Harris unveils plan to provide Dreamers a pathway to citizenship

Harris unveils plan to provide Dreamers a pathway to citizenship
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White House hopeful Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisJoe Biden faces an uncertain path Biden: 'There's an awful lot of really good Republicans out there' Fighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate MORE (D-Calif.) unveiled a plan Wednesday pledging to use executive action to provide Dreamers a pathway to citizenship if she's elected president.

Harris said the plan, which would protect an estimated 6 million immigrants from deportation and provide 2.1 million Dreamers a pathway to citizenship, should accompany efforts to pass more overarching immigration reform in Congress.

“Dreamers grew up in our communities and pledge allegiance to our flag. They serve in our military and thrive in our universities. Their families are an integral part of our country and economy. They represent the best of who we are and know no other place but the United States as their home,” Harris said in the plan.

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“As president, Harris will take executive action to keep immigrant families together and eliminate barriers that prevent Dreamers from accessing a path to U.S. citizenship.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated MORE in 2017 ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protected Dreamers, or immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, from deportation. The decision is currently in the midst of a court battle. 

The California Democrat vowed to take executive action to “immediately” reinstate the program.

Harris added she would expand DACA by eliminating the requirement that Dreamers apply for eligibility before they turn 31 years old, raising the age at time of entry from 15 and under to 17, allowing Dreamers under 15 years old to apply for protection with parental or guardian consent and increasing the two-year term of DACA protection to three years. 

Harris’s plan also includes using executive orders to create a “Dreamers Parole-in-Place Program” that would allow Dreamers who have a spouse who is a U.S. citizen to more easily obtain a green card and permit DACA recipients to retroactively apply for work authorization. 

Immigration has emerged as a hot-button issue for Democrats, who have attacked the Trump administration’s now-abandoned “zero tolerance” policy, which led to a spike in family separations at the border.

Harris’s plan would allow parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to be eligible for deportation protections if they pass a background check and have lived in the U.S. since a specified date.

It also includes an executive order saying that separation from a close family member is an “extreme hardship,” phrasing that triggers the option for the secretary of Homeland Security to waive a requirement that deferred action recipients must leave the country for up to 10 years to apply for legal status.

The plan said deferred action protections may also be extended to “other law-abiding immigrants with ties to their communities” and will consider such factors as service in the military, extended residence in the United States and whether an individual has deferred action beneficiary children, spouses or parents.

“Harris believes we should not be tearing apart immigrant families. Unlike in the past, her administration will focus our enforcement resources on those who actually pose a public safety threat, not families, veterans, and individuals contributing to our communities,” the plan said.