Graham, Durbin revive bill to help 'Dreamers'

Graham, Durbin revive bill to help 'Dreamers'
© Greg Nash
 
The proposal comes as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides temporary relief from deportation to those immigrants, who are known as "Dreamers," faces a legal challenge from Texas and nine other states.
 
The Trump administration has not said whether it will defend DACA in court.
 
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Supporters of the program are wary of leaving its defense in the hands of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) SessionsFBI opens tip line requesting information on Charlottesville rally Sessions rails against Chicago during visit to Miami DOJ warrant of Trump resistance site triggers alarm MORE, who consistently took a hardline stance on immigration measures in the Senate.
 
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said at an off-camera briefing Wednesday that the administration is unlikely to support the new bill.
 
"The administration has opposed the Dream Act and we are likely to be consistent in that," he said.
 
President Trump extended DACA in June, but has vacillated on the issue of Dreamers — the DACA recipients who received that monicker after the original Dream Act. 
 
“It’s a decision that I make and it’s a decision that’s very, very hard to make. I really understand the situation now. I understand the situation very well. What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan. But our country and political forces are not ready yet,” Trump said last week.
 
A White House official speaking on background said Trump "campaigned on enforcement first, and that is where his focus is." 
 
The official added that the White House is "working with Congress on a number of key pieces of legislation, including with [House Judiciary Committee] Chairman [Bob] Goodlatte [R-Va.] on a series of enforcement measures as well as with Sens. [Tom] Cotton [R-Ark.] and [David] Perdue [R-Ga.] on merit-based reforms to the legal immigration system."
 
The bipartisan bill is likely to receive some support from Democrats and moderate Republicans pushing to provide a permanent legislative solution before any legal challenge against DACA takes effect.
 
Many members on both sides of the aisle are on record in support of making DACA benefits permanent, and have supported previous iterations of the Dream Act dating back to 2001.
 
In their bill, Graham and Durbin — the top Democratic sponsor of most earlier versions of the Senate bill — will set guidelines for qualification, similar to DACA and earlier Dream Act guidelines.
 
Under the 2017 Dream Act, immigrants would qualify for permanent residence and a path to citizenship if they are longtime residents who came to the United States as children; earn a high school diploma or GED; pursue higher education, have lawful employment for three years or serve in the military; pass a background check and pay a fee; show proficiency in English and U.S. history; and have not committed a felony nor posed a threat to the country.
 
Earlier versions of the bill and the DACA program had similar guidelines, but in most cases had cut-off dates for final entry, making only certain childhood immigrants eligible for benefits.
 
The original Dream Act also established different conditions for childhood arrivals to gain temporary residence or permanent residence.