to apply for a renewable two-year status that protects them from deportation and allows them to work.
Trump announced in September 2017 that he would wind down DACA, claiming that maintaining it is beyond his purview as president and that comprehensive immigration reform should be legislated in Congress, not through an executive order like the one President Barack Obama issued to create the program. In his official announcement ending the program, Trump wrote that legal advisers told him DACA is “unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.”
“Now this court has to decide as to whether President Obama was correct in … protecting newcomers in our country or to support the illicit acts of President Trump,” Pelosi said.
U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services estimated there were approximately 690,000 DACA recipients, who are often called “Dreamers,” in 2017, with a majority coming from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
“We want you to know that you’re not the only ones being dreamers,” Pelosi said, “We have dreams for you as well, and we fully intend to act on them. As Senator Schumer said earlier, we’re not going away until the job is done.”
The House passed The American Dream and Promise Act in June, which creates a pathway to citizenship for DACA and Temporary Protected Status individuals. Pelosi, Schumer and Castro delivered a large poster of the bill text to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in the Capitol on Tuesday, a stunt intended to pressure a Senate floor vote on the bill.
Durbin first introduced the DREAM Act in 2001 with former Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch. It has been reintroduced several times, including currently as the Dream and Promise Act, but it consistently fails to pass. Durbin said that he and Menendez will make a formal motion this week to put the current iteration of the bill on the Senate floor.
“I can tell you that it’s an uphill battle,” Durbin said. “But we want the other party to go on record. When the president said, ‘Let’s legislate an issue, let’s legislate an agreement,’ we’re going to call him on his word.”